Menstrual Hygiene Day 2021: To ‘Cupvert’ or Not

Health women

Menstrual cups are easy to use and environment-friendly, however, they might not suit everyone.

New Delhi: The first few times that Pooja Priyamvada used a menstrual cup, it was an uncomfortable experience. 

“I started using cups somewhere at the beginning of 2016. The first few attempts were not convenient, there was leakage as I was not comfortable with it. Now that I have gotten used to it, I try to talk to everyone about its advantages,” said Priyamvada, a columnist and an author at Feminism in India.

As someone who advocates the use of menstrual cups on social media, she realizes that she and others like her, have to fight not just a lack of awareness, but also a myriad of cultural taboos.

“There are a lot of misconceptions that I encounter. Many women believe that this blood is dirty and we should not be touching it, and in a cup, you will be handling blood and you’ll be seeing it and sometimes it can spill as well,” she explained.

Other taboos include the fear of insertion and the myth that it will break the hymen, she said.

Menstrual educator and a UN goalkeeper, Aditi Gupta said that many women do not know their bodies and anatomy well enough. 

“Had we been a country of tampon users, the usage of cups would not have been very difficult. One question that frequently comes up is whether one would have to take the cup out every time they pee? The lack of knowledge about our body stops a lot of us,” she said.

Aditi remembers buying her first menstrual cup for Rs. 700 but now with the efforts of a lot of people like her and more awareness in general, more and more brands have come up which have reduced the cost of these cups, she said.

Ram, an engineer from Mumbai runs one such brand called the Quxele that sells cups within a price range of Rs. 250 to 300. 

“Menstrual cups are used a lot in the Western countries, however in India, the usage is still less. Per month we get around 5 to 15 orders. Just like we made the switch from cloth to plastic pads, society will adapt to this as well; it might take some time, though,” he said.

However, cups remain in short demand at local chemist shops. Ajay who runs Ajay Medicos in Janakpuri said, “I have a few of them (cups) in stock but I have not sold even a single one so far.”

Shaibya Saldhana, a gynaecologist, thinks that buying or using cups is not a matter of elitism, but rather a matter of education.

“Middle-class educated women, who have moved away from the fear of their own body, have started using and talking about the menstrual cup. The cup is a very useful product as it reduces the menstrual bleeding by one day and is also helpful to the environment,” she said.

However, menstrual cups might not be an ideal choice for all.

For Priyanka Arora, a twenty-two year English literature student, the conversation about whether to use menstrual cups or not is a triggering one. Dealing with hyper anxiety and Vaginismus, she has been unable to gather her nerves to try on a cup. 

“Every time I hear or read about the importance of using cups, I tense up. Dealing with Vaginismus, I am unable to insert a cup or even a tampon. My anxiety does not even let me try it on,” she said.

Aditi Gupta, the menstrual hygiene educator, believes that the way some people have been propagating the use of cups could also be better.“There is an anti-pad sentiment that has amassed a lot of attention in the name of sustainability. By this, we are again making women guilty of their choices. Menstrual cups do not suit everyone, all the time,” she said.

Shaibya Saldhana said that for women who have a fear of insertion or are battling Vaginismus, menstrual cups won’t work.

“It might also be an uncomfortable experience for some, especially in the first few attempts. For that, women need to understand their anatomy well and try using tampons the first few cycles before making the switch to cups,” she said.