So many years into evolution, and yet menstruation remains a mystical yet disgusting thing for most of us. Going back to my days in school, menstruation was a secret we all shared and never acknowledged. Came up with names and of course blank spaces in sentences that we understood so well. Menstruation was also taught to us like this, in a female students only lecture, when the male students got an extra games period. A darkened room, a curt explanation of the biology, and no time for questions.
Thus, menstrual cups wasn’t even an option we knew about – so accustomed to the blue-fluid sanitary napkin ads that came on TV. In a country where only 36% of women have access to menstrual hygiene products, and those that do know mostly use sanitary pads. Menstrual cups existed commercially since 1937 yet the anxiety around them has remained intact forever. Perhaps, this has to do with the shame attached to our bodies. Menstrual cups are even more daunting to use when one is not comfortable with their own bodies and hasn’t even explored what’s down there. Thus, most menstruators are wary of using these. In addition to this, there are several myths like menstrual cups not being suitable for ‘virgin women’. In a country where a lot of honour is placed on an intact hymen, of course menstrual cups have a difficulty becoming commonplace.
What is a Menstrual Cup?
Menstrual cups are small cups usually made of silicone or some form of rubber, that you insert into your vagina, and they collect the blood by means of suction. They come in 3-4 sizes depending on the brands and can be used from 6-12 hours depending on the flow. Unlike sanitary pads, the blood does not flow out of the vagina, so is not oxidised. Therefore, there is no smell to it. The cups are reusable for 7-8 years, and just have to be sanitised by boiling and cleansing in between cycles. Between each flow, they are simply washed under running water. They also don’t usually shift, as they are sealed by the vacuum created, and thus can be used even during physically engaging tasks. (Provided menstrual cramps aren’t harming you).
Benefits of a Menstrual Cup
Menstrual cups are a cheaper and more sustainable menstrual hygiene product. A regular pad costs around 10 rupees, and in a cycle, around 12 of these used. Over seven years, this comes to around 10,000 rupees. Alternatively, a menstrual cup ranges between 500-2000 rupees and can be used through these seven years. Further, menstrual cups are more eco friendly. There is a huge amount of waste involved with sanitary napkins, the plastic they are composed of, the chemicals and the bleach that is used. Also, to dispose of them, and the packaging they come in use more paper and plastic. The garbage workers who sort through them also have to deal with often improperly disposed and rotten pads. In light of all this, a single menstrual cup saves a lot of this trash from being generated.
Anoushka Radhakrishnan, 18 from Delhi, who has been using menstrual cups for a while says “I’ve had a really good experience with it, it saves money, it saves packing space, and sometimes I even forget I’m on my period (when I’m not having cramps). One negative would be that you need to be in a clean environment with access to clean water because changing the cup requires washing with water.”
Madhavi Menon from Kochi who recently started using them says “The first time I used it, it hurt a lot while inserting. But it was very comfortable after that. I didn’t feel like something was inside. There was no leakage. I slept very comfortably. There was no hassle of disposing or rashes like sanitary pads. But after a couple of hours, when I was removing it, it hurt a lot. It was my first time so I was very scared to tolerate the pain. It took me about an hour and a half because I was tensed and my vaginal muscles weren’t relaxed. But then I watched a couple of videos on YouTube and then finally it came out easily. It’s great if you know how to use it and once you keep trying and you get used to it I’m sure there’s nothing better than this.”
Also Read: Menstruators: A gender neutral & inclusive term for all our period conversations
Should you shift to a Menstrual cup?
Of course, there are some downsides to it. Settling on a menstrual cup can be hard and it’s a little tedious to finalise one according to your flow and your body. Also, the first time you use one, you’d need an ample amount of time in figuring out the logistics, of putting it in. Most people tend to use menstrual cups with a pad when on their first cycle. You also need ample water to clean the cup after every usage. However, once you are familiarised with it, they are much more eco friendly and flexible alternative to pads and tampons.
The views expressed are the author’s own.