Are Menstrual Cups Bad for You?
Studies show that menstrual cups are generally safe when used properly and the risk of severe side effects is extremely rare.

Menstrual cups are available in the market by various names, such as Diva cup, MeLuna, Pixie cup, and Cora cup. They are generally safe when used properly.

Some of the disadvantages of menstrual cups include:

  • They need to be sterilized between periods
  • Emptying menstrual cups may be messy
  • They may not fit properly, especially if your uterus is too low or you have other anatomical concerns related to the uterus or cervix
  • Need to rinse the menstrual cup every time you empty it
  • Removing and inserting the cup may not be convenient for some women
  • Vaginal discomfort
  • Allergic reaction or rashes
  • Risk of infections

Although quite rare, menstrual cups carry a small risk of a severe type of infection called toxic shock syndrome or TSS.

  • This infection is caused by the bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus or Staph aureus and typically occurs if proper hygiene, such as handwashing before removing and inserting the menstrual cup, is not followed.
  • TSS may present as high fever, chills, skin rash, dizziness, and even fainting.
  • It can lead to serious consequences if urgent medical attention is not provided.

A study published in The Lancet reported that out of over 3000 participants, 13 women reported intrauterine device dislodgement with the use of menstrual cups while 47 women needed professional assistance for the removal of the device.

When used properly, the risk of severe side effects is extremely rare with menstrual cups. Thus, experts suggest that you do not need to switch to other options during your periods if you take proper precautions and are comfortable using the device.

What is a menstrual cup?

Menstrual cups are small, flexible, funnel-shaped devices that collect your menstrual flow. 

Menstrual cups have been available since the early 20th century. They have lately become quite popular because of their advantages concerning the environment and menstrual hygiene.

A menstrual cup can be of two broad types: vaginal cup and cervical cup. Vaginal cups are placed in the vagina while the cervical cups are placed higher up around the cervix.

Menstrual cups are generally made of medical-grade rubber, latex, elastomer, or silicone. They are available in disposable and reusable options. The reusable options can last for up to 10 years.

7 benefits of using a menstrual cup

Menstrual cups are quite safe, affordable, and effective replacements for pads and tampons. 

The benefits of menstrual cups include:

  1. Cost-effective: Menstrual cups can be reused multiple times. The average cost of a menstrual cup is anywhere between 20 and 40 dollars. This one-time investment provides menstrual hygiene care for up to 10 years. Compared to sanitary pads and tampons which cost about 50 to 150 dollars a year, menstrual cups are quite an affordable option.
  2. Good for the environment: On average, a woman uses about 2600 pads or tampons in 10 years. This can be replaced by a single menstrual cup. Thus, a lot of waste generation can be avoided by swapping pads and tampons with menstrual cups.
  3. Chemical-free: Menstrual cups do not contain any allergens, chemicals, or fragrances. Thus, they are even suitable for women who are prone to rashes and allergies in the genital area.
  4. Easy to carry: Menstrual cups are smaller than two inches in size. They can easily fit in your pocket and are, thus, more convenient to carry than multiple sanitary pads or tampons.
  5. Suitable for different flow rates: Menstrual cups are suitable for women who suffer from a heavy flow. One menstrual cup on average holds the menstrual flow for which three to four tampons may be required. They help prevent staining, chafing, and an odor due to heavy periods. They need to be emptied every 4 to 12 hours, thus suitable when you need to stay outdoors for a long time.
  6. Available in different sizes: Menstrual cups are available in different sizes for your convenience and comfort. You can choose them based on factors, such as vaginal length, age, and how heavy your periods are. Menstrual cups can be safely used by a woman of any age regardless of whether she has delivered or not. Menstrual cups do not interfere with virginity.
  7. Ability to measure the flow: The menstrual cups help measure flow, which helps doctors diagnose menorrhagia.

QUESTION

What is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)? See Answer

How do you use a menstrual cup?

Before you use a menstrual cup:

  • Make sure that it is of a suitable size. You may take your provider’s help if you aren’t sure.
  • The cup must be sterilized before use. You can sterilize it by placing it in clean boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Wash your hands well with soap and water.

While inserting the menstrual cup:

  • Hold it at its rim to form a “C” or “U.” Alternatively, you can push one side of the rim down into the cup to form a narrow side.
  • While in a comfortable standing, squatting, or sitting position, insert the narrower rim into the vagina until it opens in the vagina forming a seal.
  • Gently push the cup so that you can just feel its stem when you put your finger in the vagina.
  • You may use your finger to check whether the rim has made a good seal inside the vagina.

You need to empty the menstrual cup at least two times in 24 hours.

While removing the cup:

  • Wash your hands well with soap and water.
  • Hold the cup from its stem and gently feel for its upper part.
  • Pinch the upper part of the menstrual cup carefully to break the seal.
  • Pull the menstrual cup outward and throw its contents in the toilet.
  • Rinse the cup with soapy water before inserting it again

You must sterilize the cup after your periods are over. Store it according to package directions in a clean container.

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Medically Reviewed on 1/26/2022
References
Image Source: iStock Images

van Eijk AM, Zulaika G, Lenchner M, Mason L, Sivakami M, Nyothach E, Unger H, Laserson K, Phillips-Howard PA. Menstrual cup use, leakage, acceptability, safety, and availability: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Public Health. 2019 Aug;4(8):e376-e393. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpub/article/PIIS2468-2667(19)30111-2/fulltext

Levine H. Menstrual Cup Linked to Toxic Shock Syndrome, New Study Finds. Consumer Reports. https://www.consumerreports.org/women-s-health/menstrual-cups-linked-to-toxic-shock-syndrome/

Menstrual Cup Coalition. What is a menstrual cup? https://menstrualcupcoalition.org/