Study says more women could use menstrual cups to improve public health and the environment

If more women around the globe switched to using menstrual cups instead of using tampons, it would not only improve public health, but also help clean up the environment as well, according to a new study.

Women’s menstrual health is increasingly being given more attention. Unfortunately, too many women don’t know what all of their options are, which means menstrual cups are overlooked.

Every month, most women spend money on tampons and pads to manage their period. Tampons, however, are not very sanitary and are made of materials that harm the environment, such as plastics that have a hard time breaking down and threaten wildlife at all stages of decay.

But menstrual cups offer women and girls a less expensive and more environmentally friendly option that actually improves overall health when used correctly.

According to The Lancet Public Health journal:

Like tampons, menstrual cups are inserted into the vagina, but the blood is collected in the receptacle, which can hold 10–38 mL of blood. The menstrual cup should be emptied every 4–12 h, depending on menstrual flow and type of cup. Two types of cup are available, a vaginal cup, which is generally bell-shaped and placed in the vagina, and a cervical cup, which, like a diaphragm for contraception, is placed around the cervix high in the vagina. Menstrual cups are made of medical-grade silicone, rubber, latex, or elastomer and can last up to 10 years.

So, a single menstrual cups can be used over and over again for a decade if properly cleaned after every use and can replace ten year’s worth of tampons, which would definitely save money.

Menstrual cups are also more efficient.

“The main outcome of leakage and reported leakage was similar or lower for menstrual cups than for disposable pads or tampons,” the study found. “Our review indicates that menstrual cups are a safe option for menstruation management and are being used internationally.”

The more women and girls learn about their options and experiment with them, the better. And 70 percent of the participants in the study said they wanted to continue using the cups rather than go back to using tampons.

In addition, the study noted the environmental impact, especially how it related to water and plastic waste.

“Women reported that use of menstrual cups saved water because of less leaking and washing of clothes,” the study said.

When considering financial and environment costs, using accumulated estimates over 10 years, purchase costs and waste from consistent use of a menstrual cup (vaginal cup) would be a small fraction of the purchase costs and waste of pads or tampons, if compared with using 12 pads per period, use of a menstrual cup would comprise 5% of the purchase costs and 0·4% of the plastic waste, and compared with 12 tampons per period, use of a menstrual cup would comprise 7% of the purchase costs and 6% of the plastic waste.

“This systematic review suggests that menstrual cups can be an acceptable and safe option for menstrual hygiene in high-income, low-income, and middle-income countries,” the study concluded.

On a personal note, my wife uses menstrual cups and ever since she switched from tampons she won’t ever be switching back. The cups save us money every month and we produce less trash. We have reduced our contribution of plastic waste in the world. She feels a lot more comfortable during her periods and has even reported a reduction in menstrual cramps.

While not every woman and girl will necessarily make the same choice, they should at least give them a shot. The environment would benefit. Your own health could benefit. And so could your pocketbook. They are definitely worth a try.

Featured Image: Wikimedia

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Stephen D. Foster Jr.
 

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