This is literally the biggest change to the period game in decades.

By Rachael Schultz
October 18, 2018
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Photo: oxygen / Getty Images, Tampax

If you're like most women, when your period starts, you either reach for a pad or reach for a tampon. That's the speech pretty much every teen girl in America has been given since the 1980s when belted pads were replaced with the adhesive diapers we all hate today. But now, one of the largest feminine hygiene brands in the world is bringing a little-known but much-loved third option to our drugstore shelves: The menstrual cup.

Tampax just released the Tampax Cup, the brand's first venture outside of tampons. According to the press release, Tampax dove into their 80 years of research with hundreds of women about period protection and worked with ob-gyns to develop a version that fills a gap in the menstrual cup market. A few key improvements? It's more comfortable and easier to remove, and it puts less pressure on the bladder than some options out there, according to the brand's scientists.

Let's be clear: Plenty of women have already traded out their cotton for the sustainable, chemical-free, low-maintenance option. And if you're on board the silicone cup train, this news is probably NBD. But for the majority of American women, this opens up a whole new world of options they've never considered before. After all, if the most used tampon brand says menstrual cups are a good option to use during your period, it's gotta be worth checking out, right?!

And for most women, trying it once might be all they need to convert for good (and tell every woman they know to do the same). "The majority of my patients definitely don't use them, but those who do, love them and say they'd never go back to a pad or tampon," says G. Thomas Ruiz, M.D., ob-gyn lead at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA. In fact, 91 percent of women who try a menstrual cup would recommend it to their friends, says a study in Canadian Family Physician.

If you think the cup is only for all-organic, granola-y gals, think again: For the average woman, the menstrual cup may be a really great option, says Dr. Ruiz. Here, a few reasons why.

The Perks of Using Menstrual Cups

For starters, you can leave a cup in for up to 12 hours, depending on your flow. That means you only have to mess with it in the morning and the evening, in the privacy of your own bathroom-and you aren't stuck with the over-the-stall plea for an emergency purse search. (Related: Why You Might Want to Consider Ditching Tampons for a Menstrual Cup)

What's more, while menstrual cups don't take the rare-but-serious toxic shock syndrome completely off the table, they do reduce the chances of developing much more common infections that come with tampons and pads. For women who are naturally more susceptible to overgrowth of bacteria (aka a yeast infection), the most common time to experience this is during their period, says Dr. Ruiz. "Part of that is because pads and tampons are absorbing not just blood but also any other fluid in your vagina, which can throw your bacteria off balance."

And while the cup will cost you more up-front-Tampax's run $40 each-it will last up to 10 years if taken care of properly. Considering you run through at least one $4 box of tampons per cycle, you'd be saving money using the menstrual cup in under a year.

Plus, the environment. Nearly 20 billion pads, tampons, and applicators are dumped into North American landfills every year, and ocean cleanup crews have collected upwards of 18,000 used tampons and applicators on beaches around the world-in a single day. (And FYI, even if you use the more eco-conscious applicator-free variety, the tampon itself isn't recyclable since it has human waste on it.)

Menstrual cups may seriously save your workout woes, too. "Athletes almost exclusively use tampons, but the cup may provide less leakage since it has a better seal," Dr. Ruiz points out.

Dr. Ruiz says he sees no real negative to using the cup. Yes, removing and washing a small cup full of menstrual blood can get messy. But, "people who are using tampons are already used to inserting products into their vagina, and tampons are also messy," he points out.

How to Find the Right Menstrual Cup for Your Period

The biggest hurdle to menstrual cups is really just finding the right size. Tampax's cups will come in two sizes-Regular Flow and Heavy Flow-and they'll also have a starter pack with both sizes in case you need to switch out at different parts in your cycle. (Related: Candace Cameron Bure Just Got *Really* Candid About What It's Like to Use Menstrual Cups)

If your menstrual cup isn't sealing properly (spotting or leaking) or feels uncomfortable, take it into your women's health care provider who can help you determine if it's the right fit or not, Dr. Ruiz suggests.

One important note: While Tampax's menstrual cups are pure silicone, a lot of other brands are a silicone-latex blend. So if you're latex sensitive, definitely read the label first.

Ready to try it? Find Tampax's cup at Target, among other stores, or try other brands like DivaCup, Lily Cup, and Softdisc to find the menstrual cup that fits you best.