What are menstrual cups and why should you get one?

CHEAPER, greener and more comfy, a booming market in menstrual cups is challenging period hegemony.

Menstrual cups are reusable silicone devices inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual blood and have been growing as a popular alternative to tampons and pads.

Ayla Snowball, manager of Flirt Adult Store Coffs Harbour said popularity of cups had been growing, especially because of the amount of money women save each month by avoiding disposable products like tampons or pads.

While it differs between women, they are worn anywhere from 6 to 12 hours at a time before being emptied and washed in water. They can also be left in overnight.

"You are saving so much money, you can get two (menstrual cups) for $50 and if you look after it properly they will last up to ten years," she said.

"That will save you hundreds and hundreds of dollars over years."

Not only can using one save women money, they are significantly better for the environment.

The average Australian woman will use around 12,000 disposable pads or tampons in a lifetime, all of which ultimately end up in landfill.

Amid growing recognition of the environmental affects of disposable period products, menstrual cups sit alongside reusable pads and underwear specifically designed to soak up period blood as more sustainable alternatives.

Myoni menstrual cups come with colourful little pouches. Photography : Russell Shakespeare
Myoni menstrual cups come with colourful little pouches. Photography : Russell Shakespeare

And while menstruation isn't exactly a hot topic of conversation, Ms Snowball says their popularity has been largely driven by word-of-mouth promotion.

Once someone starts using one, they often extol the virtues to their family and friends.

"We don't walk around admitting to people that (tampons) are uncomfortable or hurt … we just put up with it once a month - every month," she said.

"These are nice because they eliminate some health and comfort issues, but there are still (many) women who don't know about them."

She added it was important not to rush out and order just any cup off the internet as there were a variety of difference types for different vaginas.

While it may not be for every woman, some who had negative experiences may have not found the appropriate one for her.

"A lot of women get shy and they might just walk into a chemist, pick one up and leave. And that's where some of the bad reviews have come from - they got the wrong one," she said.

"Obviously you don't have a one size fits all. There are a range of different sizes for people who have had babies, short/long cervixes or a heavy flow."

Local feminist and menstrual cup enthusiast, Amber Jacobus, said its growth in popularity had been accompanied by a more modern perspective on women and their periods.

"The advertising around menstrual cups has been a lot better, they are not afraid to be real about women and their periods.

"A lot of women get icked out by the thought (of cups), but why should we be afraid of our bodies?

"We should be comfortable with them and not be ashamed to have periods."

Ms Jacobus added that they should be more readily accessible to women from all walks of life.

"They are excellent and make life heaps easier - it is a much more freeing existence," she said.

"They should be handing them out to women sleeping rough and to young women in schools."

There are also countless websites, blogs and videos all over the internet promoting their use, including this review by Mary Frances Knappwho hilariously recounts her first experience with a cup.

"What's more empowering than harboring a blood-filled chalice in your vagina all day?" she said.

"Such a swift middle finger to a tampon tax that internalized my instinct to apologize for my period, instead of celebrating it."