Frequently Asked Questions
Some answers to frequently asked questions, including suggested links for more detailed information.
What is this site talking about?
A menstrual cup is a small, medical-grade silicone (or in the case of one brand, latex), bell-shaped device used internally during menstruation. They collect rather than absorb fluid. There are a variety of brands. They offer an alternative to disposable sanitary products. You might be one of the women who would be interested in switching or at least trying cups for certain situations if you knew your options. They are particularly useful for traveling.
Where can I get more detailed information (how do I use them, are they messy, where do they go, etc.)?
This site only has basic information, and does not contain detailed advice or product reviews. There are some great blogs and forums to turn to for information and community support - for example, advice on appropriate use, and the various practical pros and cons. I also suggest the product websites themselves as sources of advice and information. Here is a suggested blog to check out for product support and reviews.
Why was this site set up?
I set it up to let a few more women know that alternatives to the usual product cycle are out there, and where to buy them (from Australia) if they think they might be interested.
What’s in it for me?
Read some of the benefits to women here. Cups are safer, better value, less awkward in many situations, and for many women are much more comfortable to use. You are more in control of when and where to change them, and don’t have awkward waste to deal with as with disposables. They hold more, smell less, are more comfortable and less noticeable. Read about more potential benefits here. A woman's average monthly flow is 35mls, ranging from 10-80mls (1-6 tablespoons). The cups hold about 30mls. You might ask yourself why you need to deal with all that extra mess, cost and waste from disposables? A funny review of cups as a "third option" is here.
What’s in it for everyone else?
There are clear environmental benefits. Cups greatly reduce the amount of waste going to landfill, or ending up in waterways. Or in sinister little bins hiding out of mind (if not sight and nose) in toilets. They also save packaging. Cups can also be of considerable social and economic benefit in developing countries where girls often have to miss school or work due to inadequate sanitation – read more here. Buying Ruby Cup directly helps these programs.
What if I'm not sure?
Studies suggest between that, typically, 45% and 60% of women prefer using cups to disposables, once they know their options. You might be one of them, or you might not. It's up to you. Hear some testimonials from other women here. Even if you're not sure, unless you’re totally 100% comfortable with the products you use now - and the ways you buy, handle, wear and dispose of them, it might be worth looking into your options.
Why haven’t I heard of these before?
They aren’t widely advertised in Australia and you are unlikely to see them in shops (although some small Melbourne retailers are listed here). It’s hard to know they exist or to find out information unless you’re already looking. The advertising and shelf space occupied by disposable products is a big barrier for cup manufacturers. Cups are, however, increasing in popularity in some countries. Word of mouth and internet awareness are some of the reasons for this.
Where can I buy one / buy a particular brand in Australia?
There are a variety of manufacturers from different countries. I’ve highlighted a few here, noting where it is possible buy online or (less commmonly) in-person in Australia, which ones run give-back programs for women in other countries, and which are listed with the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration. This site is not a shop and does not have a full listing of brands. If a product isn't on here that you think should be (or if you would like your product listing removed or altered) get in touch.
In what situations might cups be a better option?
Cups are suitable for swimming and will be more comfortable than tampons as they don't get waterlogged. They are also great for other outdoor activities like camping, hiking or travelling. They have advantages for the office, the beach, going out to pubs etc., parties, friends’ houses, and festivals. If you’re not convinced on the overall concept you might consider buying one just for some of these kinds of situations.
Are there health risks?
Toxic Shock Syndrome is a serious and sometimes-fatal disease sometimes linked to the prolonged use of tampons. It is very rare. To the best of the information available online and from manufactures (and from studies linked below), there have been no reports of links between cups and TSS. Cups hold the fluid rather than absorbing it, and as absorption poses the main risk of bacterial growth cups are considered safer. To quote a forum, “nothing in life is ever 100% safe, but they seem to be a lot safer than tampons…menstrual cups have been around long enough that if there were any major problems with their use, something would have been reported.” (Cups were patented around 70 years ago).
This being said, the sale of cups is strictly regulated by government health agencies. You should check whether the particular brand has approval (e.g. FDA in the US, the Therapuetic Goods Administration in Australia) for sale in your country. In Australia, the four brands specifically registered with the Australian Thereapuetic Goods Administration are:
ARTG ID: 180153
ARTG ID: 173694
ARTG ID: 157084
ARTG ID: 68249
Also, as the manufacturers stress, product safety is also subject to appropriate use and care.
Another health consideration is the material of the cup. Only one brand is of latex, which some people have allergies to. Most are of medical grade silicone – as used in baby bottles and medical gismos. Some women hear ‘silicone’ and panic but this is due to the association with liquid silicone in breast implants, a very different form from that used in cups.
For a clinical evidence based perspective on safety and benefits check out these trials that compare cups to disposables. No toxicity is observed, however some highlight the risks from inappropriate use.
The studies also find that, in randomised trials, between 34% and 91% of women prefer to use cups. This was as high as 91% in the Canadian study and as low as 34% in a UK survey. The typical range (as discussed in the Journal of Women’s Health article) seems to be between 45% and 60% of women preferring cups.
North BB, Oldham MJ (February 2011). "Preclinical, Clinical, and Over-the-Counter Postmarketing Experience with a New Vaginal Cup: Menstrual Collection". Journal of Women's Health 20 (2): 303–311. doi:10.1089/jwh.2009.1929.
Howard C, Rose CL, Trouton K, Stamm H, Marentette D, Kirkpatrick N, Karalic S, Fernandez R, Paget J (June 2011). "Finding lasting options for women: Multicentre randomized controlled trial comparing tampons with menstrual cups". Canadian Family Physician 57 (6): e208–15. Susan Noll Hanrahan, (1994), Historical Review of Menstrual Toxic Shock Syndrome, Women & Health, Vol. 21, Iss. 2-3, 1994 Oster, Emily, and Thornton, Rebecca, (2009), Determinants of Technology Adoption: Private Value and Peer Effects in Menstrual Cup Take-Up, National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 14828. http://www.nber.org/papers/w14828 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menstrual_cup