By Rose Eveleth
After spending 25 hours on research and testing 18 different cups from nine different manufacturers, we found that the MeLuna Classic is the best cup for first-time users. It’s the cup that comes in the biggest variety of sizes to accommodate people of different heights, athletic backgrounds, or vaginal birth histories. The MeLuna is also available in a firmer version and with different handles. Its design can be folded the most ways, yet it popped open easily, so it was the easiest to insert, remove, and clean.
Should you get this?
If you are a person who gets a period, you can probably use a menstrual cup. Unlike products that absorb your flow, you insert a menstrual cup into your vagina to hold all the blood, and empty it a few times a day. Like most things that are period-related, this will all come down to your own personal comfort. Die-hard cup lovers love the eco-friendly and wallet-friendly aspects of the cup. But cups do come with a learning curve, and not everybody wants to go through all that.
The most convincing argument in favor of switching to a menstrual cup is the fact that it’s reusable. That’s a plus for your wallet, and for the environment. The average person who menstruates spends between $40 and $70 a year on pads or tampons, and those pads and tampons often wind up in landfills. (Before you feel any additional and unnecessary period shame, know that in the grand scheme of your personal waste, menstrual products are just a small sliver.) Menstrual cups can be used again and again for years, eliminating that waste and ultimately saving you money.
An additional advantage of the menstrual cup over pads and tampons is that you need to carry only one with you, not a handful. This makes cups popular among backpackers and other travelers who worry about carrying too much weight. Instead of having to keep a handful of pads and tampons around, you need just one cup. Plus, menstrual cups can hold up to an ounce of fluid at a time, which means they can handle far more than even the heaviest-duty tampons.
Menstrual cups can hold up to an ounce of fluid at a time, which means they can handle far more than even the heaviest-duty tampons.
Lots of menstrual cup advocates also claim that using a cup eliminates the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome. That is not true, and there was at least one confirmed case of TSS in a woman using a menstrual cup. But it’s nearly impossible to study the true risk of menstrual cups because they are still used by a relatively tiny slice of people and TSS is so rare. “There’s no reason to think that the risk would be lower or higher than with tampons, and unless we get a lot of case reports we’ll never know,” said Dr. Gunter. Think about it this way: Less than one percent of people use a menstrual cup. And the chances of getting TSS is less than one in 100,000. Which means that trying to study TSS in menstrual cup use is incredibly hard because you’re trying to study something that could show up only in a tiny sliver of the population. So if you’re switching to cups purely out of fear of TSS, don’t. That said, just like with a tampon, it’s important not to leave a menstrual cup in for too long. You shouldn’t leave any cup in for more than eight hours.
The dealbreaker for most people when it comes to menstrual cups is the learning curve. “The first few times you change it you might want to do that where you don’t worry about leaving it like there was a serial killer in there,” said Dr. Gunter. “I’m good at taking things in and out of vaginas, and the first time it was like WHOA!” It takes a while to get used to inserting and removing the cups, and even for pros, using a cup involves handling your menses more than pads or tampons. The cup catches and contains menstrual fluid, so using it means removing the cup and pouring out the fluid, then washing the cup. Some women I talked to said they came to really appreciate and enjoy this part as a way to better understand their own bodies, but that might not be something you’re into. So if the idea of closely interacting with your own menses grosses you out, the menstrual cup isn’t for you.