Menstrual Cups: Yay or Nay3 March 2020
Full disclosure: I do not have a medical background. In this article, I will be providing you with a review of the Diva Cup. Please ask your doctor if you choose to make changes, because we all have different bodies and conditions.
Menstrual cups, the lesser-known alternative to managing periods have recently come to the spotlight as climate crisis is becoming more evident, and public participation to the matter is resulting in positive and effective turns (ngl, we woke). The spike of interest in sustainable products such as this encouraged proper research on its effectiveness, user’s safety and comfort.
Before discussing further, let’s talk about what the cup really is. According to Roni Rabin, it is a bell-shaped cup made of silicone, rubber or latex that is inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual blood. It can be kept inside for up to 12 hours straight for collection. The product may seem like a new invention, but it was patented nearly 100 years ago; it had not caught on due to reasons such as religious and cultural beliefs which interferes way too damn much in women’s vagina than it should.
Of course, the thought of inserting an object into the body is terrifying, and the fact that the cups require an initial investment of $59.95 and there is no way to trial and evaluate adds a pinch of terror more. Number wise, it is a sweet deal; the Diva Cup claims that the product can be used for up to 10 years (in 10 years, about $228 is spent on pads, four times the cost of a Diva Cup).
One must also take into account that Diva cup suggests replacing the cup if you have caught a urinary tract infection while using the cup, which you become more prone to during periods. Still a sweet deal, I bought one from Chemist Warehouse.
The size of the cup was bigger than I had anticipated. I made a mistake on choosing the correct size, I bought Model 2 designed for 30-year-olds and above, I should have bought Model 1, which is designed for persons between 19 to 30. Model 0 is designed for consumers 18 and under. However, the sizes did not seem to have very significant differences. Find more details here.
While trying to insert the cup for the first time, fear of the cup getting lost inside me or being stuck in me forever, froze me; so I chickened out, washed the cup and put it aside in the small pouch that came with it. After two days of staring at it resting beside the plastic-wrapped pads, I posted about my fears to a Facebook group of friendly ladies. They shared that they had similar concerns and explained that it is nearly impossible for the cup to get lost inside the vagina (I dropped biology in eighth grade, don’t judge!).
After a lot of self-talk, I folded the silicon, squatted on the floor, inserted it and felt the cup open by itself with a pop; I rotated it to create a vacuum and ensure no leakage. As I stood up, I felt no discomfort; I did not feel it’s presence inside my body and that remained true throughout the day as I went to my classes, walked 30 minutes to the gym, did a cardio session and even went swimming. As I pinched out the cup (a bit of a struggle at first, but easier with practice), I noticed there were markings on the cup to allow consumers to track their flow and I also noticed that there was barely any stench coming out of it.
Now, if you are the anxious kind (me), you would know about almost all the ways things can go south. Let’s talk about that too. The Lancet medical journal concluded, “Menstrual cups seem to be an effective and safe alternative to other menstrual products.” The study found that leakage was significantly less when the cups were used compared to pads and tampons. Data from 370 females found no abnormalities in the vagina or cervix; no adverse effects on vaginal flora were detected, and there was no increased risk of infection among the participants spanning from residents of Europe and North America to Africa.
There were five reported cases (only two of which were unconfirmed) of TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) in the studies, (which seems low, but since it was a massive study I wouldn’t rely too much on numbers because some of the 3319 participants could have been like… you know what… whatever…).
A lab study by Dr Gerard Lina commented that the manual instruction of emptying and rinsing the cup with tap water and re-inserting is not enough to ensure safety. She advises investing in a second cup to allow sterilization by boiling in between uses and suggests to buy smaller cups to reduce the risk of TSS. In general, using menstrual cups instead of other products does not seem to make a difference, as claimed by the Lancet study.
Here is my verdict: I will give menstrual cups a Yay. I Yay with the 70% of women in the 13 studies of Lancet who wanted to continue the use of menstrual cups once they were familiar with it, because — honestly — pads are super uncomfortable and tampons just ugh.