The best decision for your period, planet and pocket.
By Tiyani Rikhotso
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 9 of VARSITY News.
For those who haven’t yet made the switch, the menstrual cup can seem like an intimidating period product. However, what seems like a foreign object that your body may reject from afar, is actually a flexible silicone cup that is easy to insert and use. The cup sits comfortably, low in the vagina and can be worn for up to 12 hours depending on your flow. The menstrual cup collects more blood than other products making it a convenient swap that only has to be changed twice a day.
The silicone used is hypoallergenic and free of harmful substances. Conventional menstrual care products can include plastics, chemicals such as dioxins, phthalates and parabens as well as other ingredients that feminine hygiene companies don’t have to declare. As these products are typically used every month for decades, this can not only lead to irritation but have long-term health effects. Thus, the menstrual cup is a safe alternative that doesn’t expose your body to harmful toxins. In addition, the cup is not associated with Toxic Shock Syndrome.
Unlike conventional menstrual care products like pads or tampons that you toss with each use, the menstrual cup is reusable for 5-8 years. It is estimated that someone who menstruates will use between 5 and 15 thousand pads and tampons. As these products contain and are packaged in plastic, this contributes to the growing crisis of plastic waste that builds up in landfills and harms our wildlife and environmental landscapes. Not only does this put a strain on the environment but also has great financial implications as on average this lifetime use of menstrual products can cost up to $6000.
Before use, the cup is sterilised by boiling it for several minutes in an open pot. Using your fold method of choice, you insert the cup and manoeuvre it slightly until you hear a popping sound. This is the suction in action which is what prevents leakage. Don’t give up if you don’t get this right on your first few tries! It can take some practice to master the cup so you may want to use it in conjunction with a natural, organic or reusable cloth pad for the first few months. To remove, insert your index finger and thumb into your vagina and grab a hold of the stem. Pull this down until you can firmly pinch the base of the cup to release some of the suction. Spill out the blood, rinse and reinsert.
Between cycles you simply boil it to sterilise and store it in a breathable container or cloth bag.
The online retailer Faithful to Nature stocks a variety of different menstrual cup brands. Prices range from R269,00 for their own menstrual cup range to R659,00 for the popular Mooncup. There are also local menstrual cup brands such as My Own Cup who extend their business past products and run workshops and community projects around menstrual education and upliftment. My Own Cup’s prices range between R250,00 – R375,00 depending on the size. The size variations of menstrual cups are dependent on factors such as age, the length of your cervix, your flow and whether you’ve given birth naturally.
If you weren’t open to the idea of using the cup before, hopefully the reality that you’re most likely to spend nearly R100 000 on menstrual care products in your lifetime has piqued your interest. Not only is making the switch a financially sustainable option but it helps reduce waste, plastic pollution and your body’s exposure to harmful toxins.