In recent years, many of us have become more aware of the impact we have on the planet—making an effort to be more eco-conscious, right down to our period care. If you've been weighing up menstrual cups vs discs, our experts are here to help you find the best option for you.
"The three brilliant things about all reusable period products are that they avoid the horrific toxins and plastics in disposable products which can contribute to period issues, are the better choice for the environment and save you money in the long term," explains health coach Tara Ghosh.
From the best period underwear and reusable sanitary pads to organic tampons and reusable tampon applicators, there’s a whole line-up of environmentally friendly products to choose from. Then you've got menstrual cups vs menstrual discs—two menstrual care products that could easily be mistaken for one. And while there are similarities between the two products, there are also differences to consider when choosing which one is right for you and your period.
What are the benefits of menstrual cups?
There are many benefits to swapping regular sanitary pads or tampons for menstrual cups. “Menstrual cups are great for people who are looking for a zero-waste period product or to save money because menstrual cups are 100% reusable and last for years,” explains Lauren Schulte Wang, founder and CEO of The Flex Co.
Menstrual cups can be worn safely for up to 12 hours. They are ideal for those who experience a heavier flow as some can even hold up to nine tampons worth of menstrual fluid. “Many people experience fewer leaks using a menstrual cup than with traditional period products because most cups hold more blood than several super tampons,” adds Schulte Wang.
Menstrual cups are also super easy to care for (use warm soapy water to clean it after every use, and after every period sanitize with boiling water). If done so correctly they will last you for many years to come. The small bell-shaped cups form a seal around the vaginal wall, and if inserted correctly you shouldn't feel the cup inside you. What's more, menstrual cups won't dry out the vaginal walls so could be great for those who find tampons cause vaginal dryness.
See our guide on how to use a menstrual cup for more information on inserting and removing them.
What are the benefits of menstrual discs?
Menstrual discs are favored for the comfort they provide. "They do not sit inside the vaginal canal like a tampon or menstrual cup," Schulte Wang explains. "Instead, discs sit in a wider space around the base of the vaginal fornix (around the cervix), which leaves the vaginal canal free. Many people cite experiencing fewer cramps while using discs because of their unique shape and where they sit inside of the body."
"The disc doesn’t use suction and instead uses your anatomy to stay in place. This can be helpful for people who have pelvic prolapse or weak pelvic floor muscles and aren't able to use a menstrual cup," adds Ghosh.
Similar to menstrual cups, discs collect menstrual fluid (rather than absorb it like tampons) and can be worn for up to 12 hours. "Menstrual discs can be single-use or re-usable, but even the disposable ones cause less waste than sanitary towels or tampons,” adds cosmetic doctor and intimate health expert, Dr Shirin Lakhani. Another benefit of using a menstrual disc is it can be worn during penetrative and oral sex because of its positioning.
Menstrual cup vs disc: how are they different?
There are many differences between menstrual cups and discs, the main differences include:
- Menstrual discs placement in the vaginal fornix leaves the vaginal canal free of obstruction and allows a person to have penetrative and oral sex while wearing it. Because a menstrual cup sits below the cervix, opening up inside the vagina and sealing around the vaginal walls it will need to be removed for sex.
- Menstrual discs are available in disposable and non-disposable options, whereas menstrual cups are fully reusable.
- Menstrual discs are smaller than cups and will likely need to be emptied more often for those with a heavier flow.
- Menstrual cups have been around for many years and were first invented in the 1930s. This means there are lots more options available in a range of shapes and sizes, so you will be able to find one that suits you.
Which one is right for me?
If you want a more environmentally friendly period care product, a reusable menstrual cup or reusable menstrual disc will fulfill your needs.
If you want an affordable option with a range of shapes and sizes to choose from, you might want to opt for a menstrual cup. "A lot of people find menstrual cups easier to insert and maneuver than menstrual discs so they might be better for people who are new to this type of period care," adds Dr Lakhani. See our guide to the best menstrual cups if this is the right option for you.
For those a little more experienced with inserting and removing menstrual cups, who are keen to try something new, you might want to go for a menstrual disc. Some people report that it helps reduce period cramps, although there is only anecdotal evidence to support this, and it could suggest that discs are just more comfortable to wear compared to other menstrual care products. However, a big pro of discs over cups is you can have penetrative and oral sex while wearing them and if you opt for a reusable disc over a disposable, you can still have an eco-friendly period.
w&h thanks health coach Tara Ghosh (opens in new tab), Lauren Schulte Wang, Founder, and CEO of The Flex Co (opens in new tab), and cosmetic doctor and intimate health expert, Dr Shirin Lakhani (opens in new tab).
Ciara was the former digital health editor at womanandhome.com, covering all things health & wellbeing from fitness to sleep to relationships. She's always on the lookout for new health trends, innovative fitness gadgets and must-read wellness books.
Originally from Ireland, Ciara moved to London to study journalism. After graduation, Ciara started her career at Goodhousekeeping.com. Ciara qualified as a meditation teacher with the British School of Meditation in 2020, and outside of her day-to-day now runs her own meditation school called Finding Quiet. She is all about bettering that mind-body connection but believes wellness looks different to everyone.
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