The It Could be Better site has had a survey up for a few months – here’s the link if you’d like to fill it out. The survey asks visitors to the site why they do or do not want to use menstrual cups, what they like and dislike about them, and what information they're looking for.
In the survey people were asked to name some of the best things about menstrual cups. A few themes come out of this that I hope to discuss in time (along with the bad bits). The first theme I looked it is that people often mentioned that cups are good for swimming and travelling.
Another theme I’ve noticed in the results is that respondents often mention how cups mean an easier sleep, closely related to the fact that cups have to be changed far less often than pads or tampons. Cups are safe to leave in for up to 12 hours. They also hold more than pads and tampons, and there’s no odour as they are not exposed to air.
Tampons by contrast need to be changed every 2 or so hours to avoid risk of toxic shock syndrome. Pads have no such risk, but are exposed to air and thus create odour. Also some people also just don’t particularly like wearing pads, and if you prefer tampons then sleeping is the situation where you can’t safely avoid them. The survey results indicate that cups offer some advantages in having a comfortable night’s sleep. Some example comments:
Not needing to change the cup as frequently as disposable products is also advantageous for travelling and for work. And just generally for not thinking about your period. Not everyone in the survey agrees with this – in the survey, 46% of people say that cups mean you worry less about your period, and 43% said they are similar to disposable products. A small number (11%) said they are worse. When looking only at people who had tried menstrual cups, the balance is more toward cups – 62% said they mean less worry, and 33% said they are similar. (Note: some of the survey respondents are on the site looking to buy cups and so the survey is more about what they think about the idea, however they can't yet say whether it worked out in practice).
Part of the story here is that the two biggest concerns survey respondents have about cups (“what do you think are the worst things about menstrual cups?”) are: 1. Leaking and 2. What to do in a public bathroom. Once you get the hang of insertion then leaking is very rare. However, a significant minority of users never get the hang of inserting the cup and still have issues with leaking or with finding the cup uncomfortable. That’s the last thing you want when trying to sleep. Sometimes trying a different brand can help, but sometimes it just isn’t for everyone. Regarding public bathrooms, there are some misconceptions about how often you need to change the cup. Other differences come down to personal strategies, personal squeamish levels, and also to the layouts of bathrooms themselves. For some people public bathrooms are easy - easier than figuring out what to do with a disposable item (which can be like disposing of a body). For others it's the opposite. I think some better advice on this would help, but again it's not for everyone.
Those concerns aside, a strong result from the survey is the advantage of cups in terms of time. All things going well, cups mean far less time checking or changing, and thus less time ‘tethered’ to your period. For example some of the survey results say the best things about cups: