Menstrual cups are astonishingly practical, comfortable, cost-effective, and even zero-waste. Try one and you'll never look to disposables again.
I am a recent convert to the Diva Cup. You might be wondering why it took a TreeHugger like me so long to catch on to menstrual cups, which have been on the market for decades, but I was distracted by the world of reusable cotton pads and organic disposables. While both of these are excellent and important inventions, they pale in comparison to the awesomeness of the Diva Cup, to which I now vow eternal fidelity. Allow me to explain why.
What is a menstrual cup?
A menstrual cup is a reusable bell-shaped cup made of medical-grade silicone. It forms a seal upon insertion and catches the menstrual flow, eliminating the need for additional products. There are many menstrual cups on the market, but mine is the Canadian-made Diva Cup, manufactured in nearby Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, and sold internationally.
Why is a menstrual cup so great?
1. Much cheaper
A Diva Cup costs around $25, and a Moon Cup is $35. The manufacturer recommends replacing it once a year, but it depends on usage. If women spend around $10 a month on menstrual products, that’s already four times the amount of a Diva Cup spent in a year. A Keeper Cup, made of natural gum rubber (latex), has an estimated lifetime of 10 years.
Your purchase of a menstrual cup will likely support an independent company, as opposed to personal care giants like Always and Tampax, often with manufacturing based in the United States or Canada.
2. Always there
No more last-minute, uncomfortable trips to the drugstore to stock up on tampons – or sending your partner out on your behalf! A menstrual cup is always there; and, as Diva points out in its manual, can even be inserted the day your period is due to start so that you’re ready to go.
3. Less toxic
Conventional tampons and pads are notoriously bad for the chemicals they leach into women’s most sensitive region, such as bleach, perfumes, and other allergens and irritants. Tampons can leave small rayon fibers lodged in the vaginal wall, releasing dioxins and causing small cuts. With menstrual cups, Toxic Shock Syndrome is a non-issue because they do not absorb, but rather collect.
The Diva Cup, like most menstrual cups, is made of silicone that contains no latex, plastic, PVC, acrylic, acrylate, BPA, phthalate, elastomer, or polyethylene, and is free from colors and dyes.
That being said, there are some concerns about silicone not being as inert as it’s often thought to be; it’s still a plastic created by a synthetic manufacturing process using hydrocarbons (that come from fossil fuels such as petroleum and natural gas).
Alternatively, you could purchase a Keeper Cup that's made of natural gum rubber (latex) and is supposed to last 10 years.
The Diva Cup comes in two sizes – one for women who are either under 30 or haven’t had a child, and one for women over 30 or those who have given birth. It gets folded in half to insert, then spun around once upon insertion to open completely and form a leak-free seal. (You may want to wear a panty liner for the first few times, just in case you haven’t figured out the insertion properly.)
It does its job well – no leakage, no discomfort, nothing to worry about for 12 whole hours, which is really incredible. There are no emergency changes. Even removal is simple, without any kind of mess if you follow the instructions.
5. Sleep better
With a menstrual cup inside, there’s no nighttime stress about double pads, putting extra protection on the bed, making midnight trips to the bathroom. It can be worn all night long, unlike a tampon.
6. Reduce waste
Menstrual cycles are responsible for a tremendous amount of trash. A woman will use nearly 17,000 menstrual products over the course of her lifetime, and an estimated 20 billion pads and tampons are discarded annually in the United States. As Kimberley Mok wrote for TreeHugger:
“The plastics in a pad will take hundreds of years to decompose. The process of manufacturing these disposables also pollutes our waterways, air and animal habitats. Switching to reusables can make a difference.”
A menstrual cup gets dumped right in the toilet, so say goodbye to smelly toilet paper-wrapped packaged in the trash can.
7. Easy to clean
You can wash the cup with mild soapy water, or rinse with a dilute vinegar solution (one part vinegar to nine parts water). You don't need to sterilize by boiling. Discoloration may occur, but this is normal. As Keeper Cup says on its website, it is "a sign that you are giving your cup a long and happy life."
Everything else is less messy, too. With a cup, you don't have to do as much laundry for sheets, towels, and underwear because less leakage occurs over all.
There are many menstrual cups available, but the Diva Cup is the only one authorized for sale in Canada, so I haven’t tried any others. Also available in the United States are the Moon Cup and Keeper (sold by the same company), which sound excellent because of their longer lifespan.