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Many female travelers swear by using a reusable menstrual cup as a solution to dealing with their periods while traveling. Learn about menstrual cup pros and cons to decide if this is a good option for you!
Menstrual Cup Pros and Cons
by Lacey J. Thiessen
I love my reusable menstrual cup. I’m actually pretty passionate about it. It’s better for the environment, my health, my wallet, my suitcase, and my adventures!
“Personally, I have only used the DivaCup, so all of my experiences are with that particular brand. This review is a compilation of 5 DivaCup users’ experiences. One girl tried the disposable cup instead, but found them to be more likely to leak and though they mostly did the trick, she wouldn’t recommend them. Other reusable brands like the Moon Cup seem like a viable options as well.
Real quick: here’s the list of Pros for Reusable Menstrual Cups:
- LESS CRAMPS (for everyone I’ve talked to, anyway)
- Better for the environment.
- Better for you.
- In the long run, a money saver.
- Great for gals with light flow.
- Great for gals with heavy flow – for a different reason.
- The BEST thing ever for light days at the end, or when you know Aunt Flow is coming but she just hasn’t arrived.
- Take a while to get comfortable with and you will not like them at first (I say try them for an entire period before you write them off).
- High startup cost (A DivaCup generally costs about $40).
- Can be hard to “clean up” away from a water source (Read on for tips on use in places with no plumbing, or even toilets).
Cramps. Truly the highlight of every period.
I started using a reusable menstrual cup in hopes of reducing my cramps. Tampons always aggravated my cramps so badly that I was restricted mostly to pads – a fate worse than death. There are nasty chemicals in tampons (there are organic ones out there, which would be better) that can irritate the vaginal wall and cause cramping in response.
The cup actually reduced my cramps to almost nothing, and my friends who used to be nearly bed-ridden with cramps every month found a big improvement too.
Convenience, convenience, convenience.
Where have I found my reusable cup most convenient?
Firstly, day to day life, or when you’re traveling to places with decent bathrooms. If you have regular access to facilities, using a menstrual cup is a no-brainer. If you have to empty it in a stall, you can just wipe it out with toilet paper and wash it next time. But.
Here’s the thing guys.
You don’t have to empty it that often. When my period is heaviest (the first 2 days) I empty it every 12 hours, once in the morning and once at night. So, as long as you have access to a bathroom twice a day, you’re set.
Reusable menstrual cups are also super-convenient for the times when you know that your period is coming, but like a thief-in-the-night, you just don’t know when. Personally, I’d never put a tampon in before my flow starts, way to dry, ouch! A cup is smooth and doesn’t hurt to put in or take out dry. And theoretically, I suppose a safe lubricant could be used, if need be.
You’ve heard it before from every menstrual product brand out there, but with my cup I really do forget that I have my period. No cramps, no leaks, no setting change-tampon alarms and packing extra supplies in every coat, purse and car.
Obviously my flow is pretty light, or I’d be forced to empty my cup more often. But a menstrual cup can be just as convenient for ladies with a heavy flow (this particular gal used to soak through a super tampon in less than an hour):
“…for the first day or two I will sometimes have to empty it every couple hours. But it is still waaaay more convenient than tampons. I don’t have to make sure I have a sack of tampons with me just for a day trip. I’d say a diva cup is actually almost more convenient for women with a heavy flow. Going through like 12 tampons a day and worrying about having enough vs emptying a cup every couple hours, which would you choose? And since the first day is always so heavy it’s especially awesome to be able to put the diva cup in ahead of time when I know it’s coming. ‘Cause if it hits and I’m not near a bathroom there can be some major damage done.“ Yikes.
Reusable menstrual cups can be convenient even when you’re away from facilities for days on end. Nothing to dispose of/ hide; perfect for leave-no-trace camping or times when there’s nowhere to dispose of things. Do you really wanna bury your tampon in a hole? Burn it in the communal fire? Reusable cups are not so gross, perhaps.
Plus, having nothing to “hide” will help you avoid embarrassing situations, like what happened to my friend before she discovered the wonders of the reusable cup: (You can’t have a menstrual product post without an embarrassing period story):
“Once when I was [at my outdoor job in the boonies], pre-Diva, I had to change the tampon and I thought I threw it far enough away, but then some dude still found it and made an embarrassing comment… and being the only girl on the crew they knew. It was horrifying to 18 yr old me…. that wouldn’t happen with a diva[cup]!…I use mine camping all the time and canoe trips and whatnot. It’s great for work cause I don’t want to change a tampon in the field and leave it there, and taking it with is nasty.”
Note: this was a job site where she was basically in a barren wasteland, and the ground was too hard to dig a hole. No outhouses either. Really female-friendly.
Just HOW do you change it away from toilets? Some of my friends just bring extra toilet paper to wipe it out and wash hands in the river, some bring baby-wipes and put hand-sanitizer on their hands before and after, personally, I just bring a little bottle of a mild soap+water to rinse everything off. And how do you put it back in? Same as you would a tampon. It’s certainly tricky to put it in your first couple times, but once you get the hang of it a menstrual cup is actually easier and more comfortable to insert than a tampon because it doesn’t go so far up.
Between myself and my closest friends, reusable menstrual cups have been used on back-country hikes, canoe trips, and trail-rides on horseback, and in pretty much every country and climate: in South Asia, South America, Europe…
“I used it in Mexico, Cuba, Australia, New Zealand and Thailand. Definitely cheaper than sourcing tampons and much easier to carry especially when your bag is always damp from humidity. Tampons definitely go soft in those climates. Thailand would have been difficult to find a brand I would have liked…Tampons get squished in backpacks as well.”
Health, the environment…
Think of all the waste! We ladies throw out billions of hygiene products every year. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice to say that for every 5000 tampons thrown out, a unicorn loses some sparkle dust.
So: Convenience AND Safety. Throw that one little menstrual cup in your bag and you’re set for years of travel and dozens of periods, and you don’t even need to ask “Where will I buy tampons?” let alone, “Are the tampons I buy in the remote village of HypotheticalForeignLand safe?”
And a bit more on that “safe for long wear” bit: Since the cup seals inside of you, your menstrual fluid doesn’t contact the air, so it doesn’t smell and bacteria can’t grow quite so quickly.
The cup is made of silicone so it won’t start to fall apart over the course of hours. After my first 2 days I only clean mine once a day. Emptying every 12 hours is recommended, but I’ll go twice as long or more. Maybe that’s dangerous, but my logic is that the lack of contact with air and outside bacteria and the far-superior hygiene of silicone make it safer to wear longer.
The DivaCup website says that the DivaCup can be worn safely with the NuvaRing or IUD, but to make sure you monitor your contraceptive device and know how it works. One Australian study found no difference in IUD expulsion between cup, tampon, and pad users. Also, most cups come in two sizes for pre- and post-pregnancy, and can be used by young girls and those who haven’t had sex. (Most of my friends, myself included, started using ours before we were sexually active).
Tip: empty yours in the shower, if possible. Mess avoided!
Well. I think that’s about everything you need to know about reusable menstrual cups!
If you WANT to know more, ask away! I know that they can be an expensive thing “just to try” but everyone I know loves them!
I would call reusable cups a travel essential, simply because they free up space in your pack and time in your schedule, and save you from a lot of worries, but I know that they might not be for everyone. Still, I hope this post has opened your mind to the possibilities of reusable cups, and that you’ll give’ em a try!
Chances are, once you get used to your cup, you won’t even dream of going back to tampons!
These are the 5 Most Popular Menstrual Cup Products:
DIVA Cup Post Childbirth
DIVA Cup Pre Childbirth
Evofem Reuseable Softcup
GladRags Moon Cup
Lunette Menstrual Cup
Do you travel with a menstrual cup? What are the pros and cons?
For more tips and ideas on travel essentials, please read the following:
- What’s in My Travel Makeup Bag
- How to Choose Toiletries for a Long term Trip
- 8 Budget Travel Packing Essentials
- Top 10 Hostel Essentials