Menstrual cups may be a safe and eco-friendly alternative to pads and tampons, but there are still risks to using them.
The good news for menstrual cup users is that they seem to be a safe and effective alternative to other feminine hygiene products, according to an article published in The Lancet Public Health. The study also revealed that they weren’t detrimental to a woman’s natural vaginal flora.
However, researchers still aren’t sure if menstrual cups are any better at preventing toxic shock syndrome than alternative period products. Toxic shock syndrome—or TSS—is a potentially deadly condition that occurs when a type of strep bacteria on the tampon emits toxins that overwhelm the body. But luckily, TSS is very rare.
“There’s a possibility of developing toxic shock syndrome, but the risk of TSS is 1 in 100,000,” Leena Nathan, MD, ob-gyn at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, previously told Health. “So it’s rare even if the tampon is left in for a longer period of time.”
While rare, TSS from a menstrual cup can happen: in a review of published studies, researchers identified five cases.
To avoid the risk of TSS, Christine Greves, MD, an ob-gyn with Orlando Health System in Florida, tells Health that it’s best to empty your menstrual cup every four to six hours, like you would with a tampon.
“That being said, it depends on a woman’s cycle,” says Greves. “A person with a heavier flow might need to empty it more frequently, but adhering to the four to six hour schedule is a good rule of thumb.”
Many menstrual cup brands also recommend washing the cup with a water-based soap or boiling it for five to ten minutes to clean it in between periods.
Ultimately, menstrual cup users don’t need to be worried about TSS if they adhere to the usage guidelines and avoid leaving them in for long periods of time.
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