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Menstrual Cups Are Officially Safer Than Tampons

The first systematic review and meta-analysis of the international use of menstrual cups suggests they are safe and result in similar, or lower, leakage than disposable pads or tampons.

The study, published in The Lancet Public Health journal, includes 43 studies and data from 3,300 women and girls.

Four studies deducted that levels of leakage were similar between menstrual cups and pads and tampons, while one found that leakage was significantly less with menstrual cups.

Globally, menstruation can affect girls’ schooling and women’s experience of work, and increase their disposition to infections if they use poor quality sanitary products.

Period poverty affects one in four women across both high and low-income countries. 

“Despite the fact that 1.9 billion women globally are of menstruating age – spending on average 65 days a year dealing with menstrual blood flow, few good quality studies exist that compare sanitary products,” says senior author Professor Penelope Phillips-Howard from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, UK.

"We aimed to address this by summarising current knowledge about leakage, safety, and acceptability of menstrual cups, comparing them to other products where possible."

What are menstrual cups?

Menstrual cups are pliable products which collect blood flow rather than absorbing it prior to disposal as with pads and tampons. They are seen to be a sustainable option for menstruating women as they can be cleaned and changed every few hours. 

There are currently two types: a vaginal cup which is generally bell-shaped, and a cervical cup which is placed around the cervix high in the vagina. The materials used to make them are medical-grade silicone, rubber, latex or elastomer and can last up to 10 years.

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The current review identifies the products usually used in low and middle-income countries, which can include cloths, cotton wool, tissue paper and other pieces of material where leakage and chafing are a common concern.

Leakage was similar in three studies and significantly less among menstrual cups for one study, however, was associated with abnormally heavy bleeding, unusual anatomy of the uterus, need of a larger cup size, incorrect placement of the cup, and the cup becoming full.

There was no increased risk of infection associated with using menstrual cups among European, North American, and African women and girls. There were five reported cases of toxic shock syndrome following their use, but the overall number of menstrual cup users is unknown, so it is not possible to make comparisons of the risk of toxic shock syndrome between menstrual cups and other products.

Researchers who underwent the study believe that making menstrual cups available globally could help to tackle period poverty and health problems such as infections – even where water and toilet facilities are poor.

For more information, you can read the whole study here.

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