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In the past few years, I’ve seen more awareness being spread about the impacts that pads and tampons have on the environment. Tampons take between five hundred and a thousand years to decompose, and pads are in a similar range. You then need to take into account the number of disposable period products that are being used: throughout one female’s lifetime, it can be estimated that almost 10,000 tampons may be used. That’s not just a huge impact on the environment, it can make a decent dent in your wallet, too.


My reasoning behind getting a period cup was a little different— I just didn’t want to deal with physically going out and buying menstrual products all the time. I grew up in a household with 5 females in it. There were always plenty of pads and tampons on hand in our bathroom. I rarely needed to ask my mom to go out and buy more. Once I started to think about going to college and being “independent,” I knew that menstrual products weren’t going to magically appear under the sink for the few days that I needed them every month. I would need to go out and buy them on my own, which scared me a bit. I know periods aren’t a thing to be ashamed about, but I still find myself blushing as I head to the health and wellness aisle of Walmart. I didn’t have my own car going to college, which meant I would need to get someone to drive me to a store, or just buy menstrual products at the bookstore. There was also the option of buying a semester’s worth in bulk before I moved in, which just seemed inconvenient. Looking back, it was a pretty dumb thing to be worried about. 


On a late-night online shopping whim, I decided to buy my first period cup. I had briefly heard of them before, seen posts on social media advertising them, but I had never actually known someone firsthand who used them. After I put my order in, I started researching them. Menstrual cups seemed to solve my big problem of continuously buying disposable period products. Depending on the brand, some cups can last for several years. I was excited, but I realized that I would need to face a new problem once I got to college: community bathrooms. 


Depending on the type of period cup, there may be different recommended cleaning processes. Most suggest a thorough cleaning before and after each cycle. One of the most common ways to do this is by boiling the cup for several minutes. There are also special soaps that are body-safe that can sanitize the cup. During the actual cycle, the period cup should be emptied out as well. I see the most variation in this step. One of the most effective ways is to rinse the cup with water after emptying the contents. In community bathrooms and kitchens, I thought the sink/ boiling water steps may get a little awkward and inconvenient. 


Now, I am close to finishing my first two semesters at college. I’ve never had a problem, felt embarrassed, or have thought of using period cups as inconvenient. Honestly, it has been a favorite recurring topic of conversation with drunk girls that I run into in the bathroom. I’ve found a menstrual product that works for me. I have a hot water kettle that gives me easy access to boiling water to disinfect my cup, and I also bought a cleansing soap for it. In between uses when I am on my period, it is easy to clean and reinsert while I am in the shower. And in the bathroom, I can just empty the contents into the toilet, give the inside of the cup a quick wipe, and put it back in. 


With the period cup that I own, and with my cycle, I only need to empty my cup twice a day: in the morning when I wake up, and at night before I go to bed. I don’t need to worry about it during the day unless I have an unusually heavy flow. It’s great for my schedule on a college campus. I don’t need to change my cup when I’m on the go or in a random academic building bathroom. Most cups I have seen are made out of silicone or latex rubber. And since they collect (rather than absorb) blood, there is not the risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS) that menstrual products like tampons may cause if left in for too long. In my experience, the worst thing I’ve experienced with period cups is a slight overflow if I left my cup in for too long, or minor discomfort if I put it in wrong.


One thing that always scares people when they are considering period cups is inserting it. I’ll be honest, it takes a cycle or two to become a pro at it. When I bought my period cup, I was hesitant, knowing that the menstrual cup would need to fit inside of me. Usually, there should be instructions that come along with the cup that helps. It wouldn’t hurt to look up instructional videos or diagrams, too. Until I got mine, I didn’t realize that you need to fold the cup to insert it. There was a lot of learning with my attempts. But after folding, the cup is around the size of a tampon, which seems a lot less daunting. Taking it out isn’t difficult either, but can be a little messy if you are not careful. Period cups do require a while to get used to, so I would recommend starting using one when you know you have access to a bathroom that you can take your time in. 


I still buy tampons and pads, but I hardly use them. In the past year, I’ve never used a pad, and maybe only a handful of tampons. I’ll be honest, it’s a lot easier to carry a few tampons around in my backpack and bags when I’m waiting for my period to start than always having my period cup with me. Plus, I can lend out disposable menstrual products, but not my own period cup. Depending on the menstrual cup, it can last for more than a year or two, some lasting several years. Not only is it cheaper, but it does help the environment, too. 


As I’ve mentioned in this article, a lot of specifics may depend on the brand of period cup you have or your own personal needs. My wonderful experience with period cups may not be the same as everyone else who has tried one. My recommendation would be to know what works for you, trust your body, and do your own research. Don’t take my experience as a universal truth. But if you are on the fence, or just curious, it’s worth a try. At college, it’s been worth it for me. 


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Gabrielle Aldrich, class of '24, is the senior editor for the St. Lawrence chapter of Her Campus. She is double-majoring in sociology and economics, with a minor in English. Outside of academics, Gabrielle is a copy-editor for The Hill News, part of the executive board for St. Lawrence's Habitat for Humanity chapter, and a lifeguard. When she's not editing, Gabrielle enjoys reading, walking, and listening to podcasts.
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