When compared to disposable tampons or pads, menstrual cups are a no-brainer. The only disagreement is on exactly how many reasons why. Below is an all-round summary of the benefits of menstrual cups when compared to their disposable alternatives:
Reusable ~vs~ Disposable
The average disposable user sends 16,800 tampons or more than 12,000 pads to landfill in a lifetime. These products often contain chemicals which are not soil/ocean-friendly. When you include the associated packaging, this comes to roughly 120-150kg of additional rubbish for the earth or oceans to deal with per person, not to mention the added refuse charges and the cost of all those single-use products (some articles suggest as much as $4680 over the course of a lifetime of using disposables!).
A menstrual cup will last for anywhere from one year to ten years according to most specifications, with initial cost being recouped after around 8 months. During its lifetime, a menstrual cup creates zero waste apart from the water you use to wash it and the energy needed to sterilize it. They are recyclable and are made from ingredients which are not harmful to soil. So on both financial and environmental fronts, the cup wins.
Collection ~vs~ Absorption
Tampons don't just absorb menstrual fluids. In fact, around a third of what they suck up is natural moisture which is essential for maintaining optimum moisture and PH in your vagina.
Menstrual cups are biocompatible and usually have no negative effects whatsoever on the protective mucous membranes of your vaginal wall. Plus, they hold more than a tampon or pad!
(The jury is still out on whether the risk of toxic shock syndrome in tampon users could also apply to menstrual cup users, since there isn't yet sufficient long-term data on menstrual cup users to prove otherwise – the theory being that any foreign object in your vagina could cause the life-threatening condition. But according to WebMD, experts at least agree that the risk is lower for menstrual cup users.)
Fibrous ~vs~ Silicone/Rubber
Menstrual cups do not deposit irritating and foreign fibres in your vagina the way tampons do. Silicone is used in a range of medical devices because of its compatibility with the inside of the human body, and for those with silicone allergies, there are latex rubber options on the market too.
It comes as no surprise then that menstrual cups will not irritate users who experience sensitive skin, thrush or eczema the way disposable tampons and pads might.
Menstrual cups also provide an airtight seal inside the vagina and so its contents are not exposed to air and are less prone to harmful bacteria and odour.
Fully Informed ~vs~ Mystery Ingredients
When researching the cocktail of harmful ingredients which have been found in tampons and menstrual pads (including dioxin and reproductive toxins), the word ‘carcinogenic' appears more often than you may have expected. Manufacturers of disposable tampons and pads are not legally obliged to state the exact breakdown of ingredients that go into their products (such as ‘blue-gel cores', adhesive strips, bleaches and scents), so without this knowledge or comprehensive long-term studies, it is impossible to guess the extent of the risk we may be exposing ourselves to.
Menstrual cups usually contain either 100% medical-grade silicone, or 100% medical-grade latex. You can research these for yourself and compare brands, armed with all the information you need. Manufacturers of menstrual cups are also likely to be a lot more approachable and forthcoming if you have further questions about their products than their big-brand disposable competitors.
For full control over what goes into your body, for cash and environmental savings and when it comes to ensuring the best for your long-term health, menstrual cups win hands down. If you haven't switched yet, it might be time to ask why not. Want to find out more about menstrual cups? Read How Long Do Menstrual Cups Last?