Menstrual Cups: The Whole Truth

What exactly are the “side effects” of menstrual cups? Some articles like to give in to the sensationalism of a good ol’ fashioned half-truth. We’re big fans of whole truths, even when they’re more complicated. We took seven statements about menstrual cups and provided the whole truth — complex context included.

whole truth about menstrual cups

1. HALF TRUTH: They might cause infection.

WHOLE TRUTH: Anything you put in your vagina could contribute to an infection, including tampons, menstrual cups, or another person’s body parts. While it’s important to be mindful of your own safety, there is no additional inherent risk in using a menstrual cup over a tampon. Of course, you should always wash your hands before inserting or removing your menstrual cup, and keep your cup clean (including washing it thoroughly at the beginning and end of your cycle).

2. HALF TRUTH: They can be uncomfortable.

WHOLE TRUTH: Menstrual cups may be uncomfortable. They may also be supremely jump-for-joy comfortable. All bodies are different, and you won’t know if you find a menstrual cup more or less comfortable than a tampon until you try one. (And even then, different brands or sizes of menstrual cups may be more comfortable than another.)

3. HALF TRUTH: They’re hard to use in public restrooms.

WHOLE TRUTH: There is a HUGE misconception about how to use a menstrual cup in a public restroom. You don’t need to take your cup out of the stall. Let me repeat: YOU DON’T NEED TO TAKE YOUR MENSTRUAL CUP OUT OF THE STALL. We even wrote a whole blog post about using reusables in a public bathroom! All you need to do is empty the cup in the toilet and reinsert.

4. HALF TRUTH: They might leak.

WHOLE TRUTH: All menstrual products might leak. For some bodies, a menstrual cup doesn’t leak when inserted properly. For some bodies, it might. Again, you’ll never know until you try.

5. HALF TRUTH: There is a still a risk of TSS.

WHOLE TRUTH: Any menstrual product worn internally has a risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome. The FDA recommends not leaving your menstrual cup inside your body for more than 12 hours. In comparison, the FDA recommends changing your tampon every 4 to 8 hours.

6. HALF TRUTH: They’re not for the squeamish.

WHOLE TRUTH: Reusable menstrual cups are made of firm-but-pliable medical-grade silicone. You should be prepared for a small amount of blood on your fingertips, NOT a scene from Carrie. And personally? I think it’s time we get over the outdated, patriarchal idea that our own vaginas and menstrual flow are icky.

7. HALF TRUTH: Your first few tries may be hit or miss.

WHOLE TRUTH: Actually, this one is pretty true. Just like the time you first used a tampon, you’ll probably need some practice. And that’s okay.

BOTTOM LINE: Your body, your period, your choice. But don’t let old-fashioned fears about menstruating bodies get in the way of trying something new!

  • JaySprout

    Some articles…yes, I saw such an article and I’m guessing that you did too given these points 😉

    • You got me 😉 I was really frustrated so I decided I should channel my frustration into education!

    • Kelli Martinelli

      JaySprout, I manage GladRags’ FB page and I’d love to chat with you! Care to email me? kelli@mamorelove.com. Thanks!

  • Emy Crinklaw

    I’m looking for some advice and this looked like one of the most likely places to get some feedback. Our gym is collecting donations of hygiene products for homeless elementary school girls. I love my reusable pads and pantyliners, but would they be practical for homeless girls and women? Should I just buy a box of disposables to go with the panties, training bras, and lipgloss?

    • In my opinion, yes, disposables are often the best option for donation, for a variety of reasons. First, if you’re experiencing homelessness, it’s probably not a time in your life when you’re really ready to experiment with your menstrual care products. Second, depending on the person’s situation, they may not have access to laundry rooms or a comfortable bathroom. Finally, most folks these days use disposables (whether they prefer them or just haven’t heard of reusables yet!) so the disposables you donate are likely to go to someone familiar and comfortable with them.

      However, reusables CAN be really effective when delivered alongside education about cloth pads or menstrual cups, and by a program that ensures that folks have access to the facilities hey need, *and* that the reusables are wanted. That’s why we at GladRags support UnTabooed.org!

      Good question 🙂 I hope this helps!