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Menstrual cups: The sustainable and eco-friendly period partner

Written by Anjali Jha
| New Delhi |

Updated: May 29, 2020 6:19:41 pm

The Lancet, The Lancet period, The Lancet menstrual hygience, menstrual cups, what are menstrual cups, menstrual cup benefits, menstrual cups types, types of menstrual cups, menstrual cup images, how to use menstrual cups,, indianexpress, indianexpressnews, indianexpress health, menstrual cup origins, menstrual cup uses, how to put menstrual cup, vegina, women and period, eco-friendly alternatives for period, period products, lancet study mentsrual cups, menstrual hygiene, period blood, menstrual blood, period cups, Feminine hygiene products While menstrual cups take some time to get used to, they are known to cut down on leakage once the right size is found. (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

Even in 2020, most women in India trust the sanitary pads over menstrual cups. The Menstrual Hygiene Alliance of India (MHAI) has approximated 121 million women and adolescent girls in India who use disposable sanitary napkins. May 28 is recognised as Menstrual Hygiene Day. In recent times, there have been several NGOs involved in spreading awareness and helping women manage their periods with dignity by introducing menstrual cups.

A menstrual cup is a flexible cup made of medical-grade silicone or rubber which sits in the vagina and collects blood unlike cloth, sanitary pads and tampons which absorb blood. Some cups are long-lasting and reusable, while others are disposable. There are a number of startups and online retailers who provide these cups in metro cities. A report written by Anjali Jain, Euromonitor International Analyst, Bangalore and Hilary Eng, Euromonitor International Analyst, Singapore, says the penetration of these products remains low in SEA markets and India as consumers lack good awareness and knowledge of such products.

The trend of using a menstrual cup is largely seen among college-goers and working professionals. They are inclined towards using it on the recommendation from peer groups, internet or colleagues, explains Dr Gayathri Kamath.

Supporting Dr Kamath’s views, Dr Kaberi Banerjee, medical director of Advance Fertility and Gynaecology Centre in New Delhi says that even in urban cities it is not much prevalent among women of late 30s, because they have a set notion about menstrual hygiene. “However, in the lockdown period, we have observed that there has been a marginal increase in the online purchase of menstrual cups and other personal hygiene products in urban as well as tier 2 cities,” she added.

Menstrual cups are not just sustainable in nature, but eco-friendly as well. Unlike sanitary napkins or tampons, they do less damage to the environment. However, it may not suit all age groups. Young girls who have just begun menstruating usually detest the process of using it, says Obstetrics & Gynecology at Fortis Hospital, Bangalore, Dr Gayathri Kamath. “Young unmarried rural girls may not be comfortable with the thought of inserting a tampon or a cup. The fear of disrupting the hymen and trauma which may ensue may deter them from using it,” she commented while talking to

A Lancet study states that there are 199 brands of menstrual cups available in 99 countries but awareness is low. Titled ‘Menstrual cup use, leakage, acceptability, safety, and availability: a systematic review and meta-analysis’, the study summarised preliminary evidence on the cost and waste savings associated with using menstrual cups suggested that over 10 years, a single menstrual cup could cost much less than pads or tampons. A cup could cost roughly five to seven per cent of the cost of using 12 pads (on average $ 0.31 each) or tampons (on average $ 0.21 each) per period. Over 10 years, a cup is estimated to create 0.4 per cent of the plastic waste generated by single-use pads or 6 per cent of that produced by using tampons, it further stated.

“A cup saves one from period hassles, rashes, skin infection, leakage and allows physical activity and can last for years together, decreasing waste creation. This translates into improved menstrual health and lowers waste creation. For women who might be hesitant to switch to cups, but are concerned for the environment, we have devised other solutions like biodegradable pads, tampons etc. For discreet waste disposal, Sirona also offers oxo-degradable disposal bags,” informs Deep Bajaj, Founder, Sirona Hygiene.

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• m e n s t r u a l c u p • Hace meses uso la copa mestrual para mis días de regla y ya no la cambio por nada! Me olvidé por completo de comprar toallas y tampones, el residuo que se reduce al mes es impactante y es lo más práctico del mundo. Claro que tiene sus inconvenientes al tener que cambiarse en un lugar público o en el trabajo, pero si tomamos los recaudos necesarios esto no debería ser un problema. Con este maravilloso invento disminuimos considerablemente el uso de plástico y, a largo plazo, también es mucho más económico considerando que una copa puede durar hasta 10 años… Ya te animaste a utilizarlas o prefería usar las toallas de tela? Contame en los comentarios . . . Months ago I use the mestrual cup for my rule days and I do not change it for anything! I completely forgot to buy towels and tampons, the waste that is reduced per month is shocking and is the most practical in the world. Of course it has its drawbacks to have to change in a public place or at work, but if we take the necessary precautions this should not be a problem. With this wonderful invention, we considerably reduce the use of plastic and, in the long term, it is also much more economical considering that a glass can last up to 10 years … Have you already decided to use them or did you prefer to use cloth towels? Tell me in the comments Pic Pinterest #menstrualcup #copamestrual #lessplastic #lesswaste #zerowaste #livesimply #slowlife #slowliving #lessismore #savetheplanet #simplelife

A post shared by ɴ ᴀ ᴛ ᴜ ʀ ᴀ ʟ (@slowlife_natural) on

Menstruation is still considered as a taboo, as unclean and dirty in the rural areas of India. However, usage of menstrual cups can be a bliss for those who are in the rural areas in India in consideration to the shortage of water and safe disposal techniques still a challenge. “These cups can replace traditional ways of using grass, cotton wads, sponges, tissues and other absorbents. The purchasing as most of them are in lower-income groups and disposal is a big issue in these areas. The purchasing of incinerators becomes a challenge for some schools due to lack of funds or maintenance. Also, only 61% of these girls have access to sanitary latrines,” says Jiji John, Executive Director, Child Help Foundation, who works in these remote areas of in Jawhar Block in Palghar district, Maharashtra.

Sanitary napkin waste management

According to a joint report by Water Aid India and the Menstrual Hygiene Alliance of India, depending on the materials used in the manufacture of the sanitary pads, it could take up to 800 years to decompose a single sanitary napkin. To deal with menstruation in a healthy and hygienic manner, sustainability is the only way forward.

Common myths around menstrual cups

Is it true that Menstrual Cups are kinder on the environment?

Yes. They do not contribute to the waste that clogs the landfills, fewer trees are cut down and the cost is lower as they can be reused.

How does a menstrual cup stay in place? 

It stays in place with a slight suction mechanism. You will not feel it as long as it is applied correctly, and it is sitting properly in the vagina

Is it advisable to make the shift to a menstrual cup or should one try out with tampons first?

The menstrual cup can be used even if only sanitary napkins have been used in the past. And there is no need to try out with tampons first. It need not be tried before a period and can be used straightaway during a period.

Does it hurt going in or out?

Remember, the menstrual cup is made of silicone. So, it is very pliable and flexible. It has to be folded to be inserted and is no more uncomfortable than using a tampon.

How do I clean the cup?

Wash it with plain water and wipe it with a tissue. At the end of each cycle, it must be sterilised and stored ready for the next month. Sterilisation is easily done by boiling the cup in a pot of water for three minutes. In order to store it, use a cotton bag that is breathable. Avoid storing it in an airtight container.

What cup sizes are available and how should one choose?

Usually, the cup sizes available are small and medium. This is because not all vagina sizes are the same. The factors to be considered when choosing a cup size are the flow – heavy or light, age of the user and the position of the cervix. In younger women, the smaller cup would be a better fit as it would be easier to insert.

Can a virgin use the cup?

Yes, certainly. However, since the hymen is intact in a virgin and the entrance to the vagina is smaller, it may need a bit of practice.

What are the disadvantages of the cup?

One of the main disadvantages that women face is emptying of the cup as this can be messy. Cleaning in a public toilet may cause embarrassment. Some women may have difficulty in inserting and removing the cup until they get used to it, says Dr Prathima Reddy, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist- Fortis La Femme Hospital.

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