A few weeks ago, Mic asked young women to share why they preferred to use "nontraditional" menstrual products instead of tampons or disposable pads. Within a few hours of putting a call out for responses, our inbox was flooded with hundreds of multi-paragraph emails from women across the country, all extolling the benefits of their cloth pads, sea sponges, period panties and, most notably, menstrual cups.
Menstrual cups are small, flexible, silicone cups that are inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual fluid. Although menstrual cups have been on the market since the 1930s, they've been steadily growing in popularity, thanks in large part to the release of products like the Diva Cup and the Moon Cup. Menstrual cups have garnered glowing user feedback on online forums like the subreddit r/TwoXChromosomes, where users effusively praise cups for being clean, recyclable and easy to use. Some women even say that menstrual cups have changed their lives.
Why do women love their menstrual cups so damn much? To find out, Mic followed up with a number of women who were eager to share their thoughts about their favorite alternative menstrual products. Here's what they had to say.
At approximately $25 a pop, it might not seem like menstrual cups are cheap. But when you consider how much you spend on tampons over the course of a lifetime (more than $1500, according to one estimate), they seem more like an investment for the long-term — or even a bargain.
"I want to scream from the rooftops that menstrual cups are so much better [than traditional options]. I just think how happy college-aged me would have been had I not had to spend part of my measly paycheck on expensive tampons every month and instead be able to use it as 'fun' money." — Hayley*, 25
"I love my menstrual cup so much. ... If you're comfortable hearing about tampons and pads, then I'll definitely have no problem telling you about how much cheaper and good for you and the Earth it is to use menstrual cups." — Tisha, 24
Promoting menstrual cups is a way to reduce environmental waste.
Over the course of her menses-having lifespan, the average woman will throw out between 250 and 300 pounds of trash in the form of used tampons, pads and applicators. Unlike drugstore tampons and pads, silicone menstrual cups are reusable, which means you can use the same one for well up to a year (provided you keep it clean and regularly wash it with mild soap and warm water, of course).
"Any information that I can disseminate among women with questions or anxieties about their bodies and choices is important to talk openly about. I like being part of normalizing being female and normalizing female sexuality. And if along the way, I help a girl choose a cup and reduce waste, all the better." — Kat, 25
"I [often] explain the benefits of using cups not only for our health but also for our wallets and the environment. I cringe when I think about how much waste I could have produced had I not switched this past January." — Winifred, 22
"There should be more awareness raised about the environmental impact tampons and pads have on the Earth. If you are remotely concerned about the environment, which you should be, you should be using a cup. Period. (No pun intended.)" — Nicole, 32
Menstrual cups improve low-income women's lives.
In some African countries tampons and pads can be expensive or simply unavailable, which means young women who are menstruating are often forced to use rags, leaves and mud in lieu of tampons or pads. Menstrual stigma is also so prevalent that girls on their periods are forced to stay out of school, increasing the risk that they won't ever graduate. To curb this issue, a number of nonprofit organizations have donated menstrual cups to students in West Africa, so women can wear them for up to 12 hours while attending school or working in the fields.
"I talk to other women about my [menstrual] cup, because I want them to know that they have options, not only in what products they purchase but in what attitude they adopt in how they relate to their periods. I think it's imperative that women who have already started using alternative products talk freely and openly about their choice, to spread the word to other women and to send a message to society in general that we are not afraid of our bodies." — Tasha, 22
Menstrual cups aren't often discussed in mainstream culture, so women who use them want to spread the good word.
In light of the cultural stigma surrounding periods, most women are wary about discussing what menstrual products they use in polite conversation. But because menstrual cups are for the most part available only online (or, if you're lucky, at your local food co-op), they travel under the radar. That means women largely rely on word-of-mouth to find out about menstrual cups, which creates a sort of unspoken, sororal bond between those who use them. Plus, buying one doesn't put money in the pockets of large feminine hygiene corporations.
"I think the reason I am willing to openly discuss [my menstrual cup] is because for a long time I never knew this option existed, and then I finally had a friend or two who told me about it. Now that I use one, it is just so much better (for me at least) than using tampons ever was." — Jess, 32
"[My personal promotion] is the only advertising menstrual cups will get. ... You won't hear about it from big corporations, because disposable pads and tampons are more profitable. Even though these methods were available long ago, they've been forgotten in favor of disposable items." — Tisha
"When I first found out about [menstrual cups], I was literally so excited that I sent the [information] not only to every friend with a vagina, but also my female coworkers ... When I saw the product, I knew it had the potential to be life-changing for many of the women I knew, so I couldn't keep it to myself." — Julianna, 27
"I want all my friends who menstruate to be able to experience that feeling of ease. And, the only way for people to learn is if some people spread the word. I'm happy to do it. — Winifred, 22
It's a way to experience your menstrual cycle that isn't shameful or painful.
For many women who suffer from painful, heavy periods, menstruation has always been associated with gut-wrenching cramps and living in fear of blood stains appearing on the back of your shorts. But because menstrual cups allow you to interact more closely with your cycle and gauge exactly how much you bleed on a daily basis, many women report feeling more comfortable with their bodies as a result of using them. (An added bonus: You can leave a menstrual cup in for about 10 hours without leaking, which means they last much longer than tampons do.)
"I think it's important not only to talk about reusable menstrual products but reproductive health overall. Birth control, menstrual products, abortion, miscarriages, birth complications — these are all reproductive issues that we should be able to openly discuss without feeling ashamed. We have a right to have accurate information about our bodies and to make informed decisions about what options we have available." — Danielle, 28
"I think that menstrual cups are a helpful part of fully understanding one's cycle and taking care of one's self more attentively. I think being a young woman, or a woman for that matter, bonds us together in this awesome and strange sisterhood where we should feel more open to discussing our periods and cycles which affect our daily lives." — Sara, 25
It removes stigma.
Thanks to menstruation heroes like Lammily (the so-called "normal" Barbie, which now comes with her very own miniature pads) and free-bleeding marathon runner Kiran Gandhi, women are increasingly feeling more comfortable talking about their periods. But there's still work to be done in terms of removing longstanding taboos about menstruation. By using menstrual cups, many women feel more comfortable with their bodies, and by talking about their experiences openly, they can help other women feel more comfortable as well.
"Information about all of the various options should be out there so that women can make informed decisions regarding their health and their bodies, and that doesn't happen by treating [menstruation] like a subject that simply cannot be discussed." — Grace, 27
"I tell everyone about menstrual cups, because most everyone I know has a friend, mother, sister, girlfriend, wife or daughter who could benefit from knowing about this alternative product. The more we talk about it, the less stigma will be attached to menstruation. ... There are women who do not menstruate, such as trans women, [so] I don't think menstruating defines womanhood. But menstruation can be empowering for women." — Ellen, 25
"I am more than happy to talk about my menstrual cup because it's safer, cheaper, and more effective than tampons or pads. It's not a dirty or secretive thing - it's a product I love and I want others to try it too." — Danielle
*Mic quoted subjects by their first names to allow them to speak freely on private matters.