'Prioritise your comfort, not others’ opinions': Many switch over from pads & tampons to menstrual cups

When I asked a friend what it was like to use a menstrual cup, she replied that using it made her feel like she was floating.
For representational purpose.
For representational purpose.

CHENNAI: While menstrual cups have been around for a while, it is only in the recent past that many are switching over from conventional pads and tampons. Though apprehensions about  making the switch are rife, people who use the cup talk about their experiences, and share why it could be your best move

In a day and age where minimal living and sustainability have become key concepts of life, have you ever wondered how much waste we create by using sanitary napkins and tampons? They take years to degrade and only add to the carbon footprint. With this in mind, over the past few years, women and people who menstruate have made a conscious shift towards reusable cloth pads and menstrual cups. While the latter is an easier option to choose, I was intrigued by the cups as well. 

When I asked a friend what it was like to use a menstrual cup, she replied that using it made her feel like she was floating. It was a sudden liberation from the monthly woes of period stains or the ordeal of packing a bunch of pads while travelling. I was inspired by her response and wanted to experience this ‘floating feeling’ myself. But it took me a few more years, a lot of re-watching of YouTube tutorials, and in-depth conversations with my friends to be able to switch to menstrual cups. Initially, it felt like a whimsical tug-of-war, as the process of inserting and removing the cup was a novel concept. But the switch was worth it. Menstruating people share their experience of using menstrual cups. 

ILLUSTRATION: Soumyadip sinha
ILLUSTRATION: Soumyadip sinha

Addressing the taboo
In many households, menstruation is still a hushed secret. Anagha R Manoj, a journalist says, “Growing up in a middle-class Hindu household of Kerala, even the area near the puja room was forbidden for me during ‘those’ days. People in and out of the house inject fear and term it as a sin so that we won’t think of it much and just obey.” The same obeying aspect forced Sreemayi to wash her clothes and the heavy bed sheets even during the days of severe cramps and flow. Despite the wrath of pain, mood swings and the hard toll it can take on one’s health, menstruating people might not be educated about their bodies and thereby various menstrual products they can use according to their convenience. Nithya, a Chennai-based journalist says, “It was either cotton fabric or napkin,” adding that there wasn’t much education on menstrual products from a young age. Anagha says, “I was informed about clothes and pads. It took me so much time to realise that clothes are not hygienic.” 

Most of them concur that the unlearning was a gradual process. “Since it is a taboo, I have dealt with situations where I cannot recommend menstrual products other than pads to an unmarried person or a person who isn’t sexually active,” shares Dr Samhitha, consultant obstetrician and gynecologist, Prashanth Hospitals, Chennai. 

“I had this prejudice that if I use the cups then my vagina will become loose or I was actually blindsided by the usage of it,” shares Suryaa. Even though pads were inconvenient and gave Aswathi rashes, myths around the usage of cups kept her, like many others, away from making switch. The change-making factor for some was their friends’ experiences, for a few it was the menstrual hygiene classes held at their educational institutions, and for others, it was social media. For Susan, it was the eco-friendly aspect of the product that pushed her to try it. Dr Samhita highlights the sustainability of the cups and says, “Pads and tampons contribute to a lot of land waste. Menstrual cups can be used for a longer period (for almost three years) thus, they are environment-friendly.”

The initial dilemma
Buying a cup out of motivation is much easier than trying it out. Susan says, “I just kept the cup in my cupboard for a month or two, feeling a little scared to use it. Initially, I had some difficulty in learning to use it.” Anagha shares that the first question that popped into her head was ‘What if it doesn’t come out?’ “Even though it sounds funny now, so many women who want to switch to cups have asked me the same question. The answer is simple — your vagina is not a Bermuda Triangle; the cup must and will come out,” she notes. Diya Saji, a student, says, “When I removed the cup, suddenly, I pulled it down, and that was really painful. I spoke to a friend who corrected me, saying that my way of removing it was wrong. I tried again, following her advice, and it was much better. I felt so proud that I shared my accomplishment with all my cousins and friends because I was the first one among them to try a menstrual cup.” In some cases, the cups became a detrimental factor in understanding one’s body. Anagha says, “I understood my body better after using a cup. I used to feel odd to even touch my vulva, but not anymore.” 

Cups hold more blood than sanitary napkins, they don’t irritate the skin, comments Susan, adding that they are easy to clean and reuse. Highlighting the affordability of the cups, Anagha says, “I used to spend at least Rs 200 a month for pads. I bought a menstrual cup for Rs 450 five years ago, I am still using it. I hardly bought any pads later. I have saved around Rs 12,000 in five years.”

The downside
With its given set of advantages, menstrual cups also have a few disadvantages, which, according to Dr Samhita, should be known to everyone as it will help them make a decision of choosing or not choosing the cups. “I was not comfortable reusing cups in public washrooms,” says Lisa Anthony. Diya pointed out the probability of a menstrual cup leaking as it is small and she has trouble fitting medium-sized cups. “I am a 17-year-old girl and haven’t had any sexual intercourse, so I chose a small-sized menstrual cup. Initially, I thought I might not have placed the cups correctly, so I tried different folding techniques, but unfortunately, all my attempts were unsuccessful. However, I feel like I need to learn more about my vagina’s size and other factors.” Dr Samhita advises that people can contact a gynaecologist before buying a cup so that they can assist them with finding the right size. 

Conquering the fear surrounding the usage of menstrual cups is a shift towards sustainable, self-assured menstrual practices. However, unlike before I feel there is pressure on women to switch to cups, comments Sreemayi. “It’s okay if pads/tampons are working better for you than a cup. Prioritise your comfort and not others’ opinions.”

Related Stories

No stories found.

The New Indian Express