Menstrual cups are safe and may be as effective as other sanitary products, a new study has shown.
Women who use the menstrual cups spend less money in the long-term and experience similar, or lower leakages than disposable pads and tampons, a report in the medical journal The Lancet shows.
“Leakages between different sanitary products were similar between menstrual cups, pads and tampons, while one study found that leakage was significantly less,” the scientific review of menstrual cups shows.
In Kenya, menstruation keeps many poor girls from schools due to the high cost of sanitary towels and tampons that range from Sh100 to Sh300. One menstrual cup, which costs Sh1,500 can be reused for 10 years but few women use them.
Some Kenyan women have never heard of the reusable cups and those who know about them say they may be “painful to use, get stuck or cause loss of virginity.” Experts say policymakers should include the menstrual cups in health programmes and puberty education materials to help combat ‘period poverty.’ Vanesa Murengeka, an educator at Ruby Cup, a company that sells and distributes menstrual cups to schools in Kenya says girls and women are still unaware of usage and the initial cost is high for the poor.
Menstrual cups are made from silicone, rubber or latex. They collect blood flow, rather than absorbing it as with pads and tampons.
In the studies done, there was no increased risk of infection associated with using menstrual cups. However, there were few reported cases of toxic shock syndrome and difficulty in removing cups, requiring professional assistance.
“Some women use them in combination with intrauterine devices and in 13 cases, removing the cup was associated with an IUD becoming dislodged,” the study shows.
Ms Murengeka who trains women on usage said those with IUDs should seek doctor’s advice and the cups should be sanitised by boiling or cleaned with sterilising tablets.
Results from the studies suggest that around 70 percent of women wanted to continue using menstrual cups once they were familiar with how to do so.
“A cup could cost roughly five or seven percent of the cost of using 12 pads (on average Sh31) or tampons (on average Sh21 each) per period. Plastic waste might also be reduced,” the researchers say.
Over 10 years, a cup is estimated to create 0.4 percent of the plastic waste generated by single-use pads or six percent of that produced by using tampons,”