Menstrual cups have been around since the 1930s when Lenoa Chalmers patented the first one. Women didn’t take interest and they fell off the radar until the 60s to similar fanfare. It wasn’t until the 70s to mid-80s that reusable menstrual cups hit the market—and stuck. The Keeper was the first menstrual cup to succeed where others had failed and it's still widely available today.
• 70 percent of American women use disposable feminine hygiene products. On average that equals 11,000 tampons or pads.
• For a box of 36 tampons, average prices hover around $7 per box.
• Tampons and pads must be changed at least every 6 to 8 hours to avoid leaks, health concerns and other unwanted problems.
• Average menstrual cycle lasts 5 to 7 days, from ages 12 to 50.
Let’s assume every woman buys one box of tampons every month. That’s close to $90 per year. Given these figures, one woman is likely spend more than $3,000 on her period alone during her lifetime, not to mention the many other costs associated with female reproductive organs. Thankfully there’s a simple, affordable solution: reusable menstrual cups.
Now I know what you may be thinking:
“OMG, I am not sticking something up there!” or “No way, that’s so gross!”
Having been there myself, I assure you it's not as gross or horrifying as you imagine it to be. If you use tampons you “stick something up there” every month anyway. Plus, once you get over the initial gross-out factor, it’s really not that bad. I swear!
The Diva Cup comes in two sizes: One for women who have had children and one for those who have not. I used the smaller of the two—for women without children—for about a year. At the time I loved it, but unfortunately due to some health issues its use was discontinued.
Longevity: Although the company recommends replacing your cup annually, I know people who have had the same one for several years without a hiccup. Even at $40 per year, that’s still cheaper than a year’s worth of tampons!
Freedom: Who’s really going to complain about 10 to 12 hours of leak-free protection?! No one! I was able to go hiking, camping, rock climbing and swimming without worrying about if and when I’d need to head to the restroom or if I’d packed enough tampons.
Easy to find: I’ll be honest, I had no clue about the world of menstrual cups until a friend ranted and raved long enough to convince me to try a Diva Cup. Luckily, they’re easy to find at local natural-food stores or some chain supermarkets such as Hy-Vee.
Ease of use: I could just be bad at following directions, but it wasn’t just a simple insert cup like this and go scenario. One of two things happened: I wound up spending more time in the bathroom making sure things were accurately situated, or I was making more frequent trips to the restroom to adjust things because I was uncomfortable sitting or moving in a certain way.
Flexibility: To insert a menstrual cup, you first have to fold it in some fashion. I didn’t find the silicone to be very pliable. This made it more difficult to hold the cup in its folded shape long enough to get it comfortably inserted.
Comfort: It made life in general more comfortable in terms of worrying, but physically I always felt a bit of discomfort. The stem was rigid and sometimes felt like it was poking me, and I could always kind of tell it was there.
Cleaning: Be warned: Prepare for gross-out feels. The stem is a short, hollow tube meant to make removing your cup easier. Removal was easy enough, but occasionally menstrual blood would get into the open part of the stem. There were also measuring lines on the inside of the cup. Both of these made it difficult to clean thoroughly at times.
Most of my gripes are, more than likely, just personal. No two bodies are like, and as such no two vaginas are either. As a woman in her mid- to late-20s, without children, I ultimately decided that The Diva Cup was too large for my body. Even though I was using the smallest size, it always felt present, which made emptying and reinsertion less than optimal.
Once my health concerns were under control, I still wanted to use a menstrual cup for all the pros I had experienced with my Diva Cup. At this point, I had learned that menstrual cups have a cult-like following, so like any internet-savvy girl would, I hit up Google to help me make a decision! I knew it would be easy to find real-life reviews and comparisons on YouTube and blogs. However, I didn’t realize there were so many options.
After a lot of reading and YouTube watching I decided that Lunette, a Finnish company, would be the best to try next. There are women out there who have tried them all (or close to it). If you’re on the fence about which cup to choose, watch one of these informative videos.
Comfort: Lunette is also available in two sizes and runs around $40. After my experience with The Diva Cup, I still opted for the smaller of the two cups (Model 1). Although this is often recommended as a “starter cup” for younger girls, this cup has been perfect for me. I don’t even notice it’s there except when it's time to empty it or it isn't sitting right in my body (which is a much easier fix than it was with The Diva Cup).
Longevity: The company says to replace your cup when any signs of damage are observed—this could be holes, any kind of abrasion or drying/flaking. I’ve had my Lunette cup for close to a year; I’ve not seen any signs of wear, but I also follow the care instructions to a tee. Keep in mind: If you choose to buy a colored cup it may be more difficult to notice discoloration.
Freedom: Again, no one is going to complain about 10 to 12 hours of protection. Since using the Lunette cup, I’ve begun aerial dance classes without fear or worry (on top of the activities I was able to do freely with The Diva Cup.)
Ease of use: This cup is so easy to use! Both models are made of "softer medical grade silicone" and it's so flexible! The cup easily holds its folded shape making insertion extremely easy.
Cleaning: Care instructions for most cups are pretty universal with a few caveats here and there. The stem on this cup is flat and sealed. Both the inside and outside of the cup are free from lines or ridges (perfectly smooth). These simple features make cleaning a breeze. (Try the Lunette Feelbetter Liquid Wash, which is specifically designed for silicone and smells heavenly.)
Easy to find: At the time of purchase, Lunette wasn’t available at any of my local stores. There was one location offering them in the neighboring city, which I choose to order online from. However, there is now a U.S.-based online store on their website that makes purchasing even easier. Check “Where to Buy Globally” to support local retailers and business owners.
I really don’t have anything bad to say about my experience with Lunette. It’s far more comfortable in every way, and just as affordable as The Diva Cup. Sure, I can’t just run to the store and a buy a new one tomorrow, but that’s not a deal breaker for me. I also like that it comes in a variety of colors and has several “accessories” to pair with it. Quite frankly, I’m kind of in love with it.
I would suggest getting familiar with your body and natural cycle to best choose which cup is right for you, even if it's not the Diva Cup or Lunette. The Lunette site has a wealth of information about understanding your anatomy and cycle that can be helpful to women of any age.
Regardless of your choice, menstrual cups are great for the environment, will save you a ton of money and give you peace of mind. If you’re new to menstrual cups, give either one of these a try and if it doesn’t suit you, move on to the next or a different brand entirely. Lord knows, there are plenty to choose from!
What do you think about menstrual cups? Have you tried a number of brands available? What's your favorite reusable feminine hygiene product? Share your experiences, thoughts and tips in the comments below to help others find the perfect, natural solution that fits their lifestyle.
Ashley Houk is the web editor for Mother Earth Living. When she’s not producing online content, she’s probably reading or writing blog posts of her own. Find her on WordPress.