Menstrual cups are collecting devices which form a seal when worn inside the vagina/ reproductive tract. They can collect the flow for upto 12 hours and be reused for 10 years. A panty liner could be used as a backup but is not needed once a person learns insertion and removal of the cup.
Material: Menstrual cups are made from medical grade silicone and TPE (Thermo-Plast elastomer). Both materials work in similar ways, with minute dissimilarities. TPE cups need a little more care and should be cleaned/sterilised more often than silicone cups. Silicone cups are expected to have a slightly higher life. Me Luna and Silky cup are TPE made, while others are made from silicone.
Comfort: Cups are easy to use but need 2-3 cycles to get used to it. Once women get accustomed to its usage, the cup is not felt at all. They are harmless and women can take part in physical activities like running and swimming while wearing a cup. They are also saved from rashes which are common with sanitary napkins.
Convenience: Since a cup can be used for upto 10 years, there is no inconvenience of carrying or storing bulky products or disposing of used ones. Also, they are easy to wash and maintain. Once it is purchased online, there’s no other inconvenience.
Health: Cups are made of health grade non-toxic and non-allergic silicone, hence there is no risk of infections or vaginitis. Silicone is inert and smooth thus there are no problems of rashes, irritation, allergies and fungal infection. Cup is a collecting device that does not interfere with the normal menstrual cycle and maintaining vaginal hygiene. It can be worn for long hours without any health hazards like TSS. Menstrual cups are the only menstrual sanitary protection that can be sterilised.
Hygiene: Since it is made of silicone, it can be sterilized, thus making it completely hygienic – no bacterial growth, no odour and infection risk if not cleaned properly
Economic: One buys it for Rs.400-3000 depending on the silicone used and if it’s made internationally. Since one doesn’t have to buy it frequently, cups save lot of money. The cost of a cup can be recovered almost in the first year of usage.
Eco-friendly: The manufacturing process of a menstrual cup is simpler than that of other commercial menstrual sanitary products, and is thereby less harmful to the environment. The cup could be reused for up to 10 years, and is recyclable, thus reducing consumption and waste.
How to choose a cup?
Before choosing a cup one should consider the following points:
- Diameter: It’s necessary to check the diameter of a cup as it may bother you if a cup with a larger diameter is chosen than required. Diameter depends on your lifestyle, age and the number of natural births you have given.
- Cup Length: A cup shouldn’t be too long or short for you. To find out what length is ideal for you, it is recommended to measure your cervix (low/medium/high).
- Softness: If a cup is too soft it doesn’t open or leaks in case of women with strong pelvic floor muscles. For women with athletic fitness, harder cups work better to avoid leakage. Women with softer vaginal wall or with urinary incontinence should go for a soft cup. To understand these points in details, check here.
Cups like Shecup, Boondh, Stonesoup come in one size that fits all and do not need any measuring. Shecup, Boondh, Stonesoup, Me Luna, Rustic art, V-cup, Femmycycle, ALX cup, Diva cup, etc. are available online. To get help on choosing a cup, one can check here.
How to use a cup?
Before using, a woman should explore her body to understand the reproductive system and be comfortable with internally worn product. There are different ways in which the cup can be folded and worn in a squatting position, tilting back to the base of your spine. When the cup is inside and open, it will create a light suction which prevents leaks, so use your finger to check if it is fully unfolded. Pinch the base to release the suction and remove. Empty your cup into the toilet, and rinse the cup with regular water. Washing hands before and after wearing or removing cup is a key to maintaining hygiene.
Thanks to the internet, we now have plenty of good YouTube tutorials, blog articles, Facebook groups and discussion forums that can be of great use for beginners.
For a layman, the YouTube channel Precious Star Pads is a great resource by a young girl who creates engaging videos that answer a lot of queries on cups and cloth pads. The Indian channel HygieneandYou curates and creates content on a variety of related topics and provides simple, yet in-depth videos with product comparisons and care instructions. The Facebook groups Menstrual Cups Cloth Pads, Sustainable Menstruation India are an open forum where curious women can post all their queries and doubts. During Greenthered campaign, we had compiled a list of cloth pads and cups – where to buy them from, its cost, etc. You can find it here.
Whenever there are discussions with women and girls about alternatives to disposable sanitary pads, they have a list of questions about these products. When some questions remain unanswered, women end up in the alternatives aisle. So which product do they buy? They may get the right product or end up with something which doesn’t suit them. One should educate themselves about different products by weighing their advantages and disadvantages against comfort, cost, health, hygiene, convenience and eco-friendliness. Also it needs to be understood that there’s no magical product which is perfect. There is a learning curve if one decides to switch to reusable cloth pads or cups. In the long run, reusables weigh more as they save money, are eco-friendly, comfortable and healthy compared to disposable pads.
About the author: Rajasi Kulkarni-Diwakar is a child development professional who is also an menstrual health management educator. She is actively involved in the campaign ‘Green the red’ which promotes sustainable menstrual practices.
This article is part of the series for Earth Day and is done in a collaboration with Bhoomi College, a centre for learning for those who wish to take up green paths, as well as those who wish to live with more ecological consciousness and personal fulfilment. The last article in the series of seven will be published on Menstrual Hygiene Day On 28th May.
In these seven weeks, we will cover a variety of topics around menstruation, which are eye-opening, thought-provoking, and will inform readers more about sustainable menstruation options. We urge our readers to stay tuned and participate in this crusade.