While it might seem a little farfetched to say the way you catch or cork your monthly flow affects your sex life, a recent survey suggests just that: When feminine hygiene company Intimina polled 1,500 women who'd switched from tampons to menstrual cups, 26 percent claimed the cups improved their sex lives, plain and simple. Menstrual cup users also reported greater confidence, a 66 percent decrease in vaginal dryness (which can make sex uncomfortable), fewer and less severe menstrual cramps, and less issues with odour.
Granted, the study was done by a company that sells menstrual cups, not tampons, so it's in their best interest to make their products look really, really good. But the survey participants' rave reviews are significant enough to catch anyone's attention. So asked Melissa Walsh, MD, an independent ob-gyn at Montefiore Health System, to weigh in from a scientific standpoint.
Can a menstrual cup really improve your sex life?
Using a menstrual cup can help you establish a baseline comfort with your body, Dr. Walsh explains. That can loosen you up during sex, making the experience more enjoyable — even during your period, when you can wear the cup to reduce messiness, no problem. The best part (besides good, clean sex all month long): The cup prevents blood from mixing with your vagina's normal vaginal secretions, so it can flow freely and prevent painful friction.
Do tampons really contribute to vaginal dryness? And what about after your period ends?
Because tampons absorb natural discharge, it's true that tampons can contribute to vaginal dryness, according to Dr. Walsh. The good news: These effects rarely last more than a day after tampon removal.
Can using a menstrual cup really improve your sleep?
While lots of things can affect your quality of sleep — and many have absolutely nothing to do with your period — wearing a menstrual cup may help you sleep more soundly if you're the kind of person who bolts out of bed every hour to check whether your tampon has leaked, according to Dr. Walsh. Besides: It's safe to wear the cup for up to 12 hours, so you don't even have to set your alarm if it's a catch-up-on-an-entire-week's-worth-of-sleep kind of night.
From a medical perspective, can using a menstrual cup really reduce the severity or frequency of cramps?
"It is pretty unlikely," Dr. Walsh says. That's because menstrual cramps tend to stem from: the uterine muscles, which are nowhere near the menstrual cup itself; uterine conditions such as fibroids; previous pelvic surgeries; endometriosis; or even dehydration. Unfortunately, these are problems that a menstrual cup can't fix.
Do menstrual cups really reduce odor?
Because the cup contains blood, preventing it from flowing freely through the vagina, menstrual cups can reduce any strange odors that occur when blood and natural discharge interact, altering the chemistry of the vagina. And because this change can predispose some women to overgrowth of bacteria that can result in bacterial or yeast infections, the benefits of the cup go well beyond scent reduction. (To all the tampon people who stand strong, clutching their strings, you too can reduce odor by changing tampons at least every four to six hours, no big deal.)