Are Menstrual Cups Safe? Scientists Say YES!

It’s up to all of us to be discerning about what we use in and on our bodies, and period-care is absolutely no exception - particularly because whichever period products you use are coming in contact with one of your body’s most sensitive areas.

Disposable pads and tampons have been the norm in period care for decades, but at a time where it’s becoming apparent that we all need to reconsider the amount of waste we’re producing, reusable alternatives like menstrual cups are growing in popularity. Did we mention they save us a whole lot of money and hassle too?

But, big question - are menstrual cups safe? Scientists say yes!

Recently we were overjoyed to read the findings of the very first major scientific review of the effectiveness and safety of menstrual cups by The Lancet Public Health Journal, which confirmed what we already knew: menstrual cups are just as safe and effective as disposable pads and tampons.

As a culture that is so used to tossing our used period products in the trash, the idea of using a menstrual cup that you wash and reinsert again and again raises a LOT of questions - is it clean? Will a menstrual cup cause an infection? What about TSS? Will it leak? And how the heck do you get it in there?!

And we totally get it! With any new concept, there’s a few things to get used to. And much of the uncertainty and hesitation surrounding menstrual cups is down to a mindset change - particularly around the fact that periods are not dirty, and getting a little more up-close-and-personal with our bodies (and our blood) is totally a-okay!

The recently released scientific review, which looked at 43 studies from low-, middle- and high-income countries, finally shared definitive answers to some big questions that we should all be asking when it comes to using a menstrual cup.

Do menstrual cups leak? And do they actually work?

As long as your menstrual cup is inserted and sealed correctly, it will not leak, and can catch your menstrual flow for up to eight hours. Four studies included in the review showed that menstrual cups had equal or less likelihood of leakage than tampons or pads - and one of these studies reported significantly less chance of leakage when using a menstrual cup. Be sure to check out our insertion tips and blog about what to do if your menstrual cup is leaking - often there are just a couple of things you need to tweak for a leak-free menstrual cup experience!

Do menstrual cups cause infections?

The Lancet review found that there was no increased risk of infection (including yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis) with using a menstrual cup, when compared to disposable pads and tampons. A menstrual cup is worn inside your body, so of course, it’s important to make sure you properly clean and sanitise your cup to prevent infections. Similarly, it’s important to make sure your hands and fingernails are clean before inserting and removing your cup.

Will a menstrual cup upset my vaginal pH?

Because tampons absorb natural moisture in the vagina (they don’t just absorb menstrual flow) - they can end up throwing off your vaginal pH, which can lead to infection and other uncomfortable symptoms. Menstrual cups on the other hand, collect your flow, rather than absorb it. This means your vaginaI is able to retain it’s natural moisture, which is better for your health and for preventing discomfort (ever tried to remove a dry tampon?!) It’s also worth noting that the chemicals contained in tampons can also disrupt the natural pH balance in the vagina. JuJu menstrual cups are made of 100% medical grade silicone and are free from nasty chemicals, absorption agents, and fibres. And always avoid using any cleaning products that may leave a chemical residue on your cup - we recommend using the pH-balanced JuJu Cleansing Wash.

Will menstrual cups cause pain or reproductive harm?

There were a small number of cup users in the study who reported pain when using a cup (which is possible, particularly if you have an intact hymen, are using the wrong size cup, have a retroverted uterus, don’t break the suction seal before attempting to remove it, or if you have a highly sensitive anatomy). However, in studies that examined the vagina and cervix during follow-up, no mechanical harm was evident from use of a menstrual cup. Read more about what to do if your menstrual cup is hurting here.

Do menstrual cups cause TSS?

Toxic shock syndrome is a serious condition that we should all be mindful of, whether you’re using a tampon, menstrual cup or even if you’re not on your period. It can occur when certain bacteria, particularly Staphylococcus aureus, are introduced to and multiply inside the vagina, releasing harmful toxins into the body. There have been five reported cases of toxic shock syndrome linked to menstrual cup use - so although the risk is very low, it is something to be conscious of. It’s believed that some of these cases occurred in those who left their menstrual cup in for much longer than the recommended limit. You can lower your risk of developing TSS by changing your menstrual cup at least every eight hours and making sure you clean and disinfect it properly. Always be aware of TSS symptoms and head straight to the doctor if you start experiencing any of them.

Are menstrual cups safe to use with an IUD?

The Lancet report stated that from 3319 participants, 13 reported that their menstrual cup had resulted in their intra-uterine device (IUD) becoming dislodged. Many people with an IUD can use a menstrual cup without any issues, but you should always weigh up the risks and discuss them with your doctor. We wrote a more in-depth blog about IUDs and menstrual cups here. If you have an IUD and don’t want to risk it becoming dislodged, but still want to switch to more eco-friendly period care alternatives, consider using cloth pads or period underwear instead.

Are menstrual cups really more cost effective?

The average menstruating person will use around 300 disposable pads or tampons per year - that’s a whole lot of ongoing costs, especially if you’re choosing to use organic (which are a much healthier choice if you do need to use disposables). One menstrual cup, which costs less than $50, can last for up to 10 years with proper care. So if you spend $10 per month on disposables, you’ve paid off your cup within 5 months. Even if you have to purchase a few different menstrual cups to find your “goldilocks” cup, or replace your cup after childbirth or a change in pelvic floor tone - they still provide a huge saving for your wallet, and for the environment too!

If you’ve had questions about the safety and effectiveness of menstrual cups, we hope this has helped clear them up for you! As always, if you do have any questions about how to use a JuJu cup, please don’t hesitate to contact our customer support team

Further Reading: 

The Lancet Public Health - Menstrual cup use, leakage, acceptability, safety, and availability: a systematic review and meta-analysis