Periods are a pain.
Yes, literally… but for me, the biggest pain about periods is the cost. Paying a tenner a month for something beyond my control isn’t ok, and don’t even get me started on the Tampon Tax.
For a while, I’d been toying with the idea of using a menstrual cup, but I’d heard mixed reviews. If you’re not familiar with menstrual cups, they are a silicone cup that collects menstrual fluid, rather than tampons and pads which absorb it.
Their pros are persuasive: a one-off cost, every few years, you’re saving the environment and they don’t cause the dryness and irritation sometimes caused by tampons.
But I was worried it wouldn’t fit in with a busy lifestyle on the move and I was scared it would leak. So, I decided to test out two of the leading manufacturers: Mooncup, a British brand and the Lunette, from Finland.
Here’s how I got on…
- You can leave it in for hours
- There’s a little difficulty inserting the cup and removing it (see cons) but when it’s up there, it’s well and truly up there. At first, it felt a bit odd but when I trimmed the stem, that solved the problem. You can safely leave the cup in for up to 12 hours (while emptying it!), so that means you can sleep with it in or work a full day with it in. Note: the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome is still the same.
- You don’t need to carry a load of kit around
- When I’m working or travelling on my period, my bag is filled with different sized tampons and pads. With the cup, that’s all you need. Also, there’s no embarrassing creeping to the bathroom, tampon hidden in hand.
- No leakage
- Once you get the hang of inserting it, you don’t have to worry about it overflowing. Depending on which size you pick, the cups hold around 25-30ml of fluid, which is around three times more than most tampons.
- It’s cheap
- You will really save a lot of money using one. Research has found that British women spend as much as £18,450 on their periods over the course of their lifetime. Say you spend £5 per period (it’s probably a little more considering a pack of store-brand tampons is around £3 and a pack of store-brand pads is the same), that’s still £60 a year compared to £19.99 for the Mooncup and £24.90 for the Lunette.
- You’re saving the planet
- According to this blog, a woman uses around 20 pads/tampons each month, that’s 240 per year over around 40 years. That is 9,600 feminine hygiene products in an average woman’s life. Imagine the waste the 3.5 billion women on the planet cause by throwing away pads and tampons.
- It takes a bit of practice
- Mooncup and Lunette advise you try it out for 3-4 times, just to get the hang of inserting it. Trust me, when I opened the box and saw the size of both cups, I wondered how it was going to feel comfortable but it eventually did.
- It is difficult to remove
- With both cups, they often moved upwards a little or got stuck. If that happened, it took a bit of fumbling to get it out. It’s like a suction cup, so it involves a more hands-on approach then tampons with applicators or a pad.
- It can get messy
- Once you’ve managed to get it out, you have to empty the cup and clean it. it’s useful if you’re at home, in your own bathroom with a sink right next to you. This was not an option when I was at work in a tiny toilet cubicle. I ended up having to escape to the disabled toilet, embarrassing and annoying. Also, if you’re not a fan of seeing blood, this isn’t for you as it’s shocking how much comes out of that cup.
- Cleaning it while you’re using it is difficult but then, after your period you are meant to boil it in a saucepan for an hour. I didn’t feel comfortable doing that in a shared house with shared kitchenware!
- Don’t drop it
- No really don’t. If you’re clumsy like me, dropping the cup can end up in your bathroom looking like the famous scene in Psycho. Not good. Another common fault is dropping it down the toilet… nobody wants to fish that out.
The Lunette vs. The Mooncup
This was my preferred cup. It’s a medium firm, medium length cup which comes in two sizes. It’s soft and smooth, easy to fold, grip, and clean.
What I loved about the Lunette, was how many different colours it comes in, and the fun pouch that came with mine. Once I was past the few speed bumps which I had read about, and write about above, I was really pleased with it. It felt comfortable and was easier to remove and insert than The Mooncup. I still wear a pad while it is in though, as I don’t feel totally confident it won’t leak.
You can buy the Lunette here
The Mooncup had a stiffer ring around the cup, making it more difficult and uncomfortable to insert and remove. It took a lot of wriggling around but I had less leaking.
It seemed a little big, although I picked the smallest size. When it was in, you could feel it and it didn’t come in different colours so I can imagine the see-through cup would get discoloured over time, which is quite unappealing. It’s a cheaper and more robust cup, but I didn’t get on with it.
You can buy the Mooncup here
I’m a convert. It might not be the easiest thing to get to grips with, but the economic and environmental arguments far outweigh the cons. I’ll still wear a pad until I’m confident, and I’ll probably take tampons if I’m travelling, but it’s a step in the right direction.