Menstrual Discs vs. Cups: How Reusable Period Products Impact Your Budget and the Planet


Jan. 23 2024, Published 11:10 a.m. ET

A woman in a red shirt with red polka dots holds a menstrual cup
Source: Getty Images

The hygiene aisle at the grocery store features seemingly endless period products. Tampons with biodegradable ingredients and pads that neutralize odor may catch your attention, but you might also hear about people comparing menstrual discs vs. cups. Which is better for managing period symptoms without clashing with your sustainable values?

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Read on for the pros and cons of each option to learn more about the period products at your disposal. Once you reflect on your monthly priorities and experiences, you’ll know which is better for your body. It’s also good to remember the environment as you read, so your final choice can hopefully align with your lifestyle.

Sustainable feminine hygiene articles from different manufacturers, including panty liners, a menstrual cup, and tampons are pictured on a table
Source: Getty Images
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What is a menstrual disc vs. a cup?

A menstrual disc is a flat, bowl that sits just inside the vagina. There are both reusable and single-use varieties. Research from eBioMedicine shows that menstrual discs are safe when left in the body for up to 12 hours, and they don’t increase bacterial colonies or become a health threat.

A menstrual cup is a reusable, deeper bowl that sits higher in the vagina and can remain in place for 12 hours. A Cureus study found that 67 percent of participants had no adverse side effects while using a menstrual cup for three months. Other participants had some minor leaking, irritation, or smell.

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Learn about the menstrual disc pros and cons.

As with any product, there are pros and cons for menstrual discs. People who use discs may prefer them because they last much longer than tampons, save money thanks to their reusability, and collect the same amount of blood as tampons. The environment benefits from reusable products because they contribute less waste to landfills.

That said, some companies do produce disposable menstrual discs designed for one-time use, which can be a good option to replace tampons for people who don't want to try something reusable.

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Menstrual discs might also reduce menstrual pain for some individuals because it sits at the widest part of the upper vagina, keeping the muscle from contracting along with the uterus.

Some people note that removing a disc is challenging because it’s flat. If you’re nervous about this common problem, you can find menstrual discs with tiny loops at the bottom or built-in ridges that are easy to grasp.

Menstrual discs are typically made of silicone, rubber (which are both plastic-free), or polymer (synthetic), as per Healthline.

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Discover the menstrual cup pros and cons.

Menstrual cups are another option for people comparing menstrual discs vs. cups. The cups are much deeper and come to a flexible point, so they’re easy to remove without causing discomfort.

Most menstrual cups are made from medical-grade silicone, and some are made from rubber, as per WebMD.

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If you try a menstrual cup, you can generally wear it for up to 12 hours in a row, or as long as the packaging recommends. It’s equally as helpful as a disc when you’re sleeping or exercising. You can also wash them between uses, so you’re rarely adding waste to local landfills.

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Some people don’t like cups because they can be messy to remove. They’re also tricky to insert if you’re already using an IUD or have a tighter vaginal canal. These challenges are possible to overcome with time if you get used to folding the cup during insertion and removing it when you’re in the shower to minimize mess.

Ultimately, choosing a menstrual cup vs. a menstrual disc is up to you.

Every person gets to choose which menstrual product is best for their body and values. Both menstrual discs and cups are eco-friendly alternatives to single-use tampons and pads.

Due to the cups’ deeper shape, they’re marketed more for long-term use than the flatter discs, making them potentially the greener option. Investigate both options and the ingredients list on anything that interests you to have a great experience that supports your lifestyle.

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