Thrifty Diva: Should I start using menstrual cups?

Dear Sexpert,

I have been looking for feminine hygiene products that are more eco-friendly, and saw a bunch of posts online about using something called the Diva Cup to decrease my carbon footprint. Can you tell me how it works? Is it safe and cheap to use, and is it all that much better for the environment?

–Thrifty Diva

Dear Thrifty Diva,

Various types of menstrual cupsIt’s great that you are looking for ways to become more environmentally friendly with menstrual hygiene products! Menstrual cups, like the Diva Cup, have become increasingly popular in recent years as alternatives to tampons and pads. Typically, they are bell-shaped cups that come in different shapes and sizes (see below) and are worn inside the vagina to collect menstrual fluid during periods. Because most cups are made from medical-grade silicone, compared to disposable tampons and pads, they are reusable, more cost-effective, and more environmentally friendly. With proper sterilization and care, cups can last up to five years!

Overall, menstrual cups are sanitary and safe to use so long as you wash them with warm soap and water prior to insertion and after removal. Cost-wise, they are also comparable to a year’s worth of tampons; though, since the menstrual cups can be re-used for multiple years, they are likely to be more cost-effective in the long term.

Some people are concerned about accidental leakage during menstrual cup usage, but they are typically effective at preventing spills because they form a seal against the vaginal wall. They are also good at reducing period odor and are helpful for tracking menstrual fluid volume, should the latter be needed for medical reasons. In terms of safety, to date, few health risks have been associated with menstrual cups.

Determining the right product for you, whether it’s menstrual cups, pads, or tampons, depends on your situation and needs. For example, if you like to do vigorous physical activities during your period, a Diva Cup could be a good alternative to leak-prone pads. However, if you don’t feel comfortable with the idea of removing and washing a menstrual cup, or if you don’t have ready access to a private bathroom, you may want to look into other options.

Moreover, if you use an intrauterine device (IUD) as contraceptive, you may want to be careful when using menstrual cups and tampons due to the possible risk of dislodging the IUD. Although studies have not shown an increased risk of IUD expulsion, you would want to be careful in ensuring that you are removing the right string (of the tampon, not IUD, for example). All these factors are important to consider before choosing a menstrual cup. If you have specific concerns, providers at Sexual Health and Wellness (SHAW) at University Health Services can provide more detailed advice on whether menstrual cups are right for you.

~ The Sexpert

Information regarding menstrual cups retrieved from, The Bedsider, The Sweet Home, The National Center for Biotechnology Information, Put a Cup in It, and The Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research