You’re in the aisle for feminine hygiene products because you know it’s almost time for aunty flo. Tampons to the left, menstrual cups to the right. Which one do you reach for?
*Unbiased* brand ambassadors are singing the praises of menstrual cups… and for some women, menstrual cups are AWESOME. But the truth is that menstrual cups are not for everyone. Some of us are better off sticking to tampons or pads that most women have used for decades. How do you know what’s better for your body? How do you make the right choice for your vaginal health and your overall well being?
First, you’ll need accurate information to make this crucial decision. So read on to learn the pros, cons, and health implications of both tampons and menstrual cups.
Pros and Cons of Tampons
As you may know, tampons are those little cotton plugs that fit inside your vagina. Once you put them in, they sit there and soak up menstrual blood. Most tampons come with an applicator and a string attached to the end. The applicator helps you insert the tampon in there, and the string helps you to easily pull them out.
Tampons were invented in 1931, and millions of women around the world have used it for decades. So it’s dependable. But that’s not the full story. There are other facts you’ll need to consider. These facts about tampons will tell you if tampons are your best bet for optimal vaginal health.
So let’s explore the pros and cons of using tampons:
- Tampons are super convenient: Tampons have been around for 92 years and counting. This means that the technology is dependable and it plain works. Another advantage is that tampons are everywhere. You can easily get a tampon that fits at almost every corner shop. They’re also available in various absorbencies.
- Tampons are discreet: This is a big one because most of us don’t want the world to know when we’re on our period. When you insert a tampon, that’s it. No one will know they’re in there. You can’t feel it and it won’t make you uncomfortable.
- Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS): This happens when someone wears a tampon so long that the wet tampon starts to decay. Yes, it happens but it’s rare. You can easily avoid this by changing your tampons normally.
- Environmental Impact: some tampons are not biodegradable so they contribute to waste1.
Pros and Cons of Menstrual Cups
While menstrual cups have been around for a while, they only became popular recently.
And with menstrual cups, you’ll “change” less frequently. They are “cups” so they can stay inside you for much longer than tampons. Once in there, period blood just naturally drains into the cup and stays there. You empty the cup when you take it out at the end of the day.
Menstrual cups also offer other unique advantages… but there are risks too. For example, cups can cause an infection.
Let’s go into the full Pros and Cons of menstrual cups:
- Eco-Friendly: Unlike most tampons, menstrual cups are usually eco-friendly. That means that they’re biodegradable, which is good for the environment.
- Cost-Effective: This is a big one. Menstrual cups are reusable. So a one-time purchase can last you for up to 10 years.
- Less risk staining your clothes: Menstrual cups are cups. They hold a lot more blood than a tampon so you can be sure they won’t stain your clothes. Plus they can be worn for up to 12 hours with no leakage.
- Menstrual cups can cause an infection: Menstrual cups can easily introduce bacteria into the urinary tract. This happens when the cup is not properly cleaned after use, or when it’s not stored in a clean, dry place. Some women have switched back to tampons because of this.
- Menstrual cups can block your urethra: Most women are not used to inserting cups into the vagina. So a little mistake during insertion can cause the menstrual cup to push up against your urethra and block it. Although this is rare, it can lead to embarrassing and annoying urinating problems.
- It takes a while to learn how to insert a menstrual cup. With an applicator you can insert a tampon in seconds. But menstrual cups are a bit trickier. Most women have to learn how to safely insert and remove them.
How Tampons and Menstrual Cups Affect Your Body and Your Vaginal Health
Tampons and menstrual cups work in different ways. And studies have shown that they also affect the vagina in different ways.
Let’s look at how tampons and menstrual cups affect vaginal health:
How they affect vaginal pH and flora:
Tampons absorb blood but they also absorb your vaginal moisture. Yes, tampons also absorb the natural fluids that balance your pH and keep your vaginal wet. Some experts say that excessive use of tampons may be one of the causes of vaginal dryness.
Menstrual cups simply collect blood without disturbing your vaginal environment. So they may be a safer option for anyone struggling with chronic vaginal issues.
Tampons are often made from a blend of cotton and rayon. Because they’re made with these materials, some tampons may have leftover chemicals from bleaching processes. And these can affect your vaginal health over time.
Menstrual cups were made from rubber in the past, but that has changed. Now they’re made from medical-grade silicone, rubber, latex, or elastomer2. With these materials, menstrual cups are less likely to affect your vaginal health in any negative way.
- Menstrual cups help you know your body better: there’s another advantage you get with menstrual cups. They help you to know your body better. How? By allowing you to monitor your flow patterns and become more familiar with your body.
Transitioning Between Tampons and Menstrual Cups
Many women have switched from tampons to menstrual cups while loving every minute of it. While others are switching back from menstrual cups to tampons.
If you want to make the switch, here are a few tips that can help:
- Maybe you should just start slow: Most women are on the fence with feminine products. They don’t want to risk switching away from what they’re comfortable with. If that’s you, here’s a hack you can use. Use both products alternately. Use both for a while, and then decide which option you like best and stick to it.
- Educate Yourself: Don’t know how to use menstrual cups? Then watch tutorials or read instructions online. Have questions about tampons? Check online to see how other women like you solved the same problem.
- Listen to Your Body: This is the most important thing you should consider. Tampons and menstrual cups stay in your body for hours so you have to be comfortable with any option you choose. Comfort is absolutely necessary. If something feels off, make a switch.
How to Properly Dispose Your Tampons and Menstrual Cups
- Always wrap used tampons in toilet paper or the wrapper it came in.
- Do not flush it down the toilet. It can clog sewage systems2.
For menstrual cups:
- Store in a breathable pouch, not airtight containers.
- Clean with mild soap and warm water after each use. And then disinfect with hot water. (To reduce the risk of infections, make sure you disinfect your cups properly before you reuse it)
As you may know, one of the leading causes of vaginal infections is the things that come in contact with the vagina. That includes sex toys, penises, mouths and tongues (due to oral sex), and menstrual cups.
How do these cause vaginal issues? Because the bacteria that cause vaginal issues can live outside the vagina. And they can live on almost any surface, especially on whatever that comes in contact with the vagina. Once the bacteria is reintroduced into the vagina, they come alive again and cause an infection.
That’s why it’s important to thoroughly clean anything that comes in contact with your vagina. And that includes menstrual cups.
How to clean menstrual cups to prevent vaginal infections
Two steps are required to clean your menstrual cup. The first step is to wash it with warm water, and the second step is to disinfect it.
- Step 1 — washing: To clean your menstrual cup after use, all you need is a bar of mild soap and clean water. After you wash it, rinse it thoroughly with clean water. Now you’re ready to disinfect it.
- Step 2 — disinfecting: To disinfect, fill a pot with water to a level that your menstrual cup does not touch the bottom of the pot. Put the cup in the boiling water and let it boil for 5-10 minutes.
Accessibility and Cost Over Time
While you can get tampons everywhere, menstrual cups are becoming more popular. Why are cups getting more popular? Because you can save hundreds of dollars overtime.
You buy a menstrual cup for around $20-$40. And because menstrual cups are reusable, you can use just one for over a decade. Unless you decide to change your cup size, you don’t spend any extra money on a new menstrual cup. You don’t have to keep buying them over and over like you would if you use tampons3.
Common Mistakes to Avoid with Tampons and Menstrual Cups
- Not changing them frequently enough, increasing TSS risk.
For menstrual cups:
- Improper sealing leading to leaks.
- Not inserting the cup well can cause urinary problems.
- Not sterilizing the cup at the start/end of each cycle can lead to vaginal infections.
9 Popular FAQs and their answers
Question #1: Can I swim while using a tampon or menstrual cup?
Answer: Yes, both are designed to be leak-proof when used correctly.
Question #2: How often should I replace my menstrual cup?
Answer: Most brands recommend replacing your cup every 1-10 years, depending on usage and wear.
Question #3: Is there a risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) with menstrual cups?
Answer: While TSS is primarily associated with tampon use, it’s rare with menstrual cups. However, maintaining hygiene, cleaning the cup regularly, and not leaving it in for extended periods is crucial to reduce any risk4.
Question #4: Can a menstrual cup get lost inside me?
Answer: No. It might move higher in the vagina, but it can’t get ‘lost’ or enter the uterus. If you have difficulty retrieving it, relax, breathe, and bear down with your pelvic muscles.
Question #5: Do menstrual products interfere with urination?
Answer: No. Tampons and menstrual cups are placed in the vagina, while urine passes through the urethra. Both are separate openings.
Question #6: What should I do if I experience irritation using these products?
Answer: Stop using the product and consult a healthcare professional. You might be sensitive to the material, or it could be an unrelated infection.
Question #7: Can I exercise while using tampons or menstrual cups?
Answer: Absolutely! Both products are designed to move with your body. But most women are really concerned with leaks. What about leaks?
Question #8: What about leaks?
Answer: Proper insertion is the key! The more you practice and understand your flow, the more you can minimize leaks.
Question #9: Hygiene?
Answer: Ensure you change tampons every 4-8 hours.
For cups, clean them thoroughly between uses. You can keep a cup on for up to 12 hours.
Amazing Future for Feminine Health
There’s an amazing future for feminine health. Because of the level of technology we have, scientists are making all sorts of products that’ll take the mystery out of feminine health. These products are backed by a deeper understanding of women’s health needs.
Here’s a sneak peek into the products you can expect in the near future:
- Smart Menstrual Cups: Experts say that it won’t take long for ‘smart’ menstrual cups to appear in the market. These smart cups will have built-in sensors that can tell you all about your menstrual flow. This will help women track and take full control of their sexual health2.
- Personalized Products: You already know how no two female bodies are the same. That’s why one product can work for one woman and not work for others. Experts are realizing this, so they’re making smart products that’ll conform to each person’s individual needs. Think of customizable absorbencies or shapes. It’ll be amazing!
- Biodegradable Products: Many more people are worried about climate change. So there’s a surge in the development of biodegradable tampons and pads. These products decompose faster than traditional ones, reducing landfill waste1.
- Reusable Pads with Better Design: Experts are still making new designs for reusable pads. These news pads will have better absorbency and will be a lot more comfortable.
- Wearable Tech: Imagine underwear that can absorb menstrual flow and simultaneously keep you informed about your reproductive health through embedded sensors. This isn’t sci-fi. Right now it’s a topic of keen interest in the tech world3.
Given these trends, the future of feminine hygiene products looks both eco-friendly and tech-driven, ensuring women have healthier, more sustainable choices.
The decision between tampons and menstrual cups is personal. Both have their merits and challenges. So you have to weigh their pros and cons before you make a decision. Don’t forget to keep your comfort, health, and lifestyle in mind.