Considering making the switch from tampons to a menstrual cup? We've weighed up the major differences, pros and cons for each option to help you make the most informed choice for your body and lifestyle.
Periods don’t always arrive at a convenient time, so we all want to choose the protection that is as convenient as possible. Tampons are convenient in that they’re disposable and require no cleaning, but you have to always have a supply of tampons on hand. If you used up your supply last month and your period shows up unexpectedly, it’s easy to get caught out! Not to mention that you often require different size/absorbency tampons depending on where you’re at in your cycle. Menstrual cups, on the other hand, can be reused for many years, are small and easy to carry in your handbag, and you usually only need one cup to manage light and heavy flow days. They do require cleaning, which can be done using a menstrual cup wash after each use, and by boiling in hot water at the end of your cycle - read more on how to care for your menstrual cup.
In Australia, the maximum recommended wear time for menstrual cups is 8 hours, while the recommended wear time for tampons is 4-8 hours.
Although the wear times are similar, menstrual cups can hold significantly more fluid than tampons, meaning you can go longer between changes if you have a heavier flow. For example, the JuJu Model 2 holds 25ml of fluid, which is more than 2 regular tampons or 1.5 super tampons.
Unfortunately, many tampons on the market contain harmful chemicals like bleaches/dioxins, chlorine and pesticide residues, which can throw the vaginal microbiome off balance and have potentially toxic effects on the body. If you do choose to use tampons, always choose organic!
Luckily, most menstrual cups are made with TPU (plastic) or silicone. JuJu Menstrual Cups are made from 100% medical-grade silicone, making them hypoallergenic and completely safe for use in one of the most sensitive parts of your body.
When it comes to the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome, it’s worth noting that there’s a risk of TSS with both tampons and menstrual cups. So it’s important to be aware of TSS symptoms, never exceed the recommended wear time to prevent TSS.
When it comes to sustainability, menstrual cups win hands down! They can be reused for many years, which prevents you from sending around 300 disposable tampons to landfill each year. That’s around 10,500 disposables across your lifetime! While cotton tampons are biodegradable over many, many years, the plastic wrappers and applicators used with them are not.
The cotton used to make tampons requires a huge amount of water to grow - around 20,000 gallons per kilogram - and relies on heavy pesticide use which pollutes our soil and waterways. If you do choose tampons, always choose those made with organic cotton grown without the use of pesticides.
Ever removed a dry tampon? It’s a thought that makes most of us shudder! Because tampons absorb fluid inside the vagina, it can lead to vaginal dryness that lasts after your period ends. Because menstrual cups collect your flow, they allow the vagina to retain natural moisture - which is more comfortable and protects the vaginal microbiome.
Many people first see menstrual cups and think: “Ouch! How will I fit that up there?!” However, when folded correctly, menstrual cups are not much wider than a tampon to insert. It can take a few cycles to get used to insertion and removal, but most people find it to be a breeze after this. If your menstrual cup is hurting, here are some tips to consider.
It's worth noting that those with particularly sensitive bodies or anatomical differences like prolapse or a retroverted uterus may not be able to wear a menstrual cup comfortably, and the same goes for tampons. If you're experiencing discomfort while wearing a tampon or cup, speak to your doctor, and consider options worn externally like cloth pads or period underwear.
While menstrual cups have a higher upfront cost, the long term savings are significant! Did you know that the average person who gets their period will spend around $4000 on disposable menstrual products in their lifetime? Even if you were to experiment with a few different menstrual cup sizes or models, the cost savings over the years is huge.
Swimming and Exercise
Both tampons and menstrual cups are a great option when swimming or working out on your period. Both are worn inside the body, but the perk of wearing a cup is that there are no strings to potentially escape from your bathers or shorts, and the seal created inside the vagina eliminates leaks. Cups are perfect for a trip to the pool or beach, as they don’t absorb water while you swim, which can be an uncomfortable issue when wearing a tampon.
We’re very fortunate these days to have so many options available to use during menstruation here in Australia. Whether you choose disposable tampons or pads, or reusables like menstrual cups, cloth pads or period undies, choose the option that is best for your body and your lifestyle.