Author’s note: Throughout this article, I use ‘women’ and ‘girls’ to refer to anyone who experiences a menstrual period, with full knowledge that not all women experience periods and not everyone who experiences a period is a woman. This is mainly to adequately illustrate the role of patriarchy in relegating women’s health to the sidelines and dictating the way we discuss female bodies. - Camilla Duke
When it comes to their health, women are often asked to settle for less than ideal options. This can be seen across the board, from access to medical care and treatment, to the products we use on a regular basis. The dangers of Toxic Shock Syndrome and its association with the improper use of tampons has been well documented, so girls are often warned against leaving tampons in too long. However, even without the risks of TSS, tampons are still not great for the health of the female system. For instance, many mass-produced tampons are made with bleached cotton, perfumes, toxins, and chemicals. Additionally, tampons can absorb too much moisture and can even leave behind fibers, upsetting the natural chemical balance of the female body.
This is where the menstrual cup comes in. The menstrual cup has been used for decades, but it has only become more popular in recent years. Menstrual cups are small, flexible silicone cups which can be inserted into the vagina to collect rather than absorb blood and tissue from a period. They are reusable, so if properly cleaned and cared for, they can last years. The companies that produce menstrual cups do so free of toxins and chemicals which can be found in regular tampons and pads, using medical-grade silicone to ensure the comfort and safety of their product. Although the menstrual cup is a larger product than an individual tampon, it ends up being less invasive to the female system. Furthermore, the lower placement of the cup in the vagina compared to a tampon can even lessen the pain of cramps.
Not only does the menstrual cup provide a healthier alternative for the individual using it, but it also presents a better option for the environment as well. In the UK alone, an estimated one billion sanitary products are thrown away every year, many of which end up in the sewage system and even the ocean. Tampons are individually wrapped and are made up of several small plastic parts, so just one cycle’s worth of tampons creates a great deal of waste. Replacing tampons and pads with a menstrual cup makes a difference for your health, your wallet, and your environment.
So, if the menstrual cup is so great, why doesn’t everyone use one? Why are they still relatively uncommon compared to their single-use counterparts? There is a simple answer: dialogue around the topics of periods and women’s health in general is discouraged. The taboo surrounding menstruation creates a climate in which women discreetly and quietly teach girls how to take care of their periods and without too much conversation.
Mothers simply pass on the knowledge passed down to them from their mothers, leading to general conservatism when it comes to hygiene developments. This is just another example of women accepting an unfavorable situation, mainly because they do not have access to spaces where they can openly talk about their concerns and feelings regarding their periods. When women and girls can engage in discussions about their health and their bodies, improvements can be made in the way women’s health is approached at both a personal and public level.