It’s very rare for one product to embody most, if not all, the ideals of a wise and ethical consumer: sustainable, economical, empowering, and socially responsible. I’m talking, obviously, about the wonder that is the menstrual cup.
A menstrual cup is a small cup made with latex or silicon inserted into the vaginal canal to catch your period. Unlike tampons and sanitary pads, menstrual cups do not absorb blood but collects them. This means you can use your menstrual cup longer each time. Unlike tampons and sanitary pads that have to be replaced every four hours (depending on how heavy your period is), a menstrual cup can be used for up to 12 hours.
I like the fact that women who use menstrual cups have been vocal about their love for the product. Talking about periods and related issues is still seen as taboo in many parts of the world. The recent popularity of the menstrual cup is contributing to the normalization of the conversation surrounding periods, a totally normal part of life for half of the world’s population.
Why you should switch to menstrual cups
Cups cost less than tampons and sanitary pads
Since this is a financial blog and I’m all about saving money, I’m going to start with this.
One menstrual cycle is 28 days, which means women can have 13 periods in a year. The typical length of one period is 5-6 days. This is of course if you have a regular, normal period. An irregular and/or heavy period presents other challenges.
If you’re using tampons or sanitary pads, you should be changing every 4 hours (except when in bed at night, which opens another can of worms especially if you have heavy flow). In the 16 hours you’re awake, you should change your tampon or pads 4 times a day for 5-6 days.
Which means in a month, you can consume from 20-24 tampons or menstrual pads. In a year, that’s 260 to 312 pads.
If you’re like me who’s scared to bleed all over my beloved bed, you wear those diaper-like pads typically used by mothers who just gave birth (a Tempurpedic bed is expensive) at night. Those super thick pads do not come cheap. That’s another 60 to 78 giant pads.
Where I’m at, a pack of 10 tampons costs around US$6.00. So every month, I’ll be using 2.5 packs of tampons. In a year, that’s 32.5 packs, rounded off to 33 packs because you can’t really buy half a pack of tampons from the store, can you?
US$6.00 x 33 is US$198 worth of tampons.
Then add to that the giant pads for going to bed. It costs around US$6.00 for a pack of 4. Since my period usually lasts 6 days (religiously monitored by my favorite menstrual app, Clue), I have to use 1.5 packs per period, totaling to 19.5 packs a year, rounded off to 20 packs.
US$6.00 x 20 is US$120 worth of giant diaper-like sanitary pads.
In total, I would’ve spent US$318.00 a year for my period if I’m not using a menstrual cup.
I know. It horrified me too when I calculated. But maybe other women are not as spendy as I am. Or maybe they live in countries where menstrual products are less expensive.
Comparison of costs with Philippine prices
So I checked Lazada for Philippine local prices and found this great deal for 3 packs of 8s of Modess Dry Max (with Wings), a total of 24 pads, for Php144.00. For 1 year, you need 13 sets of this. Meaning, a woman will spend Php1,872 on sanitary pads the entire year.
For tampon user, I found this deal for Ladouce Tampons Super Total for 80 tampons for Php919.00. For the entire year, you need 3.9 packs. To make things simpler, let’s round off to 4 packs. So that’s Php3,676 worth of tampons for the entire year.
Compare these costs to a single menstrual cup, which can be used for up to 12 hours at a time and lasts for years.
One menstrual cup sold at Lazada, Anytime Women Medical Grade Silicon Anti Leakage Menstrual Cup, costs Php155.00. It only costs a little more than 1 month’s supply of sanitary pads and less expensive that one period’s worth of tampons.
The costs I cited are only for 1 year. Imagine how they translate over your menstruating years. Most girls first get their period at age 10 to 12 and most women enter menopause at 50. Meaning, women usually have periods for 40 years. Without considering inflation, the costs of using sanitary pads over a lifetime reach Php74,880. For tampon users, it’s Php147,040.
If you’re a woman and are looking for ways to cut your expenses and save more coins, you should definitely consider using a menstrual cup. Even if you change your menstrual cup annually (which is bonkers because most cups lasts up to 5-10 years), you’ll only be spending Php6,200.
It is empowering
Using a menstrual cup makes you confront your own feminity and anatomy. I know that a lot of women and girls are not comfortable seeing their most intimate parts and cringe at the thought of actually inserting a latex cup inside their vaginas. We’re conditioned that good girls do not touch themselves down there and talking about periods is taboo that shouldn’t be discussed in public.
There’s a lot of women who have already given birth to multiple children but haven’t seen or explored their own vaginas.
You literally have to get down there to be able to insert the menstrual cup into your vaginal canal. For me, it’s very empowering to get to know and familiarize yourself with your body’s most intimate parts. Wearing a menstrual cup changes the way you look at your period. When I’m wearing a menstrual cup, I sometimes forget that I’m even on my period. I learn so much more about my body: how much period blood I have daily, got acquainted with my cervix, figured out the best way to position my menstrual cup to avoid leaks. I got to learn more about my body since I started using a menstrual cup.
Option to buy from socially-responsible businesses
In many parts of the world, menstruation is one of the many reasons why female children quit school. Menstruation is seen as dirty and polluting and menstruating female children oftentimes quit school altogether because they cannot afford to buy sanitary products.
Many menstrual cup sellers are aware of this issue and have pledged to donate cups and conduct education drives in communities. In the Philippines, Sinaya Cup donates 1 cup for every purchase. For those who wish to make purposeful purchases and benefit women and girls in East Africa, you can visit Ruby Cup. The popular brand Diva Cup also supports a lot of female empowerment initiatives worldwide.
Less impact on the environment
Based on our computations above, a woman uses around 312 sanitary pads or tampons in a year. In 40 years, that’s 12,480 sanitary pads or tampons for each woman. Considering that half of the world’s population is female, that’s a lot of garbage.
According to this very informative article by The Chic Ecologist exploring the environmental impact of menstrual products, the tampon itself, which is made of cotton, biodegrades in six months. But, the plastic applicators individual tampons come with takes 25 years to break down in the ocean. Meanwhile, sanitary pads decomposed in 500-800 years. So between sanitary pads and tampons, tampons are much more environmentally-friendly.
For those of us who are concerned for the state of the environment (really, we should ALL be involved!) and want to reduce waste, using menstrual cups is the way to go.
Great for all levels of activities and for travel
Menstrual cups are perfect for all levels of activities. Are you the type who wants to be active all the time? Great! A menstrual cup will help you get in the zone without worrying about leaks and changing your tampon or pad while in the middle of dancing, biking, or any other sport. Do you enjoy just lying in bed watching Netflix or reading a book without worrying that your period will stain your bedsheets? A menstrual cup is great for you too. You get to enjoy activities without thinking about leakage or having to change your tampon or pads every now and then.
They are also great when you’re traveling. You don’t have to overthink about the logistics of having to change and dispose of your tampons or sanitary pads every four hours. Do you throw it away in the bushes? Stick it in your bag until you arrive in the hotel? If you’re using a menstrual cup, you can wait until you get to an appropriate location or when you get home to wash your cup. I myself have used my menstrual cups while going on tour in Cambodia and crossing land borders in Central Asia. Never had a problem. This is a game-changer for me because I’m a weirdo who’s scared of public restrooms. I will literally risk having a urinary infection rather than use a strange toilet.
I started using a menstrual cup because the thought of marinating in period blood for hours under the tropical sun and the lovely Philippine humidity increasingly got to me. Imagine having to endure the feel of a damp sanitary pad under all that heat. It’s just too much, especially if you get stuck in Metro Manila traffic. If you’re living in a tropical climate, I’m sure you know how I feel.
It may be a surprise for people who are used to wearing sanitary pads and haven’t tried tampons before but having a cup inside your vaginal canal is actually comfortable. No, it does not feel like you have a penis inside your vagina.
Like I said earlier, you can forget that you have your period while wearing a cup. You can wear a swimsuit without worrying about a surprise appearance from your tampon string. And there’s no need to wash your cup after urinating. You can even sleep naked during your period as long as you’re wearing a menstrual cup.
One problem that menstrual cup users raise is that clean-up can be messy. This problem is eliminated if you remove your cup while sitting on the toilet. Just throw away the contents in the toilet bowl then wash the cup in the sink.
How to use menstrual cups
Contrary to what you might think, using a menstrual cup is actually fairly simple. You just fold the cup vertically in half, do a wide-legged squat without sticking out your bottom, slowly insert the cup inside you and slowly push it in. A lot of users seal the cup by turning it 360 degrees but personally, even a little turn to either direction worked for me. A little hack I discovered for myself is after inserting my menstrual cup and turning it a little bit to the left, I do a fun little twerk. Twerking settles the menstrual cup more securely inside, at least that’s how it works for my body.
Another hack that I discovered is to use a little bit of lubricant when inserting my menstrual cup. Put a half a pea-sized lubricant on my palm, fold the menstrual cup lengthwise with your other hand, dip the wide portion of the cup on the lubricant, and then insert it. Voila! Easy peasy! Instead of taking around 5 minutes or so when I first used a menstrual cup, I now take less than 10 seconds after I discovered the lube trick.
To remove it, either squat or sit on a toilet seat and then breath deeply while slowly prying the menstrual cup from your vaginal canal. Seating on a toilet seat makes discarding the blood easy since you just dump the contents right there and then.
Afterward, just thoroughly wash the cup with soapy water. I oftentimes use a mild shampoo.
Where to buy menstrual cups
Amazon is the easiest place to buy a menstrual cup. The Diva Cup is one of the most popular menstrual cups in the market today and has more than 10,000 reviews. It comes in three sizes and can be reused for 1 year and costs $25.33 plus shipping.
I’ve been personally using the Blossom cup for more than two years now and of the two menstrual cup brands I used so far, this is the more comfortable. It comes with a cloth pouch and can be used for up to 15 years of regular use. I haven’t encountered any problem with it so far.
When I decided to buy a menstrual cup about 3 years ago, Amazon did not ship cups to South Korea. If you’re encountering the same issue, you can try buying your cup from iHerb instead. Buying from iHerb may be a little bit more expensive but they are able to get around Amazon restrictions. For example, iHerb sells a Diva Cup for $34.99 when shipping to Korea. If you’re into pretty things, this Lunette menstrual cup comes in violet and coral and costs $39.99.
When I’m not using it, I store my cup in a collapsible silicone cup made especially for menstrual cups. To be honest there’s no need to buy a separate storage cup but I just want to have a neat and dedicated space for one of the most important items in my bathroom cabinet, sort of like giving it a place of honor right beside my Clarisonic (another item I couldn’t live without).
Obviously, I am a great fan and believer of the menstrual cup. If you’re a woman, related to a woman, in a relationship with a woman, I encourage you to discuss the many benefits of using a menstrual cup. Although I mostly talk about money and personal finance, I believe that more than the savings, the social and environmental impact of using menstrual cups outweigh other considerations.
Have you thought of using, or are you using, a menstrual cup? Share your experience with us in the comments.