Menstrual cups have been getting a lot buzz in the last decade, so you'd be forgiven for thinking they were a new invention. But as Stuff Mom Never Told You host Cristen Conger mentions in the video, the very first one was patented in 1867, and an updated version actually made it to market in 1937. But they didn't really take off until the turn of the century, "especially at women's colleges and through alternative health Web sites," as the The New York Times put it in 2003.
The soft cups usually are made of latex or silicone and are inserted into the vagina to catch period flow. They nestle against the cervix. The cup is left in place for a few hours, depending on flow, and washed out between uses. One cup can last at least a year, so it's much more affordable than buying tampons and pads every couple months and doesn't generate all the environmental waste that those products do.
Still, while menstrual cup popularity might have spread beyond women's colleges, their sales are still a blip compared to those of pads and tampons in the U.S. Why is this, despite all the advantages we mentioned earlier? Cristen supplies four reasons:
- We're creatures of habit. Women tend to use the same products they've always used. Chances are if you're a woman who still gets her period you're using the same brands your mom handed to you when you first got it.
- Vaginaphobia. You have to get up close and personal with your vagina to insert that cup correctly. That may be too close for some.
- The ick factor. There's always the possibility of the cup getting too full and spilling its contents on you. Not fun.
- The money factor. Since pharmacies and feminine hygiene companies can make a lot more money from consumers buying monthly supplies, they have less incentive to stock or make menstrual cups.
Want to learn more about menstrual cups? Cristen Conger and Caroline Ervin from Stuff Mom Never Told You have you covered. You can watch the video above, listen to their podcast about the products or head on over to their site.