Thousands of tonnes of sanitary products are placed into landfill every year. Is there a safe alternative?
Menstrual cups are usually made of silicone which is a “non-reactive” substance that can be considered as an alternative to single use pads and tampons. A study by the Lancet, a medical journal was published in 2019 in respect to its effectiveness, leakage, cost and environmental savings using menstrual cups.
Sanitary products are usually single use. www.sustainablemenstruationaustralia.com.au claims the average woman will use 12 000 pads and tampons in their lifetime equating to 120kg of landfill. In Australia, sanitary products use 18 thousand metric tonnes of sanitary waste a year. There is also controversy regarding the chemicals that are put into sanitary pads which makes us question whether using these products that go against our skin or even inside us is really that great for our bodies. Some people can also have skin reactions to having these products against their skin.
Menstrual cups generally can hold around 30mls of fluid before needing to be emptied. This equates to approximately more than two super tampons. They need to be emptied every 4-12 hours depending on how heavy your periods are. Most menstrual cups can last 5-10 years. There are also different types of menstrual cups where some will contain more or less, some are longer or shorter or wider. Some come in different colours.
If you have a prolapse or have had children a wider shorter cup may be more appropriate. If you have never been pregnant or have not been sexually active then the thinner taller one may be more appropriate. It is important to note that when removing the menstrual cup, it is probably best to remove it and/or empty before a bowel motion. When removing it, it is important to not simply pull it out as this can strain the tissues supporting your organs. The suction needs to be broken by squeezing or breaking the seal with your finger above it before pulling it out.
The study that was done last year concluded that there was no change to the growth of bacteria in the vagina and that having some guidance around its use has better success with its long term use. It was deemed to be a safe and effective alternative to other menstrual products. It calls to question whether there should be more accessibility and education for the general public around its use. People in third world countries where they have limited access to sanitary products cannot work or go to school. Could menstrual cups be a more sustainable way to gain access to sanitary care with less environmental costs? More research needs to be done but they certainly are worth considering.