Over an average menstruating woman’s lifetime, she uses over 16,000 tampons or pads. As a result, about 12.3 billion sanitary napkins, amounting to 113,000 tonnes of menstrual waste amass India’s landfills every year. The bulk of these menstrual products contains toxic substances, harmful chemicals and synthetic materials such as plastic. Once they reach the landfills, they can take hundreds of years to decompose. Besides causing detriment to the environment and the planet, these menstrual products also cause women millions.
Keeping these facts in mind, many women are exploring eco-friendly alternatives that are good for the environment and themselves, such as menstrual cups. Menstrual cups are a safe, healthy and sustainable alternative to sanitary napkins and tampons. Due to lack of information and several stigmas surrounding menstrual cups, many women are apprehensive about using them. Let us try to demystify and destigmatize menstrual cups to simplify the transition for women from pads and tampons to menstrual cups.
What Is a Menstrual Cup & How Does It Work?
A menstrual cup is a reusable feminine hygiene product made of medical-grade silicone or latex rubber. It is a small, flexible funnel or bell-shaped cup which can be inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual fluid. At the beginning of the menstrual cycle, the menstrual cup should be tightly folded and inserted into the vagina like a tampon. Once inside, the cup will spring open and rest against the walls of the vagina, forming a seal to prevent any leakage. The period flow will then simply drip into the cup and accumulate. Since most of these cups are reusable, women can remove and empty them after 10-12 hours and wash them to reuse. These menstrual cups should be sterilised in boiling water at the end of every cycle.
How to Choose the Right Size?
Not all menstrual cups are created equally. Consequently, women must find and choose the right size. Additionally, depending on how heavy or light the period flow is, women can choose the size of their menstrual cup. Women above 18 years of age who have given birth naturally (vaginally) should choose a large cup. In contrast, women above 18 years who have not given birth or have given birth via C-section should opt for a smaller cup. Teenagers should use the smallest variety of the cup available.
Also, Read: Amenorrhea or Absence of Menstruation
How to Insert and Remove a Menstrual Cup?
Before inserting a menstrual cup, women should wash their hands with soap thoroughly. Then, the cup should be folded to make it easier to insert it inside the vagina with the rim facing upwards. The cup should be moved or rotated gently during the insertion until it opens up and creates a leak-proof seal. To remove the cup, women should pull the stem of the cup while pinching the base to release the seal. Then, the cup should be emptied, washed and either reinserted or replaced. At the end of each cycle, all the cups should be sterilised.
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What Are the Benefits & Limitations of Using a Menstrual Cup?
Many women use menstrual cups because they are inexpensive compared to tampons and sanitary napkins. Since menstrual cups collect period fluid instead of absorbing it, they are safer and don’t contain any harmful chemicals or materials. Menstrual cups are reusable and last for a long time, thereby minimising the detrimental impact to the environment. Additionally, menstrual cups don’t need to be changed every few hours, they can last for 12 hours. Despite the many advantages, some women complain of the messy removal, difficult insertion and challenges in finding the right size. Moreover, not all menstrual cups are compatible with an intrauterine device (IUD). It is best recommended to consult a gynaecologist before using a menstrual cup. Since it is not in contact with the cervix, so it doesn’t irritate it, unlike tampons, which can irritate the cervix if kept in the vagina for prolonged period.
Trying anything new involves a learning curve, but most women seem to adapt to menstrual cups with time and habit. Using menstrual cups can minimise environmental harm, the risk of bacterial infections and even monthly menstruation expenses. Menstrual cups can be easily bought at the nearest drug stores or online. They come in a variety of sizes, colours and materials by different brands. Trying a menstrual cup for the first time can feel like an uphill battle, so women are advised to speak to an obstetrician-gynaecologist to guide them through the process and ease the transition.
Also, Read: Women’s Health & Hygiene
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