If you’re a Guardian-reading woman of a certain age, it’s likely you’ll have been party to the evangelical Mooncup rant. In the Mooncup rant, one woman tells the other about a convex piece of medical-grade silicone that has saved her life. She uses it each time she gets her period, and spends the rest of her time talking about it. The cup has saved her thousands, is proof of her eco credentials and is now, essentially, the best thing ever.
I’m relatively new to menstrual cups, turning to them two years ago after an organic tampon company’s cardboard applicators injured my gentlest parts. And I’ve got the devotion of a convert, regularly proselytising about my Mooncup with all the spittle-flecked frenzy of a televangelist. A new study published by the Lancet this week has proved my claims. Researchers from the Medical Research Council, the Department for International Development and the Wellcome Trust found that menstrual cups were just as reliable as tampons.
Think of the money huge corporations can gain from making us feel our periods are dirty, nasty, secret things
To us Mooncup ranters, this news could make our cup of smugness runneth over. We could now hold up the evidence cited in the Lancet study that 70% of women who used them wanted to continue with them as proof and defence of our righteousness. But I’m not going to do that.
I’ll acknowledge there are obstacles to Mooncup usage – some women aren’t comfortable with using internal menstrual products. And some women live in places without access to the running water required to sterilise menstrual cups. These women may prefer to use pads, and might find period absorption knickers a more appropriate reusable alternative.
Many women in the UK, I’d hazard, are in neither camp. Yet Mooncups still seem iffy. The ecological argument is well-worn: Mooncups save the planet’s landfills from the scourge of cotton slabs, fiddly plastic tampon plungers and supposedly discreet packaging that glows with all the luminescence of a bag of Tangfastics. But this adds to the unfair pressure on women (who use makeup wipes and nappies and plastic straws way more than men do) to cut out single-use plastics.
So my sermon is the simple fact that my Mooncup brought me closer to my body. The stigma of periods hasn’t precluded me from writing about it for a national newspaper, but still, I appreciate that a Mooncup can be transported and inserted silently, unlike tampons with their noisy wrappers.
Furthermore, for me, using tampons could sometimes be quite painful. The Mooncup takes a little getting used to but sits easier, and I’m more in touch with it when it needs changing. Rather than adding to landfill I pour my blood down the toilet, and as it tumbles through the water like red clouds I can see my body has done something natural, and beautiful. My cup comes with a Plimsoll line, so I can tell how much I’ve bled, and means I can confidently tell my GP that, yes, I have heavy periods, and, yes, I need those life-saving painkillers, thank you very much.
If my Mooncup adoration sounds too loved-up, think of the romance tampon adverts have been selling for decades. Think of the money huge corporations can gain from making us feel our periods are dirty, nasty, secret things that must be plugged up rather than collected. Think of the freedom of knowing that an item costing under £30 could see you through every single period over the next 10 years. Plus, once you’ve got a Mooncup, you never have to endure one of these rants again.
• Sophie Wilkinson is a freelance journalist who specialises in entertainment, celebrity, gender and sexuality