Everything You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About Menstrual Cups


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I’ve been working with a new client, MyBoxShop, which makes 100% organic, BPA-free, non-toxic tampons, pads, and liners. It’s not a difficult company to get behind: It only makes sense that as we pay increasing attention to what’s in the stuff we eat and drink, we might want to also turn that attention to…ya know, the things that we put into the other end of our body, too. Let’s skip those vagina-chemicals, shall we?

So I’ve been having a blast working with the brand – it’s all education and empowerment and good things. But one of their products has continued to vex me, because I just don’t really…get it. And that product? The menstrual cup. It’s one of their most popular products, which probably says something about me being sliiiightly out of touch, but I figured that if I have a bazillion questions about menstrual cups, you might, too.

Enter: MyBoxShop founder Kendra Gelner.

Let’s talk periods!

I know many people who menstruate* (my past self included – I don’t get my period anymore because I’m on an IUD) are a little resistant towards the concept of a menstrual cup. It’s definitely a societal thing – menstrual blood! Dirty! MUST HIDE ALL SIGNS THAT WOMEN EXPERIENCE LIFEGIVING AND COMPLETELY NATURAL MONTHLY SHEDDING OF THE UTERINE LINING! But if I can get beyond that BS stigma – and I can – there’s still the issue that they’re very foreign to me. Is that something you hear a lot?

When I first tried a cup I’d been a tampon-user for 30 years, so I was a bit wary. But having used a menstrual cup almost exclusively for a long time now, I have to say: They’re amazing. They can stay in safely for up to 12 hours with no leaking – not even after a day of swimming at the beach. Second, they’re huge money-savers. If taken care of properly, a single cup can last between six months and ten years.

Stop it. 

I know! Think about how much you spend on tampons every month! And by “proper care” I mean cleaning your hands before inserting it, rinsing it with a mild soap and water after each use, and storing it in a cool, dry place. That’s it. The fact that they last so long brings me to my third point: They’re so much better for the environment than traditional menstrual care products. Conventional tampons (not ours, of course) contain loads of chemicals like dioxin, chlorine and rayon, and when they sit piled-up in landfills all those chemicals leak into the earth and pollute the groundwater. Not good. Also not good for your body, just saying.

Have you noticed an increasing interest in menstrual cups in recent years? For some reason I always thought of them as some weird ’70s blip, like douching, but all of a sudden they’re everywhere.

Menstrual cups have been around since the 1920’s, but I personally attribute the rise in their popularity to the fact that the conversation around menstruation has been shifting so much in the past few years. People are talking more openly about period products and their options, and paying more attention to what’s in the products they put on and in their bodies. The conversation around the impact of waste on the environment has also ramped up. Of course, companies that manufacture menstrual care products – including MyBoxShop – have noticed this increasing interest and the genuine value of the product, and have devoted more time and energy to promotion of menstrual cups, so that’s definitely a factor, as well.

So, a big plus for me would be the fact that – depending on your flow, of course – you can leave in a menstrual cup for longer than a tampon. I vividly remember the panic of realizing that I’d forgotten about one and left it in for a potentially unsafe amount of time (this story really stuck with me). 

Right, what you’re talking about is Toxic Shock Syndrome, or TSS, which is associated with tampon use because tampons left inside for a long time can stick to the vaginal walls and cause tiny abrasions, thereby creating the potential that bacteria will be introduced – and super-absorbent varieties may even encourage the growth of that bacteria. Menstrual cups collect blood rather than absorb it, so although there’s some degree of risk of irritation – if, say, you use a cup that’s the wrong size for you, or don’t clean it properly between uses – there is virtually no link between menstrual cup use and TSS.

And if you’re worrying about leakage, again: Menstrual cups, when used correctly, have similar or lower levels of leakage to tampons.


OK, so…ummm…how do you use one?

Honestly, once you get used to it it’s no more difficult than inserting a tampon. You use two fingers to insert it, and let go, and it expands inside you to form a seal. Just like you may remember from when you first started using tampons, there’s a little bit of a learning curve: Some people get it the first time, and others find it frustrating at first. But across the board, what I hear from women is that once they start using a menstrual cup, they don’t want to go back.

See, now I wish I still got my period. Oh wait, I’m lying. But if I *did,* I’d be all over the cup.

I guarantee you would.

*Ed note: I largely avoid using the words “woman” and “women” in this article because menstruation is a biological function, as opposed to an experience tied to gender, and these products can be used by any person who experiences menstruation. For more on how to talk about periods in a non-gendered way, please check out this article.

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