Menstrual Cup vs. Tampon: Why I LOVE the Cup

Menstrual cup on top of a menstrual cup bag

Menstrual Cup vs Tampon

Are you wondering about the menstrual cup vs tampon debate?

I was too.

Well, not originally…

Originally, I thought a reusable menstrual cup was gross and weird. But that was before I understood what it was.

Then, I read a book where a nurse said she could work her entire 12 hour shift without needing to change her menstrual cup, AND her periods were heavy.

She said having her period was NO BIG DEAL, all because of a menstrual cup. That got my attention real fast.

So I decided to do some research. After lots of reading and checking with my gynecologist, I decided to make the switch from tampons to a menstrual cup.

And as a mom, OMG. I think every mom should know about menstrual cups. They make life so much simpler.

I don’t have to worry about running out of period products anymore. I don’t have to feel that wet string sitting in my underwear after going to the restroom. I don’t have to smell that odor that comes with used tampons.

It’s seriously life changing! (And I have heavy periods, too…)

It’s important to note that every individual’s body is unique, and what works great for one may not work well for someone else.

Menstrual cups may not be for everyone. Discuss with your healthcare provider to make the most educated decision for what is best for your individual body.

To learn more, here is what will be covered in this article:

  1. What are menstrual cups?
  2. How do menstrual cups work?
  3. Cost-effectiveness and environmental impact: which one is better?
  4. Comfort and convenience: which one wins?
  5. Safety considerations: are menstrual cups and tampons safe to use?
  6. Learning curve: which one is easier to use for first-timers?
  7. Which one is better for different types of activities (i.e. exercising, sleeping)?
  8. Duration of use: how often do menstrual cups and tampons need to be changed?
  9. Potential health risks: what are the risks associated with using menstrual cups or tampons?
  10. Personal preferences and individual experiences: which one do people prefer and why?
  11. Additional questions on menstrual cups (i.e. What sizes are there and how do you know which one to get? How do you clean them? What are the most popular brands?)

This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link.

All You Need to Know: Menstrual Cup vs Tampon

Picture of a menstrual cup next to several tampons in an article about the menstrual cup vs tampon debate

What are menstrual cups?

A menstrual cup is a small, flexible cup made of silicone or latex rubber that is inserted into the vaginal canal to collect menstrual blood.

How do menstrual cups work?

Menstrual cups collect menstrual fluid in the cup. The cup is emptied and reused throughout the menstrual cycle.

Cost-effectiveness and environmental impact: Which one is better?

Menstrual cups are generally more cost-effective in the long run since they are intended to be used for several years, whereas a single tampon is used only once and is a recurring expense.

Menstrual cups are a better choice for the environment since they are reusable and produce less waste compared to disposable tampons.

Comfort and convenience: Which one wins?

Comfort and convenience can vary based on individual preference. Some people find menstrual cups more comfortable since they are soft and flexible and can be worn for up to 12 hours without needing to be emptied.

Others prefer tampons since they are small and easy to insert and do not require as much manual dexterity to use.

I personally think the menstrual cup is much more comfortable and convenient, especially on the days where my menstrual flow is heavy.

The menstrual cup is so comfortable that I sometimes forget that I am even using one. With tampons, I was always aware because I was always nervous about when it was time to change them since my periods are so heavy. I don’t have that worry anymore with the cup.

The cup is so convenient because I don’t have to stock up on tampons and pads anymore. The worry of whether I remembered to pack any in my purse for when I am running errands is gone.

Safety considerations: Are menstrual cups and tampons safe to use?

Both menstrual cups and tampons are generally safe to use for most people. However, there are some potential risks associated with both products where you would need to seek medical attention right away, such as toxic shock syndrome with tampon use and potential irritation or infection with menstrual cup use.

Learning curve: Which is easier to use for first-timers?

Tampons are probably easier for first-time users since they are smaller and require less insertion technique.

Period cups have more of a learning curve since they require more insertion technique and a comfortable fit.

I recommend watching this YouTube video on how to insert the cup, as there are a few different ways to fold the cup for proper insertion within the vaginal walls: the C-fold, the punch-down, or the 7-fold.

I fold mine into the punch-down. It might take some experimenting to see which is the best way for you. In the beginning, I did have moments where I thought, “This doesn’t feel good. I don’t think I put the cup in right,” and I would need to try again. If it doesn’t feel right the first time, pull out and readjust.

You know you will have inserted it correctly when you can’t even tell it’s in there anymore. That is how comfortable a menstrual cup is supposed to feel!

Which one is better for different types of activities (i.e. swimming, exercising, sleeping)?

Both a menstrual cup and a tampon can be worn during most activities. However, menstrual cups can be worn for longer periods of time without needing to be changed, making them more convenient no matter the activity.

I LOVE that. Not needing to worry about changing out a tampon is freeing. Tampons are also not as malleable and flexible as period cups, making them sometimes bend uncomfortably within the vaginal canal–depending on the activity you are doing.

Duration of use: How often do menstrual cups and tampons needs to be changed?

Tampons need to be changed every 4 to 8 hours to prevent the risk of toxic shock syndrome.

Menstrual cups can be worn for a long time–up to 12 hours! But they may need to be emptied sooner based on heavier flow days.

Potential health risks: What are the risks associated with using a menstrual cup or a tampon?

There is risk of infection with both.

Tampon use carries the risk of toxic shock syndrome, a rare but serious bacterial infection that can be fatal if left untreated.

Menstrual cup use can increase the risk of vaginal irritation or infection if not cleaned properly or if left in for too long.

Personal preference and individual experience: Which one do people prefer and why?

Personal preference and individual experiences vary greatly between the two. It can take some trial and error with a menstrual cup before you find the right one or the right insertion technique that is best for you.

I use this one and love it. To find the best menstrual cup for you, the most popular brands are listed below as a guide.

Menstrual Cup vs Tampon: More Questions on the Cup

Menstrual cup with red puff balls on a pink backdrop

How do I choose the right size?

The right size will depend on a few factors: your age, whether you have given birth vaginally, the strength of your pelvic floor muscles. Most manufacturers offer a size guide to help you determine the right size and best menstrual cup for your body.

Typically, size small is for women who have not given birth yet and size large is for those who have given birth.

How do you clean a menstrual cup?

Most menstrual cup manufacturers recommend washing the cup with mild soap and warm water between each time you empty the cup and then to sterilize it after each period by boiling the cup in water for a few minutes.

If you are in a public restroom where washing with soap and water is not feasible, there are sanitary napkins made specifically for this scenario where you can clean your cup on-the-go with using only the wipe.

Between each time I empty the cup, I often only rinse mine with water and skip the soap. But, I always sterilize my cup in boiling water when my period is finished.

Some people think this is a hassle. But for me, taking five minutes to boil is still faster and easier than taking time to drive to the store to buy a box of tampons and pads.

I’ve also heard people say cleaning the cup and inserting the cup is a messy process. But my argument to that is, tampons are messy too. Whether you are inserting/removing a cup or a tampon, both require washing your hands afterward so both are equal to me in that regard.

When do you need to replace your menstrual cup?

Depending upon how well the period cup is cleaned and cared for, along with the brand you choose, most last at least a couple years. If any cracks, tears, or holes appear, it is time to replace. Another indicator that it is time to replace the cup is when the silicone becomes discolored.

How can you tell when it is time to empty a menstrual cup?

You can just tell, which I know is a bit of an unclear answer. But it will just feel different and you will get a sense the cup is probably getting full. You will also learn the rhythm of your cycle and probably see a pattern of which days during your cycle your cup needs to be emptied more frequently.

Can you use a menstrual cup if you have an IUD?

Yes, it is generally safe to use a menstrual cup with an IUD. Take caution when inserting and removing the cup to avoid dislodging the IUD. You might want to check with your healthcare provider before using a menstrual cup if you have an IUD.

Do you need to wear a pad or panty liner with a menstrual cup?

Menstrual cups are designed to collect menstrual fluid without leaks, so in most cases you will not need to wear sanitary pads or panty liners. If you find that you are having leaks, you might want to try a different brand.

As a guide, my periods are so heavy that when I was wearing tampons, I used the largest sized tampon with the thickest pads, and I still would occasionally leak through to my clothes. It was embarrassing. With my reusable menstrual cup, I wear no pads and I do not have any leaks.

What are the most popular brands?

All of the below menstrual cup brands are made of medical-grade silicone and come in two different sizes.

Dutchess: This is the one I use. I chose it for its affordable pricing and popularity on Amazon. However, my very first cup was the Sckoon Cup (no longer available on Amazon). I absolutely loved that cup, and I chose it because it was ranked best menstrual cup for beginners at the time.

DivaCup: The DivaCup is one of the most well-known menstrual cups and has been on the market since 2003.

Lena Cup: The Lena Cup is a newer brand that has gained popularity in recent years.

Saalt Cup: The Saalt Cup is a popular brand that is known to be the best sensitive cup.

Lunette Cup: The Lunette Cup is a Finnish brand that has been around since 2004.

Once you find the best menstrual cup for your body, periods will become so much easier!

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