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A few years ago, I saw a social media post from a student majoring in Environmental Systems who was studying sustainable menstrual products for her senior project. For part of the project, she was looking for volunteers who would receive free menstrual products if they were willing to tell her about their experiences using the products. As an Environmental Systems student myself, I was intrigued. I signed up for the study and received a reusable menstrual cup. I still use that menstrual cup today and wanted to share an unfiltered, honest account of my experience (if you’re not comfortable reading about bodily fluids and processes, skip this article). Choosing suitable menstrual products is a personal decision, and I hope that this list helps you if you’re also curious about menstrual cups. 

Pro: Menstrual cups are more sustainable

This is the reason why I started using a menstrual cup in the first place! A single menstrual cup can last for years, whereas most people who menstruate need hundreds of pads or tampons per year to collect all of their flow. I’m always looking for easy ways to switch to reusable products, and menstrual cups definitely satisfy that desire.  

Con: There’s a learning curve 

If you’ve used a tampon before, you may remember that the first time you inserted and removed it may have felt awkward and difficult. Learning how to use a menstrual cup is a very similar process. It took me a few cycles to feel comfortable using my menstrual cup. Additionally, you have to run your finger along your vagina when inserting a menstrual cup to ensure that it has suctioned properly, and you have to put your finger in your vagina when removing the cup to break the suction. While this may not be a big deal for some people, it may feel uncomfortable to others, which is nothing to be ashamed of.  

Pro: Saves you money in the long run

The Lena cup, which I use, costs $25 and has lasted me for years. Using it has certainly saved me a lot of money from not having to buy packs of pads and tampons regularly. 

Con: Higher cost upfront

If you don’t have a lot of disposable income, a menstrual cup is more expensive than a pack of 58 pads, so it might be more difficult to pay for upfront. 

Pro: You only have to change it twice a day

Menstrual cups only need to be changed every twelve hours. I love not having to worry about changing a pad or tampon in the middle of the day while I’m on campus or at work. 

Con: It takes longer to change

Every time you empty and reinsert your menstrual cup, you have to clean it, which takes a bit more time than changing a pad or tampon. This isn’t great for someone like me who tends to be in a rush in the morning and starts getting ready for bed too late at night!

Pro: You can see how much you’re bleeding

I really enjoy gathering makeshift data about my body, and when you use a menstrual cup, you can see exactly how much fluid comes out during your period. This has also helped me make connections between how much I’ve bled and the length of my cycles, the intensity of my cramps, etc.  

Con: It can leak 

If your flow is heavy like mine, you can leak out of the cup just like you would with a pad or tampon. In my experience, it is very difficult to position the cup perfectly straight inside of myself, and when it is tilted it can leak more easily. I’ve started using a large cup in order to combat this, but large cups have also made urination and bowel movements more uncomfortable. Some brands do not recommend large cups to people who are young and have not given birth vaginally because their pelvic floors are still very elastic. You might have to change your cup more than twice a day if you opt for a smaller size or if your flow is heavy.

Overall, the pros of menstrual cups outweigh the cons for me, and I use a menstrual cup most of the time. However, I know that it isn’t the right choice for everyone. If you’re curious about using a menstrual cup, I would encourage you to try it!

Emma Chan

UCSD '22

Emma is a fourth year student at UC San Diego. She is majoring in Environmental Systems and minoring in Political Science. After graduation, she hopes to work in conservation biology or science communication. When she's not studying or working, she enjoys hiking, photography, playing piano, and baking.
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