A Tampon Alternative – the Menstrual Cup

Over the last two decades there have many reports in the media of health issues associated with the use of tampons. Yet woman have to use some form of product when they are menstruating. Woman want their sanitary products to be both reliable, convenient and discrete so that they can get on with their lives. Introducing…an ecological, economical and reliable alternative tampons! It is called the menstrual cup.

Health risks associated with tampons

Tampons are made using substances that can be toxic to the woman’s body.

Some tampons contain asbestos. This is a mineral that has been shown to increase menstrual bleeding. It is also carcinogenic when it enters the body – especially the lungs. However, it is considered legal in the production of tampons because they are not ingested or breathed in. On the other hand, you obviously may not want this substance in contact with your mucus membranes and birth canal just in case any enters your bloodstream.

Another toxic ingredient found in tampons is dioxin. It is used to whiten the tampon fibres. This potentially carcinogenic substance has been shown to alter the human immune and reproductive systems. It may also play a role in the development of endometriosis. Studies investigating the health effects of repeated exposure to dioxins are on-going.

Some tampons contain rayon, for absorption, which has been linked to toxic shock.

Why are tampons still sold?

Since tampons do not enter the body in a medical sense – they are not ingested or breathed in. Therefore, the limits for toxicity are not so strict. However, there are many women that use them frequently. These products spend a long time inside our bodies. If you sat down and calculated how many hours you spend using a tampon throughout your life you would soon appreciate that we are in contact with these products for a long time.

Whilst it is also true that sanitary towels also contain dioxin, they are not inserted into the vagina and so the contact is less intimate.

These days, you can purchase tampons that are made with 100% natural cotton with no whitening processes. However, these products are expensive and beyond the reach of many ordinary women.

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The Menstrual Cup

The good news is – there is an alternative for conventional tampons and sanitary towels – the menstrual cup. This product is made from silicon which has been moulded into the shape of a cup. It is flexible, which allows you to bend it easily and makes it simple to insert into your vagina. Menstrual blood is collected rather than absorbed. When it is removed it is simply emptied into the toilet before it is washed with soap and water and re-inserted. In between periods, it can be sterilized in boiling water and stored. You can also clean it occasionally with hydrogen peroxide or vinegar.

The advantages of the menstrual cup can be summed up as:

  • ecological – because it is made with silicon it lasts about 10 years
  • economical – because it lasts so long
  • healthy – because it does not contain any toxic substance
  • practical – because you can use it in the same way as a tampon
  • clean – helps prevent infections 
  • easy – cups have a capacity of 30 ml, which is a lot more than a tampon or pad
  • intimate – helps you relate to your menstruation in a healthy way, without taboos, and connect with your natural rhythm of menstruation.

Types of menstrual cups

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There are several brands of menstrual cups on the market that you can choose from. You can find them easily in health product stores or on the web.

In general, there are two sizes. The first is for younger women or woman who have not given birth. The second, slightly bigger size is for older women or women who are mothers.

How are they used?

When you buy the menstrual cup, you will find detailed instructions inside. There are also videos on the internet that will help you. You will be taught to squeeze the wide part of the cup in order to introduce it into the vagina opening. Once it is inside, you can let it go so that it opens. In order to take it out, gently pull it from its base. Most women learn the technique very quickly.

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