Most of us have been using pads and tampons since the dreaded monthly flow first made it's appearance. By now we know how many hours of protection to expect and know how far to push the limits before springing a leak.
So when some of these same pad and tampon users started raving about menstrual cups, the rest of us started paying attention. But how do they measure up? In terms of capacity, menstrual cups were designed to hold 2x more liquid than super-absorbent pads or tampons.
Light, Regular or Heavy Flow?
As long as you haven't been diagnosed with menorrhagia (very heavy periods with clots and flooding), assume you fall into the category of experiencing a normal period. During a normal period, a woman loses between 2-3 tablespoons of blood. For instance, you may have 2 heavy days where you lose 2 tbps, then during the light days lose another 1/2 to 1 tbps of blood.
How Much Fluid Can Menstrual Products Hold?
Let's conduct an experiment. On your left you will see:
- one regular pad with wings
- one super-absorbent tampon
- one menstrual cup
The menstrual cup contains 15 ml of iodine solution. The iodine will be the volunteer menstrual flow.
Note: I am using my personal flow as a reference point. I have filled the menstrual cup with 15 ml of liquid since this is the amount I usually bleed on my heaviest days. Every woman is different. Feel free to make your own conclusions based on your flow.
The tampon results were suprising. Literature states that super-absorbent tampons can hold about 10 ml of blood. As shown above, this super was able to absorb 15 ml of fluid without leaving a drop behind.
But here's the thing:
It took the tampon 2 seconds to absorb the liquid and it takes 12 hours for me to fill my cup to this level.
See the problem?
Even though the tampon may be functionally capable, I would have to forgo changing it after the recommended 4-8 hours and risk exposing myself to TSS. Also, in a real-life scenario the tampon would not have been this efficient. Along with absorbing blood, tampons also absorb vaginal moisture. This causes them to appear 'full' over a shorter period of time.
This result was not surprising. We all know that pads are the most forgiving when life is hectic and finding the time for a bathroom break seems near impossible. As shown above the absorbent core readily accepted the fluid. So if for some reason you were forced to wear the same pad for 12 hours straight, you'll still be protected.
But will you be comfortable…
The pad held the liquid, but it was extremely damp. Just look at the wet spot left behind by the pad in the photo on the right (blue arrow). If you've worn a pad you know that sitting in a puddle feeling. Well this just takes things to a whole new level, that puddle has now turned into a pond.
Given the choice, that pad would long be changed before reaching that level of saturation.
- Provides the most comfort
- Keeps you dry without drying you out
- Is safe for both you & the environment
The menstrual cup wins hands down. Of all it's benefits the one that really blew my mind was that dry feeling. It's amazing how much your comfort level improves when you're constantly dry.
What Do You Think: Have you ever used a menstrual cup? What's stopping you from trying a cup?