Menstrual Cups Versus Tampons
Who this guide is for?
We created this in-depth article for women and men of all ages who want a thorough comparison between menstrual cups and tampons. Parents, teachers, and young women can share the information found here.
This guide will look at the pros and cons of using the two period products. We considered several factors such as ease of use, safety, and affordability. In the end, we share our final verdict on which of the two we find best.
We also touch certain points that are relevant to Caring Panda’s cause. The environmental and financial effect the use of these two products are also discussed. In doing so, we hope that more people will consider the larger impact their choice of period care products have on others and the planet.
What is a Menstrual Cup?
Menstrual cups, also known as period cups, have been around as long as tampons. They work by collecting period flow rather than absorbing it like most feminine care products. They are, however, less widely used due to the “ick factor” of manually handling period fluids. Most menstrual cups are made of silicone, rubber, or latex. For women with latex sensitivity, it is best to choose silicone cups.
What is a Tampon?
If you’ve never heard of a tampon, it’s also a period product worn internally just like the menstrual cup. It is a very popular feminine care product that works by catching menstrual fluid. It’s made from different materials as period cups and is not meant to be reused. There are, however, some brands of tampons that are reusable. These usually come in yarn or flannel.
Comparing Menstrual Cups and Tampons
Below, we’ll be going over the advantages and disadvantages of using menstrual cups and tampons for period care. We hope it provides a thorough comparison to help women make the best choice for their bodies.
Seven Menstrual Cup Advantages
1. Lower Costs and Less Pollution
Period cups can come in two types: disposable and reusable. If you choose to use reusable cups, you significantly cut back your costs from buying tampons and pads. Moreover, you also reduce the waste produced from disposables. Take note that most popular sanitary products are made from plastic which takes years to degrade. Most of the garbage produced from period products either end up clogging drains, polluting the oceans, or piling up in landfills.
2. Less Embarrassing Odor from Menstrual Cups
One common problem women face during their period is the odor. Unlike menstrual pads and tampons, menstrual cups seal below your cervix. They catch the fluid rather than absorb them, making them least likely to produce any unwanted odor.
3. Menstrual Cup Maintains Vaginal pH and Bacterial Balance
When it comes to period care, some women don’t consider the effect of the products they use on their vaginal pH. Naturally, this leads to several problems such as yeast infection, TSS, skin irritation, and more. The proper use of a menstrual cup greatly reduces these problems. Menstrual cups do not contain chemical residue and fragrances. Also, there are also no ingredients used that can disturb the balance of good bacteria.
4. Fewer Trips to the Pharmacy
A reusable menstrual cup won’t need replacing for six years. This reduces your trip to the pharmacy to almost none for as long as your cup is properly maintained. Compare it to using pads or tampons where monthly trips are needed if you don’t buy in bulk.
5. More Time Between Drains and Changes
Your period cup can be drained every 6-12 hours. Some will even wear it for longer, although this isn’t suggested since regular draining is needed to keep your vaginal pH balanced.
6. Intercourse is Possible
As a personal choice, you can either choose to have intercourse wearing a disposable menstrual cup or have it removed. Take note however that wearing reusable menstrual cups are considered harmful during intercourse. This is because they’re made of sturdier material and sit lower below the cervix. Disposable cups, on the other hand, are made of more pliable material, allowing for sex with no mess.
7. Easy Enough to Use
For women who have used tampons, using a menstrual cup won’t be too hard. Simply fold the cup until its rims are narrow enough for comfortable insertion, aim toward the back of the vagina, and give it a push. When inserted properly, you shouldn’t be able to feel the cup at all.
Five Menstrual Cup Disadvantages
1. It’s Messier
Emptying the cup can be messy, especially if you don’t know how to drain it properly. Some women who drain in a hurry tend to just dump the menstrual fluid, making a terrible mess in the process. Aside from that, some women find it uncomfortable handling their own menstrual blood. For that reason, menstrual cups aren’t very popular with women who easily get squeamish.
2. Possible Difficult Insertion for Some
Younger girls who have never had intercourse or have no experience using tampons may find it more difficult to insert a cup. Also, women who are using IUD may find it tricky to remove their menstrual cup without dislodging their IUD. Please consult your OB/GYN or primary care physician first if you’d like to use a menstrual cup with an IUD.
3. Possible Fit Problems
Different women naturally have different anatomies. With that said, choosing the right menstrual cup for you will require some trial and error. Your first cup may not be a snug fit even after proper insertion. If so, choose a different-sized cup or trim the stem shorter (if it comes with a stem).
Women who have a dropped uterus should first consult with their primary care physician. If you have not had intercourse and still find smaller cup sizes too tight, you should also talk to your OB/GYN. There’s a chance you may have vaginismus. This is a genital condition that causes your vaginal muscles to contract involuntarily.
4. Removal Takes Time to Master
Your first instinct to remove the menstrual cup may be to tug at the stem until it comes out. This is not the right way to do it. The right way to remove the cup would be to pinch the base to release the “seal” and to slowly ease the cup out. You can gently twist it around if you feel it will help. Different women naturally have different preferred methods of removing menstrual cups. You’ll find out which method works best for you after some practice.
5. Requires Maintenance
The best way to clean a cup after you’ve used it for your cycle would be to sterilize it in boiling water.
This requires time and a little bit of work on your part than if you were to use disposable tampons.
This is perhaps one of the most common reason why women avoid using reusable period cups.
They would prefer to just use and toss away their period product, unaware of the pollution these disposables are creating.
The Case for Tampons
But what about when compared to menstrual cups? Which of the two is the better choice?
To better understand how tampons compare to menstrual cups, let’s take a look at their pros and cons:
Because tampons are meant to be disposed after use, there is absolutely no clean up and maintenance necessary. This makes tampons great for people who just want a wear-and-toss option.
Tampons are absorbent period care products. You have less mess to deal with during changes. Moreover, you won’t have to wash it after use. This reduces women’s contact with their period fluid to almost none.
Tampons are inexpensive up front. It’s not unusual to find a box for under $5, making them appealing for women who are strapped for cash.
Less Odor Trouble
Internally worn period products generally won’t release bad odor while still inside. Such is the case with tampons. You should expect some smell when removing the tampon, however, because absorbent products will start to smell funky after a few hours.
Difficult Insertion for Beginners
A lot of practice is needed to learn how to insert a tampon properly. This can be unnerving for women who are using them for the first time. The string can also be inconvenient to keep out of the way when using the bathroom.
Intercourse Not Possible
You won’t be able to have intercourse while wearing any kind of tampon. Not only is it very uncomfortable and messy, but it may also lead to complications in your vagina.
Causes Dryness and pH Imbalance
Aside from absorbing your menstrual fluid, tampons also absorb your vaginas natural moisture. This produces a dry environment that doesn’t allow for good bacteria to grow. Imbalance in pH levels can cause skin irritations, candidiasis, and other vaginal complications.
Tampons have been wildly associated to TSS (Toxic shock syndrome) in many women. In the 1980s, a brand of “hyper absorbent” tampons was released, causing the death of several women from TSS. Today, it is still a problem with menstruating women who use tampons, menstrual sponges, cervical caps, and diaphragms. Women who have just given birth are at a higher risk of getting toxic shock. This means that absorbent products are potentially dangerous to their health.
Contributes to the Pollution Crisis
Tampons are easy to toss and they contain ingredients that take a very long time to degrade. This makes tampons one of the major causes of pollution from period care products. Unfortunately, few women are aware of this or even care. The continued use of tampons and disposable pads continue to pose a threat to our planet and the environment. This is one of the biggest drawbacks from using disposable period products.
So, Which is Better?
In the long run, the menstrual cup is the obvious winner for several reasons. First of all, it reduces your spending drastically because you only need to buy one to have all you need for several years. While menstrual cups are indeed expensive, it’s considered an investment. The savings you end up with is substantial, making them the more practical choice.
Another reason why menstrual cups are better is that they can be worn safely for up to 12 hours. The study shows that women had to drain their cup 2.8 times less than when using pads or tampons. Moreover, menstrual cups don’t contain bleaching, fibers, fragrances, and other harmful chemicals. This makes them better for women with sensitive skin.
What about you? If you have experience using menstrual cups and tampons, please share your story below in the comment section.