Ask An Adult: Is It Time We All Started Using Mooncups?

In 2014, there's more than one cool way to contain your flow. So is it time to cut the tampon strings, and make way for the Mooncup? Illustration by Assa Ariyoshi


by Daisy Buchanan |
Published on

Thanks to early adopter Caitlin Moran (I find her thoughts on the subject even more compelling than those of even earlier adopter, my mate Kate, who urged me to get a Mooncup at uni while admitting ‘It is, at first, trickier than bumsex’) millions of us are now having a good, hard think about what we’re putting up our foof, what it does for the environment and what it does for us.

According to its inventors (or, at least, their website) ‘The Mooncup is designed by women to be a convenient, safe and eco-friendly alternative to tampons and sanitary pads. It offers an end to the waste, discomfort and expense of disposable sanitary protection.’ Most cotton sanitary towels and tampons contain pesticides and bleach, but the Mooncup is made of silicon and free from these. In theory, it’s less likely to upset the pH balance up there, and it won’t dry you out, as it’s only collecting menstrual blood, and not sucking every single scrap of lady moisture from your foux du fafa.

READ MORE: Let's All Get Over Being Ashamed Of Being On Our Periods, Shall We?

In the spirit of full disclosure, I bloody love tampons. I think they are a truly excellent invention. They go in, they get what they want, they come out. You wrap it up and move on. I’m not squeamish about my menstrual blood, but I know that it’s something my body is designed to shed, so I don’t see why I should hold on to it any longer than possible. Do snakes go around will balled up bits of their old skin wound around their lower portions, intending to properly dispose of them after they get back from a long day at the snake office? I don’t think so. However, it’s estimated that women throw away over 113kg of sanitary waste over the course of their lifetimes. Tampons and towels are thought to make up 0.5 per cent of landfill waste. It sounds like a drop in the ocean, but we still know that it’s better for the ocean if we stop throwing so much away.

I know that tampons are less good for the environment than gin is good for Lindsay Lohan. I can’t go about switching off lights and refusing carrier bags when my fanny is filling up dumps and disposal sites across the nation. And would it be a bit more cheerful if I ceased stoppering it up with absorbent Domestos? I don’t sleep in my make-up (well, not this week. Yet.) Am I failing to take care of my vagina the way I take care of my face?

I know that tampons are less good for the environment than gin is good for Lindsay Lohan.

My pal Lauren, 26 says: ‘I love talking about my Mooncup, I am a massive evangelist for Mooncups. Before I got one, my biggest fear was “What about public loos?” I wasn’t sure how I’d go about emptying it when I was at work. But you can just empty it in the loo, give it a wipe and pop it back up. It’s going back to the same place it came from, so you needn’t worry about it being spotless, but there’s no harm in giving it a rinse if there’s a sink in there.’

READ MORE: A Few Minefields You Had To Deal With When You First Got Your Period

Lauren adds that getting a Mooncup helped her to get to know her body better. ‘They’re not for the squeamish, but getting more familiar with the reality of your body functions can’t be a bad thing. And getting the hang of insertion and removal is a bit of a pain, but once you’ve mastered the knack, they’re incredibly comfortable and easy.’

However Polly, 27, tells a different story. ‘I just saw Titus Andronicus at the Globe and I swear that I created more of a bloodbath in my bathroom with my Mooncup than the one on stage. I just about got the thing in, but when I came to remove it, it sort of bounced out of my hand and hit the wall. I had terrible cramps, and just wanted to roll into a ball and cry. But I had to clean my menses off the walls, before one of my housemates came in and asked why I was recreating The Shining in the shower…’

READ MORE: Meet The Period Vloggers Leading A Menstrual Revolution

So what's the medical take? ‘Sanitary protection is a very personal choice, and as a GP, I can’t recommend anything – and all women are very different,' warns GP Dr Arun Ghosh. 'Mooncups aren’t so popular over in the UK, but an increasing number of women in the States and the Netherlands use them. Some people find tampons expensive, especially those who change them very regularly. If you’re changing your protection every time you use the bathroom, during your period, a £20 Mooncup could save you some money. But they’re not suitable for everyone. If you have bacterial vaginosis, or recurrent thrush, the Mooncup could introduce the infections higher up the vaginal vault.’

There are other things to think about too, he advises. ‘It leaves you with retained blood product, so you should be very careful about cleaning – and again, if you had a condition like HIV, it’s probably best avoided. My biggest concern is hygiene. It’s fine if you’re cleaning them carefully and keeping them in a special case, but if it ends up at the bottom of your handbag, that’s no good. You need to wash them with a soap-free cleaning product.'

If you have bacterial vaginosis, or recurrent thrush, the Mooncup could introduce the infections higher up the vaginal vault

Dr Ghosh also reminds us that it's hardly like this type of contraception is new. ‘Menstruation cups have actually been around for ages. They were in use during Victorian times, before tampons took off. So I don’t think the Mooncup is going to take off, unless a disposable one could be introduced, which you’d wear for your whole period, instead of going through tampons. That would be a more hygienic choice, but not necessarily an environmental one – and I know they’re currently preferred by planet-conscious people. They’re supposed to last for a while, but I’ve seem them become discoloured. If you do use them, I’d recommend replacing them every six months.'

READ MORE: Things That Come Up When You Discuss Period Sex At Length

Lauren explains that although she loved her Mooncup, eventually she had to let it go. ‘My GP told me they can cause problems with IUDs. Some friends have been told that it doesn’t cause any problems at all, but another found it acted as a suction cup and caused her IUD to be expelled, which I always imagine happening in a James Bond ejector seat-style fashion.’ Lauren’s problems raise an interesting point. There are many women out there who would love to use environmentally friendly sanitary protection, but when it doesn’t work alongside contraception and other health issues, it’s not a choice that’s available to them.

Ultimately, I think the Mooncup is a brilliant idea, but it’s not right for everyone. Most women aren’t bothered about seeing their own blood, but they do need to be able to cope with their periods in a safe, comfortable setting. We deserve a product that works for our intimate environment as well as the external one. The Mooncup might not be perfect, but if we keep discussing it, and refuse to shut up about our bodies and the way they bleed, maybe we’ll be able to work towards a better model.

Like this? Then you might also be interested in:

Ask An Adult: Why Does White Wine Turn Me Into Someone Evil?

Ask An Adult: Why Don't I Get On Better With My Mum Now I'm An Adult

Ask An Adult: Why Do I Blackout When I Drink?

Follow Daisy on Twitter @NotRollerGirl

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us