Menstrual cup – are we really aware of it?

Menstrual cup – are we really aware of it?
Menstrual cup – are we really aware of it?
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By Dr. Priyadharshini S M

In India, about 78% of women use hygienic methods of menstrual protection, out of which 64.4% use sanitary pads, 15% use locally prepared napkins, 1.7% use tampons and only 1% use menstrual cups. Although menstrual cups were first introduced 100 years ago in India, only 1-2% of women use them. Their use is influenced by social taboos, peer views and media inputs. Though subsidised sanitary pads are provided free of cost by government as a part of menstrual hygiene management policies, it is time to think about menstrual cups as a safe alternative.

Menstrual cup is a bell-shaped disc with a stem made of high-grade medical silicone. It is put inside the vagina during periods. It collects about 10-40 ml of blood and needs to be emptied every 4 to 12 hours, depending on the menstrual flow. It has to be cleaned by boiling once in a month and can be used for 5 to 10 years, if properly maintained.

Menstrual cups are ecofriendly, avoiding the disposal of used pads, and more cost effective than pads and tampons. Cups offer more freedom of movement and no intimate area rashes. They do not contain chemicals like bleach and dioxin often found in pads and tampons. The cup also keeps period odour away as the blood doesn’t come into contact with air. It is very useful in women with heavy menstrual flow. The chance of leakage is very little if properly fitted.

There is no downside to menstrual cups except they require a couple of times to get used to insertion. Lack of knowledge, sterilisation, accessibility and availability, fear of insertion, social taboos and access to hygienic places while cleaning are considered potential barriers in adapting menstrual cups.

A number of myths and concerns inhibit women from using menstrual cups. They believe that it can get lost in the body which is impossible. The silicone stem at the base can be used to easily retrieve the cup. They feel it makes the vagina wide and loose but vagina is elastic and it retains its natural shape after removal.

All menstruating women can use menstrual cups starting right from puberty till menopause irrespective of whether they are sexually active or not.

The usage of menstrual cups has increased after the pandemic. This could be due to more exploration by menstruators in the available time and space and the information being shared on social media.

Though some initial challenges such as proper insertion, removal and ensuring product hygiene are expected, with proper education menstrual cups would be a safe and friendly option of menstrual hygiene for women. Constant education, awareness and encouragement will make the menstrual cup the future of menstrual hygiene.

This article was published in association with Rainbow Children’s Hospital.

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