Monday, September 30, 2013

What are menstrual cups made out of?

One of my biggest concerns when I first considered menstrual cups was what in the world are they made of? My interest was peaked when I learned they save a lot of money and are reusable. Being a poor college student and always without tampons or pads right when I needed them I was all for it that! But would they be safe? Comfortable? Leak-free?

Lunette cup in a "c fold"
Used with permission
Most of the brands out there are made of silicone. This is generally the same type of silicone used to make breast implants and with medical devices like pacemakers. They are relatively soft yet will mostly hold their shape. Silicone cups can be boiled to disinfect them and come in a few different colors that vary by brand (blue, orange, pink...). These are all manufacturered outside of the US.

Care: Rinse/wipe down when you empty it and wash with soap between uses; can be boiled.

Brands: Lunette, DivaCup, MoonCup UK

TPE - thermoplastic elastomers

Assortment of Meluna cups
Used with permission
TPE is a fancy name for a plastic blend used in everything from baby bottle nipples to medical devices. There is currently only one brand that makes cups with TPE: Meluna. I am partial to their extra sturdy cup, Meluna Sport, made to work with the stronger pelvic floor muscles of athletic women. They are medically approved in Europe and are currently unavailable in the US during the lengthy FDA approval process. 

Care: Rinse/wipe down when you empty it and wash with soap between uses; can be immersed in hot water to disinfect.

Brands: Meluna

Latex Rubber
Rubber Tree (c) Ken Doerr
CC Attribution 2.0 License
Rubber menstrual cups look like little toy plungers to me. Natural rubber tends to have a rubber smell so they are not for everyone. They are brown so they do not discolor and are the only cups made from a non-synthetic material. Of course anyone allergic to latex should choose a different material. The only cup actually manufactured in the US is the latex rubber Keeper.

Care: Rinse/wipe down when you empty it and wash with soap between uses; can be boiled.

Brands: Keeper

All cup types are made of medically approved materials and most are also FDA approved. (The FDA requires separate approval for the cups themselves. All menstrual products including tampons, pads, and menstrual cups are considered "medical devices.") If you are worried about trying out a menstrual cup based on material remember that many menstrual cup users end up with multiple cups for convenience.

Still have questions? Check out this particularly informative post by Aerial Hoopla.

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