Product Review: The Pros and Cons of Using a Menstrual Cup for a Zero Waste Period
This product review comes from Jennifer Coyle, author of Honey Rule: a minimalism and mindfulness blog with an emphasis on living simply and intentionally as a family.
Okay young ladies (sorry others—this post applies only to people who have monthly visits from Aunt Flow).
Every month, you get the gift of bleeding from your… area. It's an occasion that was only maybe joyous the first time it happened, because it signified your transition into womanhood. But since then, it's just a nuisance.
Not only does your period keep you running to the bathroom every few hours, keeps you on high-alert for leaks, and leads you to wear only dark-to-black pants for a week, it also creates a lot of waste.
Let's consider you have a semi-normal cycle where your period lasts for 4 days, and you change your tampon every 3 hours. Maybe you also use a pantyliner to protect against leaks. Or maybe you use feminine napkins. That's about 32 tampons, 32 liners, and/or 32 pads per cycle.
Considering all the actively ovulating women out there, that's about a bajillion* feminine products that go down the toilet or into the garbage every month (*I am not one for citing specific facts, but here are some real numbers).
Not only does that pose a threat to our planet, it also creates an issue for our wallets and our sanity.
Long story short, in this post I'm inviting you to try out a menstrual cup, and below I've outlined the details as to why it may be a good alternative to tampons and pads for the Red Tide.
Side note: I was going to write this glowing review post after my first use with the Lena Cup (back in June of last year), but I decided to wait several months so I could give you the full deets, both good and bad.
PRO: THE CUP IS EASY TO USE
I'll spare you the specifics of how to get the cup in and out, but let me assure you that as someone who can be a bit squeamish about bodily stuff, the cup is pretty darn easy to use.
There are several methods for insertion, and it will probably only take you one cycle to figure out which is your favorite. (I like the seven fold.)
Removal is also easy. With the Lena Cup specifically, there is a tail at the base of the cup with nubs on it, allowing you to get a firm grip. So for those of you who have no idea about a menstrual cup, here's the gist:
- Your period starts, yay.
- Grab your cup.
- Give it a good rinse or a deep clean.
- Insert it using a your fold of choice.
- About 12 hours or less (this depends on you and your flow—it may take you a few times of screwing up to get the right rhythm), remove the cup and dump the contents into the toilet.
- Give the cup a good rinse.
- Forget about it for another 12 hours or so.
PRO: THE CUP IS MORE NATURAL
Remember those good ol' days in sex-ed class where your teacher mentioned that you could die from having a tampon inserted for too long? Or do you break out into an internal cold sweat every time you read the tampon box with the Toxic Shock Syndrome warning on the side?
Worried abut the plastics in your pads and pantyliners?
Never fear. The menstrual cup is boss in terms of being a natural product. Silicone, while potentially scary-sounding, is very sterile and safe to use internally for long periods of time. From Lena's website: "The silicone used in making each LENA Cup does not leech any chemical or toxins and is BPA and latex-free."
Because silicone is so natural and non-toxic, it's almost like you're not using any foreign body to help mop up your monthly mess.
PRO: THE CUP (CAN BE) LESS MESS
Speaking of mess. Back in my pad days, I'd hate to go to change my pad and see all of the weird crap in there. And tampon-wrangling can be quite messy too. Especially since you aren't really supposed to flush them.
Plus, then sometimes you have to wrap up your feminine products in toilet paper and/or one of those wax-coated brown baggies in the toilet stalls.
All in all, paper products for your period are no fun. Switch to a cup and you won't have to worry about a plethora of wrappers or gross, used products.
PRO: THE CUP IS MORE CONVENIENT
If you're a guy and you've made it this far, let me tell you a little secret: when some women are on their periods, we feel the need to smuggle our feminine products into the bathroom. Think: a crinkly tampon stealthily pushed up a sleeve. A fresh pad slipped into a back pocket. Or our "period goodie bag" tucked under an armpit.
Not to mention the struggle we face if we get to the bathroom only to realize we need more products to protect ourselves from leaking.
It sucks big time.
So ladies. Imagine being on your period and just going to the bathroom. You already have all that you need!
PRO: YOU CAN DO (ALMOST) ANYTHING WITH THE CUP
- Conquer the world
Just don't have sex with it in. It won't be very pleasant for either party, probably.
CON: THAT WEIRD MOMENT YOU USE A CUP IN A PUBLIC RESTROOM
Err… okay. So remember how I mentioned you need to rinse the cup after you empty it? Sometimes this isn't always possible, because you are in a public restroom with stalls.
So, this isn't the most fun thing ever… but you can do your best to re-insert it sans-rinse and then wipe your hands on toilet paper to avoid looking like you've just murdered a small animal in your private stall.
In this scenario, you may also need to zip and button up your pants after you've washed your hands at the sinks.
CON: THAT SUCKY MOMENT WHEN YOU REALIZE THE CUP MAY NOT PROTECT YOU OVERNIGHT
Like I said earlier, the cup should last about 12 hours. But depending on your flow, it may just not cut it.
Perhaps you could try the large-size cup.
Or, if you're a light sleeper, you could stay on high-alert and rush to the bathroom in the middle of the night when you feel a leak.
Or, you could use a backup system (more info below).
Personally, on my heaviest days, I aim to empty the small Lena Cup every 4 hours, just to be safe.
CON: THAT FREAKY MOMENT WHEN THE CUP DOES SOMERSAULTS INSIDE OF YOU
A few times I've noticed a strange leak earlier than I would've expected one.
Upon further inspection, I realized it's because the cup has turned on its side or something similar.
This is 100% my fault (in the instructions Lena tells you specifically to check the seal after insertion, and I never do). So if you don't want this to happen, just follow the instructions!
SIDE NOTE: YOU MAY NEED TO USE NAPKINS AFTER ALL
I personally use organic cotton napkins along with my Lena Cup. I wanted to fully go zero waste with my periods (meaning I wanted to stop using plastic pantiliners as a backup), and frankly I got sick of rinsing my underwear if there was a leak.
Experiment with what works best for you. Some of my friends swear by the period panties.
CONCLUSION: THE CUP (AND YOUR VAGINA) WILL HELP YOU SAVE THE WORLD AND BE ZERO WASTE
All in all, switching from tampons and pads to the menstrual cup will ultimately help save the world.
Even if you still use pantyliners, your waste creation will be cut down significantly, and your #nearowaste efforts will be greatly appreciated by landfills everywhere.
Thanks to Wild Minimalist for letting me be weird and talk about zero waste periods on their blog. If you enjoyed reading this post, please visit my minimalism/mindfulness/crunch blog at Honey Rule.
NOTE: Wild Minimalist was kind enough to send me a Large Lena Cup for review, but I always give my honest opinion.