Should You Replace Your Tampons and Pads With a Menstrual Cup?

By Abby Marton

In one month, the average woman uses 22 pads and tampons. In a lifetime, they will use approximately 11,000. Globally, 100 million women rely on tampons. One woman alone throws away 275-330 pounds of pads and tampons away in one lifetime. That’s a lot of waste just for hygiene products. The carbon footprint left behind because of these products is massive. 

Since most pads are made out of plastic (because of the plastic liner), it takes about 500-800 years for them to decompose. The process for a sanitary product to deteriorate takes centuries, but what about the process to make them? According to independent product-testing results by Women’s Voices for the Earth, a national women’s health nonprofit, four out of the six tampons they tested (Tampax Pearl, U by Kotex, Playtex Sport, and Safe & Soft) contained carbon disulfide, a reproductive toxin. Some of the tampons also had traces of other carcinogens and irritants like methylene chloride, methyl ethyl ketone, and ethyl acetate. It’s scary to think that these chemicals are in products that people use quite regularly. 

So what are the other options? Menstrual cups have been gaining popularity over the last couple of years, and it seems like they have a lot of advantages over pads and tampons too. 

The earliest prototypes of menstrual cups in the US were first patented in the 1860s and 1870s, but Leona Chambers patented the first wearable one in 1937. According to Google Trends, the term “menstrual cup” has increased by 83% since 2013.

Menstrual cups are becoming more and more prominent and for good reason. For one, they can last for years. WebMD reports that a cup can last up to 10 years. With that logic, a single menstrual cup can replace up to 2,640 pads and tampons. However, some brands, like Lunette, recommend switching them out every 1-2 years. But still, that would replace hundreds of sanitary products. 

On that note, one menstrual cup could save the average woman a lot of money. One cup usually costs around $30-40, but over a lifetime one woman could spend around $1,773 on just tampons. Then there is the tampon tax, a tax applied to the sale of period products, which is only abolished in 11 states in the US. 

Another pro of menstrual cups would be that the chance of getting Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a lot lower. TSS, a fatal bacterial illness, is linked to the use of super-absorbent tampons. Most people have likely heard the warning that if you wear a tampon for too long, you’ll get TSS. However, contracting TSS from a menstrual cup is extremely rare. There are only two known cases where someone has contracted TSS from a menstrual cup. 

As menstrual cups are becoming more well-known, there are plenty of options on the market. Some of the most popular ones are Blossom Menstrual Cup ($12.95), Diva Cup ($29.97), Lunette Menstrual Cup ($26.90), Mooncup Menstrual Cup, ($25.50), and Lena Cup ($24.90)

With all of that in mind, it is important to note that period products are not a luxury and that there are a lot of women who do not have access to them or cannot afford to have them. Periods are a natural bodily function, and everyone should be entitled to products that will help them manage their period in a way they feel comfortable with. Menstrual cups are one solution to an environmental problem that will only get worse, and in addition to changing the way we think about period products, we need to change the way we think about periods in general.