Sustainable menstruation: Why it is time to switch to menstrual cups

Like periods, there are several myths and apprehensions associated with menstrual cups, touted to be the most sustainable method of managing your menstrual waste.

Menstrual cups are being touted the most sustainable option to deal with menstruation. But like periods in general, myths, prejudices and apprehensions have associated with it too.

Currently, women opt for sanitary napkins since they are readily and easily available. However, in addition to being an expensive affair, they are also unfriendly to the environment.

India’s menstrual waste is estimated to be 1,13,000 tonnes annually. Around 121 million women and girls in India use disposable sanitary napkins. On average, an Indian woman bleeds 80ml in one period cycle. A normal commercial pad can hold 5 ml to 7 ml of blood. Which means that women use at least 10 pads in one cycle, give or take.

Secondly, sanitary napkins are classified as ‘medical products’ and hence, its makers are not required to mention what they’re made of.

Once disposed of here’s what happens to your sanitary napkins. It may be dumped at a landfill, where it will probably stay for years since studies suggest a single sanitary napkin takes around 500-800 years to decompose as it contains superabsorbent polymers and a layer of polyethene (both made of plastic), which make it hard to decompose. If you decide to burn it, it will most likely release toxic chemicals. And only if you burn a pad at a temperature of 800ºC for 4-5 minutes, will it combust.

Any woman who has crossed the age of 18 – married, unmarried, sexually active, sexually inactive – can use menstrual cups. While there is some awareness about menstrual cups, a lot of women are unsure of how to use it and whether it will physically harm their bodies and often, the decision is accompanied by questions like ‘will it hurt,’ ‘will ever come out?’ and ‘what if it goes all the way up?’

TNM spoke to gynaecologist Aruna Muralidhar to gain insight into the use of menstrual cups, who also helped us bust common myths about using a cup.

“Menstrual cups essentially are an inert material, they are medically inert in the sense that the same silicone material is used in various other medical equipment such as urinary catheters and cannula, which we used to give drips to patients. So it is extremely inert material and it is quite long lasting – one cup can last 7 to 8 years as long as it’s looked after well.”

Watch this video to know more about how to use menstrual cups and why it is time to switch: