Product Review: Menstrual Cups
Before jumping in, we were not sponsored to post this content, we receive no financial benefit from reviewing these products or linking to brand websites. Our aim is to give you our informed opinion on products to help you decide whether these products are right for you!
Menstrual cups are an alternative to tampons that collect menstrual blood in a cup that sits inside the vagina, instead of soaking up blood. They are typically made from durable medical grade silicone (or similar medical grade material) and can be worn for up to 12 hours. They are inserted into the vagina using your fingers, and removed with the aid of a small loop or stem. When fit correctly, they cannot be felt by the wearer!
Menstrual cups are cheaper (a lot cheaper) — The average menstrual cup costs between $20 - $40 and can last up to ten years. So, say you get your period at age 12 and reach menopause by age 50… in that time, you might only spend around $90 on your period products. Tampons, however, could accumulate to be almost 20 times more expensive! According to a recent study by Huffpost, “1 tampon every 6 hours = 4 tampons per day x 5 days of a period = 20 tampons per cycle x 456 periods = 9,120 tampons. At 36 tampons per box, that's 253.3 boxes x $7 = $1,773.33” And those aren’t even the organic tampons… As you can imagine, pads are not much better. 1 pad every 8 hours = 3 pads per day x 5 days of a period = 15 pads per cycle x 456 periods = 6,840 pads. At 36 pads per box, that’s 190 boxes x 4.45 = $845.5.
A menstrual cup is hundreds of dollars cheaper than both pads and tampons.
And that was all assuming that the person using a pad was changing it not-so regularly.
They are healthier — Did you know there is no requirement for tampons to provide a list of ingredients? For a product that occupies our bodies for up to 8 hours at a time, the lack of readily available information puts menstruators at a greater health risk. Control requires information and access; both of which have been suppressed by the sexist and queerphobic history of reproductive health. To this day, harmful chemicals can be found in most traditional menstrual products. According to Time, these chemicals (including BPA, BPS, Phthalates, and dioxin) have “been shown to cause problems with reproduction, neurological function, and a whole host of other problems.” In addition, the National Institute of Health reports that dioxin is known to cause cancer in laboratory animals and has been linked with heart disease and type 2 diabetes. We are engaged in a national, but also hyper local battle for control over our bodies. According to Bustle “Discovery News suggests that inserting and removing a tampon can lead to micro-tears in the vaginal wall. The tampon may also leave behind loosened fibers that make a good breeding ground for bacteria. These micro tears may become an issue when the tampon dries out the vagina, leaving it slightly more susceptible to abrasion and changing its natural fluid balance. Bad bacteria may be able to enter the bloodstream through small cuts, leading to the rare but dangerous Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).” As Bustle mentions, tampons not only absorb your menstrual fluid, but also the natural wetness that makes your vagina the incredible, resilient organ it is. The same issues apply with organic tampons. We deserve better. Cups don’t leave micro-tears!
12 hours of… nothingness — Cups can remain in your vagina for up to 12 hours! That means extra sleep, extra play time, extra everything, without the risk of TSS. According to the Mayo Clinic, cups can hold up to 3 times as much menstrual fluid as a regular tampon! And you shouldn’t feel your menstrual cup while it’s in. Tampons on the other hand can only be left in for 4-8 hours and can be inconvenient to replace frequently during the day. In comparison, menstrual cups sound almost too good to be true! 12 hours. Can’t feel it. 3x the capacity.
They’re reusable for up to 10 years! — A menstrual cup is one way to help combat the ongoing climate crisis. Trash from menstrual products ends up on our beaches, in our oceans, and even in our food (microplastics that fish and shellfish consume). During beach cleanups, volunteers find thousands of plastic tampon applicators. According to National Geographic, “In 2018 alone, people in the U.S. bought 5.8 billion tampons, and over the course of a lifetime, a single menstruator will use somewhere between 5 and 15 thousand pads and tampons, the vast majority of which will wind up in landfills as plastic waste.” That is 300 pounds of products in a lifetime! Instead of perpetuating a system in which each menstruating person produces trash that sits in a landfill for decades, emitting GHGs, let’s look to menstrual cups as a more sustainable option. Use this small step as a way to participate in the intersectional climate revolution.
They’re beautiful — If you’re like me and you’re just a little cranky on your period, a beautiful buddy goes a long way.
There’s a learning curve -It takes a couple cycles to get used to. While your learning, your cup may hurt, leak, and even worsen period cramps.
Cost and convenience Though in the long run cups are much, much cheaper, they cost quite a bit up front. Cups also aren’t available at all drug stores like pads and tampons are. It can take a bit of digging to find the cup for you. And sometimes, you have to try more than 1 cup before you find your fit. It’s frustrating, but worth it.
I understand the uncertainty of giving up the familiarity of tampons and pads. I’m not telling you that “period bliss awaits” or that menstrual cups will immediately heal your relationship with your body. In fact, I still struggle with food and body, with chronic illness, and with mental health. As I write, I am rolling around my bedroom trying to get comfortable as my uterus enjoys another evening of making productivity impossible and irritability inevitable. Committing to my cup was one step toward healing for me. There can be a steep learning curve. In my experience, it took five cycles to get the hang of inserting my cup and I found the process quite frustrating at first. It’s ok if you feel frustrated, too. Believe me when I say, things get better.
Change takes time, but the transition is worth it. I am now grounded in my agency to change my relationship with my body and from there, change the world.
To those intrigued, try a menstrual cup! But ultimately, choose the menstrual product that works for your body, your circumstances, and your values. That’s where healing can start.
How to use a menstrual cup
It would be harder to write an instructional better than Diva Cup. Their how-to is cute, comfortable, and provides pictures and video to make the process as intuitive as possible. Their article can be found here!
My personal experience
I wrote about my choice to wear a menstrual cup in another blog post for The Red SEA Collective about Why I Committed to A Menstrual Cup, which I encourage you to read. In my writing, I explore how we can reimagine our relationship with our bodies, each other, and the places we call home through caring for ourselves throughout menstruation.
The following is a brief tour through a few brands that I tried so you don't have to! And, when in doubt, check out Put A Cup In It and their amazing cup quiz.
Recommended for people with a high cervix. Otherwise, this is a pretty average cup that should work for most people with an average/high cervix.
This is a cup that most folks start with, however this cup is a little on the tall end for most people. This, in my opinion, makes it a bad starter cup. If you know you have a high cervix, then it’s a great cup to start with. It’s average firmness, which makes it easy to insert. It’s base is firm which is also nice for insertion and removal.
The diameter is fairly small compared to other small cups.
This is not a high capacity cup.
This cup is good for sports.
I started with a Diva cup. My cervix is low/average which made this cup uncomfortable sometimes. I had to cut the stem off completely and even then my cervix sat inside the cup.
Recommended for people with average-ish cervixes, people for whom firmer cups have not worked. Saalt is definitely a brand I recommend to first time cup users! This cup is likely to work for most people, even if you don’t know your cervix height. And bonus, they also are an environmentally, socially, and economically conscious brand!
The packaging is beautiful. This cup is worth purchasing just to prominently display the packaging.
This cup is pretty average. It will work for most people. It’s a great starter cup. Because it’s a little softer, sometimes more fiddling has to happen to get it into place. Overall, though, this cup is easy to use.
It’s base is firm which makes insertion and removal easier. It has slanted suction holes, which make it a little harder to clean. It’s not too much of an inconvenience, though.
It has a wide diameter. This was nice for me, because sometimes cups with smaller diameters suction onto my cervix. That hurts. Wide diameter cups are sometimes harder to fold and often recommended for folks who are a little older or who have given birth, but I’m a teen and these cups work for me.
It’s capacity is pretty high. It holds lots, lots more than a pad or tampon.
This cup worked great for me. It did not leak even when I wore it horseback riding. This cup is one of my go-tos.
Saalt also makes a teen cup, which I haven’t tried but would recommend to other teens.
Recommended for everybody, but especially first time cup users, folks with high cervixes, and sensitive people.
Ok, this is my favorite cup ever. I kept forgetting it was in! The shape of the cup was designed to match the shape of our bodies. Because of its ergonomic shape, this cup is super comfortable and super, super easy to insert. It’s a small business run by a queer person and it’s all around awesome.
This cup is pretty soft, so I recommend it to people who are sensitive.
This brand has great high cervix options. Though my cervix is low average, this cup worked. I cut off the stem and loved it.
If you’ve used a cup before, transitioning to this cup may take practice. With this cup, the less you do for insertion the better. You don’t have to twist it or anything. You just wiggle it up and down a little and you’re set.
This cup is a good choice for people who don’t get along with other types of cups or for people who know they’re extremely sensitive.
I love the packaging! But, I didn’t love the cup. Again, these reviews are entirely my own personal experience. This cup is just built for a body that is different from mine!
This cup is made of TPE, which naturally sort of molds to your body’s shape. This supposedly makes the cup more comfortable. Though this cup wasn’t comfortable for me, I know many people enjoy cups made from TPE. This cup was too soft for me. It was hard to get into place and it leaked. Because it took so much wiggling to get into place, I wouldn’t recommend it to first time users, especially not to teens.
The suction holes are very small, which make it difficult to clean.
I love the color of this cup. Most cup brands don’t make cups in bold colors, but this cup is bright pink and beautiful.
*Please note: You must boil your cup before insertion (at least the first time) and wash the cup regularly to avoid infection. Refer to your purchased product for more information on how to take care and sanitize your cup appropriately.
Thank you for reading our review, and we hope this assists you in your search for sustainable products!
Emma is a student organizer with the Sunrise Movement in Seattle. She’s an energetic advocate for a just, livable present and future. When she’s not in Zoom meetings, you’ll find her talking about climate justice, period products, or cuddling her dog.