Move over toxic tampons. Take a hike, sweaty pads. There’s a new player in town and it looks like she’s here to stay – 12 hours at a time. It seems women are going crazy for the menstrual cup, a reusable, bell-shaped silicone device inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual blood, and they’re taking it to the web with countless YouTube videos, blog posts and tweets praising its benefits. So what’s all this commotion about?
Throughout its surprisingly long history (early versions of the menstrual cup were patented as far back as in 1932!), the menstrual cup has not been a popular option for period care. Despite several attempts to launch the product in mass markets over the years, it was never able to compete with disposable tampons and sanitary pads. Although it is still a foreign concept to most women, the menstrual cup is slowly claiming its place in mainstream markets. It is no longer a mysterious apparatus only found in natural health stores; the product is now available in some major drugstores and can be easily bought online. An increasing selection of brands is also popping up worldwide: from Lunette, to Mooncup, Meluna, Yuuki, Fleurcup, Sckoon, Ruby, Femmecup and The DivaCup – to name but few.
Diva International Inc., the makers of The DivaCup, one of North America’s most popular menstrual cup brands with over 1 million cups sold to date, have definitely noticed the new trend. For the past 10 years, DivaCup International’s sales have been growing at double digit rates. “In the past ten years we have received great enthusiasm and acceptance around The DivaCup in both natural health and more recently, mainstream markets,” says a spokesperson for The DivaCup.
While they acknowledge that better marketing, social media campaigns, education and awareness programs have contributed to the increasing popularity of menstrual cups, Diva International Inc. believes “we are switching our many day to day products for sustainable solutions, and period care is no exception.”
In a recent survey presented on the Internet, hundreds of women from around the globe were asked to share their thoughts on the menstrual cup. Although official statistics are not available yet, women using the menstrual cup said they made the switch mainly for environmental, financial and practical reasons.
Mary, a convert since January 2013, says she made the switch out of curiosity when one of her close friends shared her positive experience with the menstrual cup. She had never been completely satisfied with her usual menstrual protection and felt this new option was worth looking into. The environmentally-friendly aspect also greatly appealed to her. “With my menstrual cup, I have no worries,” she says. “This is the best part for me. I put it in, forget about it, and clean it when I come home. I can now go to school and to work without thinking about my period. I can now sleep at night without a big pad. I honestly thought I would never be able to do that.”
Even though the menstrual cup users surveyed were satisfied with the product, many had reservations prior to trying it for the first time. Their most common concerns were leaking, comfort and cleanliness, which isn’t very surprising since traditional period protection women are accustomed to are disposable pads and tampons.
Alisha, a menstrual cup user for almost 7 years, has also noticed its increasing popularity. She believes people are more receptive about these products given the health, cost and environmental benefits to menstrual cups, though “we still live in a world where it is somewhat taboo to discuss menstruation, therefore spreading the word can be challenging in some contexts.”
Though menstruation clearly remains a taboo subject, women are now turning to the Internet for information on period care. Many women surveyed said the Internet facilitates the discussion because women are sharing their experience with the menstrual cup and other types of period care on social media. One quick search and you’ll find thousands of videos posted on YouTube of girls waving around little silicone cups and giving their opinion. Other popular social media websites like Reddit, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram are filled with tweets, blog posts and pictures on the subject. Although #menstrualcup isn’t nearly as popular as #onedirection or #herecomeshoneybooboo, there is no question a worldwide virtual discussion is taking place.
As our awareness of what we expose our bodies to and how our choices affect the environment increasingly heightens, it is possible that even more women will consider the menstrual cup as a safer and more sustainable way for dealing with their period. Menstrual cups have yet to reach the same status as disposable tampons or sanitary pads, but they are slowly forging their way through mainstream markets, one vagina at a time.
By Michelle Béland