When Cosmopolitan reported that feminine hygiene products may be affecting our sex lives, we were intrigued. This was based on a study involving over 1,500 women, which revealed that 26% of participants found menstrual cups improved their sex lives. Plus, according to the investigation, 66% experienced a decrease in vaginal dryness, while 84% noticed an increase in confidence.
However, it is important to mention that the study was conducted by Intima, a company that sells menstrual cups. With this in mind, we wanted to get an expert opinion, so we reached out to gynecologist Dr. Felice Gersh (who founded California’s Integrative Medical Group of Irvine) with a few questions about sex, menstruation, and more.
Can menstrual cups actually improve women’s sex lives? Why or why not?
“Menstrual cups don’t have to do with having a sex life per se; the only way a cup would improve one’s sex life is by reducing vaginal infection or irritation from tampons, which would have an indirect affect on someone’s sex life. I wouldn’t put menstrual cups into the ‘improving sex life’ category.”
Are tampons contributing to vaginal dryness? If so, why? How can women combat this?
“Tampons are absorbent structures – versus a cup, which is a collective device. Removing and inserting tampons too frequently, especially if there is not enough moisture in the vagina, pulls moisture out. Tampons don’t cause vaginal dryness, but may contribute to dryness and irritation if there is not enough moisture present.
What benefits come with using menstrual cups?
“There are different sorts of benefits with menstrual cups. First of all, you don’t have to change it but once every 12 hours; convenience is an advantage of menstrual cups. Women have to change tampons more frequently, and often tampons leak more readily than a cup, which can lead to messes on clothing, underwear, the need for a bathroom, etc. Leaking during the night with both tampons and pads can lead to messes, as well as interrupted sleep; a cup can allow for 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep on even the heaviest of days.
There is also an environmental advantage of menstrual cups because tampons and pads are not biodegradable and add to landfills and trash waste. In addition, most tampons are not organic and contain toxins, herbicides, and chemicals. Plus, everything that you put into your vagina gets absorbed into the body, causing the introduction of toxins to blood one’s flow.”
What would you say are the biggest misconceptions people have about menstrual cups?
“1. That you have to take them out to go to the bathroom – not true.
2. They’re uncomfortable – not true. When inserted correctly, you should not be able to feel a cup. The vagina is very adaptable and though you might feel it initially, you’ll soon become unaware of it.
3. Cups are cumbersome and challenging – not true. With little effort, you can learn to use a cup, and due to the fact it is less likely to leak and can be left in place for 12 hours, they are more convenient than tampons.”
Do you often see/hear about women using menstrual cups incorrectly? What would your advice be to those who have trouble using menstrual cups?
“Many women who have trouble with cups push them up too high to be closer to the cervix, which can lead to more leakages … Make sure to follow the directions and put it in at a lower level.”
What would be your #1 piece of advice to women who want to improve their sex lives?
“Be open-minded and try new things in terms of positions or romantic situations. The biggest problem in a monogamous relationship would be monotony and letting things get boring. Using your imagination, taking trips, and making things novel keeps things exciting.”
Overall, based on your experience, what would you say is the best feminine hygiene product out there? Pads, tampons, menstrual cups, etc.?
“For the environment and toxicity (personal health) – the menstrual cup is the #1 best choice. Beyond that, it is a personal choice. Pads are less toxic to the body than normal tampons, but also toxic to the environment. Pads are also more cumbersome and less convenient than tampons, which can interrupt the activities of daily life. Organic tampons are a good choice since they are free of toxins.
Overall, my top rankings are: (1) Menstrual cup, (2) Organic tampons, and (3) Pads”