The first major scientific review of sanitary products helps explain why thousands of women have switched to eco-friendly menstrual cups. The review of 43 studies involving 3,300 females found only rare complications from the rubber or silicone cups, which fit into the vagina to collect about one fluid ounce of blood. Indeed, they were found to be as safe and effective as alternatives, and less expensive. One $40 cup can last 10 years, while a year's supply of tampons or pads costs $60 to $120, reports the New York Times. "It was easy, I saved money and I did my bit to 'save' the environment," a longtime user tells the BBC. Still, she acknowledges a period of adjustment. A cup is inserted when folded, then expands to form a suction seal. Removed by squeezing the bottom of the cup, it must be rinsed after each use and sterilized between periods.
"It can be messy especially when you do not have a sink with clean water available," a 10-year user tells the BBC. But once introduced to the product, which comes in different sizes, 73% of women said they would continue using it, according to 13 of the studies reviewed. Three studies found similar leakage between menstrual cups, tampons, and pads, while one found the cups to be significantly less prone to leaking. Left in place for up to 12 hours, they also collect more blood than tampons or pads, according to the review in the Lancet Public Health journal. It identified rare complications including toxic shock syndrome, pain, and urinary tract complaints, but no increased risk compared to alternatives. Researchers note, however, that vaginal cups present fewer problems than cervical ones, which are smaller and more difficult to reach. (The upside: blood-free sex.)