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Tampons and sanitary napkin seem like a monthly necessity, but as most of us probably know, they aren't the best choice for our bodies nor the environment. Furthermore, over time the cost of these disposables starts to seriously add up. In recent years, an alternative that arguably overcomes all of these issues have been growing in popularity. Menstrual cups are all the rage in some circles, but there remains some stigma and mystery behind them. Are they really all they're touted to be?

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Better for the Environment

There has never been more urgency to cut down on our waste and pollution than there is today. Tampons and sanitary napkins, or pads, are a big part of our throw-away culture. Many types of pads contain 90% plastic. On average, 200,000 tonnes of plastic waste per year comes from tampons and pads. Menstrual cups are made of more resilient, eco-friendly compounds, and only need to be replaced every one to two years, drastically reducing how much you toss.

environmental benefits Menstrual cups Matthew Horwood / Getty Images
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Better for Your Body

Tampons contain a lot of chemicals that are not only harmful to the environment, but they also aren't great for your body, either. The cotton and other components can dry out your vagina, leaving it itchy and irritated. Also, tampons are coated in some rather unpleasant chemicals that can irritate this sensitive area, including dioxin, chlorine, and rayon. Menstrual cups, on the other hand, are usually made of silicon or natural gum rubber, which don't leech toxins, and won't dry out your nether regions.

Menstrual cups vs tampons nensuria / Getty Images
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Fewer Trips to the Washroom

Having to change a tampon every four to six hours or worrying about a pad smelling over the day is a real bother. Depending on your flow, you can leave a menstrual cup in for up to twelve hours. There's also less concern about leaving them in overnight, compared to tampons which have a pretty strict deadline given the potential for toxic shock syndrome.

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Menstrual Cups Don't Smell

You might notice an unpleasant odor with used tampons or pads; air from the outside can start to cause bacterial reactions when it mixes with the menstrual flow. Because, through suction upon insertion, a menstrual cup seals against the outside environment, the blood remains fresh and won't start to smell. As with any bodily fluids, though, if you notice a change in scent, you should speak to a medical professional.

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Less Cost, Overall

Obviously, disposable sanitary products are going to result in regular spending. Menstrual cups only need replacing every one or two years and don't cost you anything during that time. There's the added benefit of never realizing your out of a product right when you need a new one. A menstrual cup usually costs around $40; tampons can rack up more than double this amount each year, and by now you've probably seen the press about the tampon tax.

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Small and Discrete Product

These days, pads and tampons have gotten pretty compact, but it can still be a real pain to take a box with you when you're traveling, or as a backup at work or school. Menstrual cups are small and most come with a pretty little drawstring bag, so you can take it with you everywhere discretely, without having to choose between that and your gum, blotting papers, and Sephora membership card.

discrete Menstrual cups gregory_lee / Getty Images
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Different Sizes for Different Folks

We all come in different shapes and sizes, and that goes for vaginas too! Younger women and those who haven't had children can choose a menstrual cup in a smaller size, while those who are a little older or have had children can opt for the more spacious option. Check the recommendations on the brand that you choose.

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No Clogging the Drain

Tampons and pads are a major cause of toilet drain blockage. These products and their wrapping and applicators account for a major percentage of flushed objects. When you use a menstrual cup, you simply empty it out and reinsert it once every 12 hours or so, so you won't clog up the toilet or the drain. If you spend a lot of time in a place with stall washrooms, though, this is one of the few downsides to the cup -- it is best to have access to a sink to rinse and reinsert, but as long as your hands are clean, you can just reinsert it without washing, and give it a good rinse when you get home.

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Sanitary and Easy to Clean

Some people are put off by the idea of reusing a menstrual cup and assume they are unsanitary because they are not disposable. But in fact, cotton products can contract germs, not to mention the chemicals mentioned earlier. Because they are made of silicone or rubber, however, menstrual cups can be sanitized at the end of your cycle by boiling them in water for a few minutes.

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Easy to Insert and Remove

There is a little bit of a learning curve when you first start using a menstrual cup. There are three ways that you can fold them when you put them in, you need to ensure they suction so they don't leak, and removing them takes some care to prevent spilling. However, once you get used to doing it, it usually feels simple and natural, and you should not feel the cup while it is in place.

Menstrual cups aguadeluna / Getty Images

Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.