Pesticides. Mold. Bacteria. These are the normal concerns for food items like fruits and vegetables, but did you ever think that these ghastly things could be in your tampon? After a recall last year of tampons possibly infected with bacteria and the case of a woman who found mold on her Kotex tampon this past March, many women started examining what they were using for menstrual protection. Factor in the growing concerns about pesticides, which are so heavily used in cotton production that the Organic Trade Association deems it the world’s dirtiest crop, and our lady-bits definitely have a problem.
Enter the menstrual cup, a product that has been gaining popularity as an alternative to pads and tampons. Not only does the cup eliminate the concerns of toxins and pesticides in your body, but it’s also great for the environment.
Menstrual cups work by collecting the menstrual flow instead of absorbing it. The cup is good for about 12 hours, but every body is different. If you are having a heavier period, you may have to empty or change it a little bit sooner, lest your cup runneth over. The DivaCup is a reusable bell-shaped cup made of silicone that sits low in the vaginal canal and can last for a year with proper care. Just pop it out, empty the cup, reinsert and go! At the end of your cycle, wash your cup with soapy water and store until next time. This cup comes in two sizes, which you choose depending on age and whether or not you have had children and costs about $40.
The Softcup is one-size-fits-most and has two types: disposable and reusable. The disposable option retails for $10.49 for a pack of 24 on the website, while the reusable option is $6.19 for two. Both snuggle up to your vaginal walls and have a flexible ring with a small, baggie-like cup attached. The disposable type is tossed after 12 hours, while the reusable ones could be cleaned and reused for one menstrual cycle, reducing menstrual product waste by up to 95%. Unlike the DivaCup, the Softcup can be worn during sex, keeping all that mess under wraps for those of you who may be squeamish about being intimate with your partner while having your period.
You will not be able to feel the cups if they are properly inserted. Softcup has a handy dandy YouTube tutorial on how to insert their device, and DivaCup’s website has step-by-step instructions on how to insert and care for your cup. Either option saves the Earth a whole lot of waste and you a whole lot of money.
Compare that to the approximately 7 billion tampons and 12 billion pads that are thrown away each year, according to The Chic Ecologist. In addition to all of that lovely pesticide-laden cotton, the bleaching and processing of rayon found in tampons can create dioxin, carcinogens that, according to the World Health Organization, are linked to reproductive issues and a multitude of health problems. The Food and Drug Administration says the amount of dioxins in tampons due to the bleaching process is negligible thanks to newer processing methods, but the fact that women can be potentially inserting a carcinogen in their vaginas is a concern. The FDA also states that while toxic shock syndrome, or TSS, a serious bacterial infection, is much rarer than in the past, it is still possible, particularly when using higher absorbency tampons. With menstrual cups, not one incident of TSS has been reported, and the cups are completely pesticide free.
Healthier periods and a healthier environment! Now that is good news for Mother Earth.