For as long as I can remember, I’ve used pads and tampons because that’s just what you do. Or did. When I forgot my period was coming or failed to pack enough feminine supplies, I’d find myself creating wads of tissue paper to stuff in my underwear to hold me over in the interim. If you haven’t done that, have you even earned your right of passage as a woman? But, does anyone necessarily like these products? Pads are bulky, and the ones that aren’t typically aren’t effective. They make a crinkling noise when you walk. The adhesive can roll up and snag your skin. You have to cover them in toilet paper before throwing them away as if anybody who looks in that trash bin doesn’t know exactly what’s going on. Tampons are discreet, but they can also put you at risk for toxic shock syndrome, and many are made with chemicals that perhaps women shouldn’t be putting in such an intimate part of their bodies. Plus, all of these items get pricey, quickly.
These observations and others could be making you curious about menstrual cups. Some women swear by them once they make the switch, but others are hesitant to give this product a try. Will it be uncomfortable? Is it good for my body? One California-based company decided to make a menstrual cup that specifically alleviates some of these concerns, and makes this product a bit more welcoming to those who are new to it. Kind Cup makes a menstrual cup that is ergonomic and extremely flexible so as to not put uncomfortable pressure on (or in) the user. They recently released their second product, a smaller cup made for young users, or those new to menstrual cups. But both their products are made of medical-grade silicone with zero fillers, have a long stem and design made for easy, comfortable insertion and removal, and a unique shape that aligns with the curvature of the female anatomy. We spoke to founder Christine Brown about some of the surprising benefits of menstrual cups you may not have known about.
Your partner can still go down there
Let’s start strong with this benefit of a menstrual cup you definitely weren’t thinking about. Cunnilingus is often off the table for a couple when the woman is on her period, but a menstrual cup can put it back on the menu. Because the cup contains the blood inside your vagina, and doesn’t have the pesky string hanging down that a tampon does, your partner can still perform oral on the outer parts of your vagina while you’re wearing a cup, mess-free. If you’re in a heterosexual relationship with a man who isn’t into penetration while you’re menstruating, but you’re definitely still in the mood, this can be a mess-free solution.
Removing the taboo around menstrual sex
I can personally say that, as a woman, my concern around having period sex is that it will freak my partner out. I don’t even take my own desires into consideration. But this study looked at over 100 women and 12 men, evaluating their feelings around menstrual sex. The women broke down into groups: virgins, had never tried menstrual sex, had tried it and didn’t like it, and happily have it. The happily have it group ended up being the biggest. But what’s more surprising is that, of the small sample of men surveyed, nine of them said they have menstrual sex with their partners. The three that didn’t? They were virgins. In other words, all the sexually active men had no problem with it and saw it as a normal part of being in an intimate relationship. So, if it’s just you holding you back, maybe using a cup can make you feel less insecure about sex on your period. It turns out that a number of men might not even care.
You can be prepared
No matter how many years I’ve been a menstruating woman, I still haven’t mastered the art of knowing the moment my period is going to begin. And I’ve ruined a lot of my favorite underwear because of it. It’s tricky because, it’s not safe to wear a tampon when you aren’t menstruating – with nothing for the tampon to absorb, the fibers can be really rough on your vaginal canal. And you don’t want to wear a bulky pad around for hours let alone days while waiting for your period to begin. But it’s perfectly safe to put in your cup when you haven’t yet started bleeding. You can prevent a mess without worrying about your health.
You can wear it for 12 hours
You can wear the Kind Cup for 12 hours. So you can essentially go about your full day of activities, from work to the gym to running errands to home, without worrying about taking it out. That also means that you can sleep a full night with your cup in. You don’t need to set some alarm to make sure you take out your tampon before putting yourself at risk for toxic shock syndrome. You don’t need to worry about a pad shifting around, leaving you with a mess on your underwear or sheets. If it’s the weekend and you want to treat yourself to a luxurious 12 hours of sleep (that’s a really long time though), go for it.
Nothing to pack
Since you can wear your cup for 12 hours that means that you can head out for a full day of work, sightseeing, hanging at a friend’s house – you name it – without having to remember to pack pads or tampons to take. That alleviates many uncomfortable situations, like having to ask a co-worker for a pad. Or having to buy pads or tampons in the middle of an afternoon date. If you’re a minimalist who prefers to carry nothing more than a phone case with built-in credit card slots, you definitely don’t want to have to pack pads or tampons. With a cup, you don’t have to.
It’s much better for the environment
When you think of the plastic in tampon applicators, and both tampon and pad wrappers, there are a lot of fossil fuel emissions happening to get these products to market. Then there’s the fact that they are single-use products, so they wind up in landfills. Considering that you might use around a dozen a month, these things are filling up landfills fast. Meanwhile, menstrual cups can be used over and over again. With proper care, Kind Cup reports a cup can be used for up to 10 years! That drastically reduces waste, so you can not only feel more comfortable with a cup, but you can also feel better about your carbon footprint.
It saves you money
Did you know that our government has decided that tampons are luxury items and as such, we pay high taxes for them? Hmm. Luxury, huh? Let’s just see what happens if we stop using them and bleed all over our towns. I wonder how much of a “luxury” they’d be seen as then. Perhaps the people (undoubtedly men) behind that tax law would realize they are in fact a necessity. Instead of getting all heated about that topic during a time when there’s enough to be upset about, just save money and use a cup. Studies suggest women will spend over $1,500 in their lifetime on tampons. Those are the conservative users. Kind Cup estimates some women spend more like $4,800 on single-use products in their lives. You could have put that in your Roth IRA. A $40 Kind Cup can last a decade if cared for well, which equates to $160 in menstrual management if you bleed for four decades.
For something that is the most natural thing in the world, periods sure do face a lot of stigmas (as some folks at Berkeley explored in this report). Between all the slang words we’ll use instead of saying “menstruation” to the fact that some societies still expect their bleeding women to isolate in huts during that time of the month, the world doesn’t make us feel very welcome to be open about our periods. Perhaps that’s why there can be so much insecurity around any sort of odor coming from down there. We want to conceal our periods! Well, maybe concealing odor is actually just considerate. We all shower and wear deodorant for the same reasons. Pads and tampons don’t do the greatest job of concealing smells, but because menstrual cups create a nice little seal, trapping in the blood, they also trap in the associated smells.
No short shelf life
Pads and tampons have a shelf life of roughly five years. That sounds pretty good until you think about your shopping habits. What happens when you go shopping for pads or tampons? Maybe, since they’re so expensive, in order to save money, you go for the bulk deal. Then you accidentally do this many, many times, because you always have the delusion that you’re out of tampons and pads because you keep forgetting to check before going to the store. Over time, you accumulate what many women have: a backlog of pads and tampons that you may or may not use before they expire. Your menstrual cup can last for up to 10 years, and you will certainly make use of it during that time, so there’s no need to beat its expiration date.
No fear of leakage
One of the reasons you can leave your cup in for 12 hours is that it can hold a decent amount of blood. Kind Cup’s regular size product can hold 25 milliliters and their small size can hold 19 milliliters. For context, most daytime pads can only hold five milliliters, and even heavy-duty nighttime ones can only hold up to 15 milliliters. Tampons can hold between three and 12 milliliters, varying from light to super varieties. So the menstrual cup outperforms all of these products in capacity, minimizing your concerns of leakage and an embarrassing stain on your pants.