Menstrual cups are becoming more and more popular in the UK, as panic buying and stockpiling mean that shelves are stripped bare of other sanitary products such as tampons and pads. And with more of us than ever predicted to buy a menstrual cup in the next few years, now might be the time to try out the eco-friendly and cost-efficient period product that women have been raving about for years.
It’s safe to say that most women view their periods as a monthly hassle they have to endure. At best, it’s a mild inconvenience. At worst, it can be downright debilitating.
But after years of struggling through each month contending with both misbehaving polycystic ovaries and a form of endometriosis, I’ve found something that has improved my period experience so much that I would go as far as to call it “life-changing” – and I don’t use that term lightly.
Allow me to introduce you to my BFF – the Mooncup. For the uninitiated, Mooncup is a Brighton-based brand who make reusable, silicone menstrual cups. They’re about the size of a small egg cup that you wear inside of you, similar to a tampon (other brands are available, but Mooncup is the main one in the UK). It catches the blood and when it’s full, you just empty it out, give it a wash and pop it back in – and repeat. It sounds simple, and it really is.
I’ll be honest: at first it can feel a tad daunting. You need to work out a technique to get it comfortably in place (which once you have it, is a doddle) and, I’m not going to lie, taking it out can be messier than tampons or pads – but when you get the hang of it, it’s a game-changer.
And it’s not just me who loves Mooncups. I have given them to many friends as presents over the years. Admittedly, they’re not the most glamorous offering, but I reckon they truly are the gift that keeps on giving.
One of my close friends who suffered from chronic thrush says she hasn’t had it since she started using one. Another said that it “takes away the worry about embarrassing accidents and makes staying over at someone’s house a lot easier”.
Kath Clements, company director at Mooncup, says: “It’s 2020 – and the conversation around periods is thankfully changing. The time is ripe for a revolution in how we perceive, manage and talk about our periods! And when it comes to the practicalities – there is another way.”
All that said, I think people do still have a lot of preconceived notions about what a real-life Mooncup Wearer looks like. A guy I was dating once remarked: “I have dated a lot of hippy girls but you’re the first one who has used a Mooncup”. When I said I had one, there were even looks of surprise during the Stylist team Zoom meeting. Unlike reusable KeepCups, cute lunchboxes and fabric totes, there seems to be a stigma attached to reusable menstrual cups.
Discussions don’t really happen publicly about them and so the converted smugly carry on quietly wearing them, without ever really mentioning it. But with an increasing amount of talk about periods thanks to The Pink Protest and #FreePeriods movement, I’m hoping that now is the time for Mooncups to finally become mainstream.
So in an attempt to further convince you of how cool they really are (and how the women who wear them aren’t weirdos), here are five reasons why they’re so damn amazing…
Menstrual cups are comfortable
But I can safely say that my Mooncup is the most comfortable thing I’ve ever used. Once you nail your own preferred method of application (I fold mine in on itself), you pop up the soft silicone cup (it sits lower than a tampon) and voila. It’s a tad too comfy and sometimes I forget I’m even wearing it. That can make for some slightly embarrassing moments of “where the heck did I put my Mooncup?! Oh no, wait, here it is.” Doh.
Menstrual cups are convenient
Following on from that, one of my favourite things about the Mooncup is that once you whack it in at the start of your period, you’re pretty much constantly wearing it until your period finishes (apart from when you take it out to empty and wash it). No running out and desperately rushing to the shop. No tampons flying out of your bag as you pay in Pret. No shuffling across the office with a tampon up your sleeve. No worries about disposing of a gross old pad. It’s just up there ready to go. Easy.
Menstrual cups don’t leak
A Mooncup holds three times more liquid than a regular tampon, so you have to change it much less often. I have super heavy periods and, apart from the first day, I only empty it when I get up and before I go to sleep. I can usually tell when I need to empty it as it feels a bit heavier and you start to notice it. This usually gives you plenty of notice so there are no accidents.
Menstrual cups are good for you
Mooncups are made from medical-grade silicone. They are latex-free, hypoallergenic and contain no dyes, perfumes, BPA, phthalates, plastic, bleaches or toxins, so are particularly good if you have sensitive skin or allergies. Or if you just don’t like the idea of your vagina absorbing loads of unnecessary chemicals.
Menstrual cups are good for the planet
One of the main sources of the UK’s coastal clutter is Sewage Related Debris – basically, the products we flush down the toilet. Some 1.5 billion items of sanitary protection are flushed every year in the UK alone and, because plastic backing strips, applicators, wrappers and top sheets aren’t biodegradable, they end up in the sea and on beaches. During an International Coastal Cleanup, Ocean Conservancy volunteers collected 27,938 used tampons and applicators on our world’s beaches on a single day.
This is all pretty terrifying and something to seriously consider when you next buy a box of tampons. And if you are going to use them, definitely don’t flush any of the plastic bits.
Menstrual cups are actually cool
It’s true: menstrual cups are cool. Last year, Swedish clothes brand Monki teamed up with the Lunnette Cup (a Finnish brand similar to Mooncup) to launch a campaign to end period stigma. They designed an exclusive pink cup sold in stores, and donated 5,000 menstrual cups to the amazing The Cup Foundation, a non-profit organisation that empowers girls living in challenging environments in Kenya, by giving them life skills, training, and access to menstrual cups.
Menstrual cups will save you money
Still not convinced? Let’s talk money. Buying a Mooncup will set you back a one-off cost of around £20 and that’s it. After six to eight months, you’ll have made that back and, after that, you’re pretty much making money. I bought mine 13 years ago, and I’m still using it. In fact, you never need buy another one until after you’ve had a baby, when they recommend you go up a size.
So there you have it. If I’ve convinced you, head over to Mooncup’s website to learn more and maybe even buy one. Go on, be brave. I promise you won’t look back.
This piece was originally published in October 2018
Main image: Erin Aniker