Researchers at LSTM have carried out the first scientific review about menstrual cups and found them to be safe and potentially as effective as other products, while also being beneficial in terms of cost and waste savings.
The meta-analysis, the results of which are published in the journal Lancet Public Health, was led by Professor Penelope Phillips-Howard and included the data from 43 studies and 3,300 women and girls. Results suggest that menstrual cups are safe and result in similar or lower leakage than disposable pads or tampons. Professor Phillips-Howard explained: “Despite the fact that 1.9 billion women globally are of menstruating age - spending on average 65 days a year dealing with menstrual blood flow, few good quality studies exist that compare sanitary products. We aimed to address this by summarising current knowledge about leakage, safety, and acceptability of menstrual cups, comparing them to other products where possible.”
Menstruation and period poverty can affect girls’ schooling and women’s experience of work. They can increase disposition to urogenital infections if they use low quality products and can even make women and girls a target for sexual violence or coercion when they don’t have the funds to buy products.
The review was made up of data from medical studies and grey literature, including reports, conference abstracts and theses which were more qualitative in nature. The studies took place in low- and middle-income countries as well as high-income countries and looked at cost, availability, acceptance and waste savings, while also looking at the education materials that were available referring menstrual cups as an option. However, the authors noted that much of the data was of low quality and call for further, quality research to be carried out.
First author on the paper is LSTM’s Dr Annemieke van Eijk, she said: “With a general increase on initiatives aimed at tackling period poverty, in both low- and high-income settings, it is really important that menstrual cups be considered as a potential option for women and girls everywhere. Cups can last up to 10 years and the data suggests that this means that period associated costs could be significantly reduced as well as being beneficial in terms of waste saving.”
Menstrual cups collect blood flow rather than absorbing it like other products and are inserted directly into the vagina. In 13 of the studies 70% of women wanted to continue using them when they became familiar with how to do so leading the authors to suggest that information and follow up on the correct use might need to form a part of menstrual health programmes.
van Eijk, Anna Maria et al.
The Lancet Public Health, July 16, 2019