Q: What is a menstrual cup and what are the benefits of using one?
A: Two kinds of menstrual cups are available to women. The first is a soft, flexible cup that is worn internally in the natural space under the cervix and behind the pubic bone where it conforms to your body. You can wear it for about 12 hours at a time after which, it is disposed and a new one is inserted.
Another type of menstrual cups is bell-shaped and inserted internally to form a suction seal once inside the vagina. These are emptied, cleaned and re-inserted and the same one is used for each menstrual cycle. Both types of menstrual cups are designed to collect your menstrual flow rather than absorb it.
A Journal of Women’s Health study showed that women prefer a soft menstrual cup to their current form of protection in terms of dryness, irritation, odor, comfort, length of wear, and interference with various activities.
There are several advantages to both types of menstrual cups.
• Longer wear time. Many women prefer menstrual cups because they can be safely worn longer – up to 12 hours. Given the longer wear time, most women use fewer disposable cups than tampons giving cups a potential environmental advantage as well.
• Strong safety profile. Another advantage of menstrual cups is the lack of odor because menstrual fluid is not exposed to air. Unlike tampons, menstrual cups do not change the pH balance of the vagina or increase the presence of harmful bacteria or excessive yeast in the vagina, so there is little risk of the type of infections that have been linked to tampons. Unlike tampons, menstrual cups are safe options for use just before your period, or if you're experiencing light spotting. You can also wear it while going to the bathroom.
• FDA approved. All menstrual cups currently marketed in the United States have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as safe, and most are made of hypoallergenic, nontoxic materials.
• Comfortable and protective during activities. The design and duration of use also means that active women can continue their active lives.