Sanitary products are crazy expensive. This is effectively a tax on womankind, which is gradually beginning to be challenged.  But for the moment, pads and tampons are going to be adding a few hundred rand to your grocery bill every month (or a cool R40 000 over the course of your life as an average South African woman).

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Although we’ve come to accept them as a necessary evil, pads and tampons suck. Pads are clumpy, uncomfortable, and gross. They are disposable but not biodegradable – they go into landfills and have a major environmental impact. Tampons are a little more convenient but are also not environmentally friendly, plus they have the unpleasant side effect of drying out your vagina. Sad. Not to mention the string ruining your bikini game. Pads and tampons have to be replaced every four to eight hours, which requires you to constantly remember to change before leakage occurs. We’d rather be using our minds for thinking about things that are important. Or thinking about Ryan Gosling’s face. Anything, really, rather than counting back the hours since the last change.

Pads and tampons are the standard solutions offered in awkward TV ads with the blue goo or a tampon going for a swim in a little glass jug, but they are by no means the only solutions. Women have been menstruating forever, and there are all kinds of alternatives for dealing with the red tide, some thankfully archaic (period belt, anyone?), and others born out of current necessity (think socks, or leaves).

In short: tampons and pads are not hard to beat as solutions for shark attack week. Enter, stage left, tap-dancing, the menstrual cup!

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Also known by its less literal names the M-cup (cute, sounds like a hug that male feminists gently give each other) or the Moon Cup (thinking Diana, goddess of the moon here), the menstrual cup is a wee silicone cup that catches your menstrual blood. Sounds gross, and if we’re being honest it kind of is, but  here’s a list of the benefits of this incredibly nifty little cup:

  • It has no visible string, for starters. You’re safe in a bikini, or leotard, or very short shorts.
  • The little silicone cup is reusable. After the initial purchase, no more spending hard-earned $$$ on your period. It also means no more carrying around sanitary supplies – never again will a tampon roll out of your handbag onto the dance floor. Or the surface of your desk.
  • The cup has more capacity than tampons or pads, and only has to be changed every 12 hours (!). That’s like, all DAY. You can spend the whole day on a hike, or taking a really long bus ride, or being in meetings, without worrying about when you’ll be able to get to a bathroom.
  • You don’t throw the cup away, so no more awkward guest-bathroom situations when you have to magically dispose of something without a bin (hello, pocket. Sorry about this.).
  • AND, in the event of a zombie apocalypse, you’ll be sorted, while everyone else will have to battle the zombies to get to 7 Eleven and raid the world’s last remaining tampons.

Menstrual cups do take some getting used to. They require you to learn how to insert them so that there’s a ‘seal’, and when you remove them you need to empty and rinse the cup, or wipe it down with TP.

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This means getting intimately acquainted with your menstrual blood, but that might not be a bad thing in the end. There’s plenty of advice online on how to use the cups, clean them, and what you can expect from the whole experience (some of which is truly hilarious).

You can order local brands Mpower or Pinkcup from takealot for between R250 and R280. The Mpower cups are locally made, which is pretty cool, and come in two sizes, depending on your flow. And if you want to share the cup love, you can donate one to someone else – the MinaCup project is providing cups to women and girls who can’t afford them, which is important considering that many South African schoolgirls regularly stay at home because they cannot afford sanitary products.

So tell us: have you tried sticking a little silicone cup inside you, and if so, how did it go? We want to know.