Take a moment and consider just how many tampons you’ve used in your lifetime. We’ll wait. Yep, it’s a lot. If you’re thinking about switching to something that’s a little easier on your wallet (and the environment), the menstrual cup might be just the thing. Here’s what you need to know.
What is a menstrual cup, anyway? It’s basically a small, flexible cup made from latex or rubber that, instead of absorbing your flow, collects it. The cup needs to be emptied and cleaned (with water and a gentle soap) twice a day, but most cups can be re-used for years.
And why do women use it? A reusable menstrual cup costs approximately $40 and can last up to ten years, making it a significantly cheaper and eco-friendlier option. (There are also single-use menstrual cups, but these aren’t as popular.) And while tampons need to be changed every four to eight hours, most menstrual cups can stay in for 12.
Are there any downsides to the menstrual cup? “Women with heavy periods often find that they still need a pad to catch overflow,” says Aviva Romm, M.D., midwife and women's hormone expert. “But the most common groan I hear is about washing the cup out in public bathrooms, which can be awkward and messy.”
OK, I’m intrigued. What should I look out for when buying one? You want something that’s comfortable—ask women who have used a particular brand how it feels. “If you’re aware of it in there all the time, then it’s not a good fit for you,” says Romm. “Also know that what might fit for you before having babies might not fit as well after—so you may need to adjust to a different brand.”