Which Are Better: Menstrual Cups, Tampons or Pads?

Menstrual cups, tampons, and pads are the most commonly used items during menstruation. But how much do you know about each one? Let's see!
Which Are Better: Menstrual Cups, Tampons or Pads?
Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales

Written and verified by the psychologist Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 11 June, 2023

Menstruation is a key component of women’s health. Although it generally follows a 28-30 day cycle, there are no universal answers or one-size-fits-all experience. Among so many questions, one that stands out is why can choosing between menstrual cups, tampons or pads be so difficult for some people?

Although it’s a physiological phenomenon, like health in general, it’s influenced by social and cultural factors. Therefore, what seems to be a simple experience, such as choosing a method of protection during bleeding days, can become complicated.

What are the reasons? Among others, they include ignorance regarding the menstrual cycle itself and the methods available, and certain taboos. Therefore, let’s explore the characteristics of menstrual cups, tampons and pads so that we can choose, based on knowledge, what’s best for us.

Characteristics of the menstrual cup, tampons and pads

Let’s look at the main characteristics of each of the elements for menstrual hygiene.

The menstrual cup

In recent years, its use has become quite popular. This is due to several essential qualities:

  • It’s reusable. Therefore, it’s also friendly to the planet. With the recommended hygiene, it can last between 8 to 10 years.
  • It allows you to know your menstrual cycle better because, after several uses, you can identify what your bleeding is like on a monthly basis.
  • It doesn’t absorb menstrual flow but rather retains it.
  • It comes in different sizes. Your choice will depend both on your age and the existence – or not – of previous vaginal deliveries.
  • It can be worn for 10 to 12 hours. It’s recommended that, according to the type of menstruation, people control the first days how often to remove the menstrual cup to empty it.
  • It’s very comfortable for sports practice.

The menstrual cup is also respectful of the vaginal flora, as it doesn’t release toxins and doesn’t alter the pH of the area. It’s made of hypoallergenic materials. It also doesn’t cause infections.

Disadvantages of the menstrual cup

Although it has gained popularity in recent years as an ecological and economical alternative to traditional menstrual products, like any other product, it also has its disadvantages. It’s important to keep these aspects in mind in order to make informed decisions about your menstrual health.


Many people raise the issue of its cleanliness. To sanitize the menstrual cup, you need to leave it in a bowl of boiling water. This can be difficult if you’re traveling and don’t have the possibility of carrying out this procedure in a suitable place.

They also mention that, sometimes, insertion is a process that takes a little longer in relation to tampons or pads and requires a quiet environment, which, of course, isn’t always possible.


At the same time, some menstruating people feel uncomfortable using the menstrual cup. The truth is that the menstrual cup doesn’t have to be uncomfortable, as it adapts to the female anatomy. Just make sure it is positioned correctly.


The initial investment may be a little more expensive compared to tampons or pads. However, its use is more prolonged, so it really ends up being an investment.


Tampons are like the “prelude” to the menstrual cup. Their use introduced a great novelty, as they also facilitated the practice of sports or certain activities, without fear of being noticed or experiencing leaks. The fundamental difference with the menstrual cup is that tampons absorb the blood, while the latter collects or retains it.

Among their advantages are the following:

  • Comfort. Those who’ve become accustomed to their use report safety. They’re not afraid of leaks and they even mention that they “forget” that they’re menstruating, in the sense that they experience greater comfort and peace of mind.
  • They can be worn for a period of 4 to 6 hours. This also provides certain independence and comfort.

It’s important to take into account that the misuse of tampons – due to prolonged time – can cause what’s known as “toxic shock syndrome”, an infection that causes high fever, and nausea, among other symptoms.


This is the most traditional method, also revolutionary at the time, as in the beginning, cloth pads were used that required washing.


  • They’re easy and quick to put in place
  • They don’t involve handling or direct contact with blood. For some people, who have a rejection or even phobia of blood, this alternative is much better than the use of a menstrual cup, for example.
  • A package of menstrual pads is usually cheaper than the other items. However, in the long run, they’re more expensive.


  • They’re highly polluting. As they can’t be recycled or reused, they only produce waste. Nowadays, an eco-friendly variant is also available, such as cloth pads.

Pads can create a moist environment, thus creating a climate conducive to infection or irritation in the area.

Which should I choose: Menstrual cups, tampons or pads?

In the previous section, we’ve aimed to outline some of the advantages and disadvantages of each of the options. However, it’s important to know that there’s no single or absolute answer as to which is better. It’s true that there are advantages and disadvantages to each product. But the experience is unique for each person.

Therefore, someone who doesn’t feel comfortable “introducing” foreign objects into her body will avoid using a tampon or menstrual cup and will opt for the use of pads.

Finally, it’s worth clarifying that many times, we choose certain methods because we don’t know about others. So, it’s a good time to ask ourselves what we want to use during the days of menstruation and inform ourselves about the options.

Knowing your body is the starting point for making a good decision

Throughout this article, we’ve attempted to give an account of some of the methods that we can use throughout the period. However, it’s important to understand that the more we know about our bodies and our menstrual cycle, the better decisions we can make.

Menstrual health is important. And that’s why it’s necessary to recognize that the realities are very different when talking about a universal experience like menstruation, as, as we’ve seen, even the economic factor is a key component when choosing what to use during those days.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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  • Hennegan J, Winkler IT, Bobel C, Keiser D, Hampton J, Larsson G, Chandra-Mouli V, Plesons M, Mahon T. Menstrual health: a definition for policy, practice, and research. Sex Reprod Health Matters. 2021 Dec;29. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33910492/
  • Prado-Galarza, Magdely, Doncel C, William Andrés, Mosquera B, Oscar Olmedo, & Guarnizo-Tole, Mildred. (2020). La copa menstrual, una alternativa de higiene femenina. Revisión de la literatura. Revista chilena de obstetricia y ginecología85(1), 99-109. https://dx.doi.org/10.4067/S0717-75262020000100099
  • UNICEF (2021). U-Report: Desafíos que enfrentan las adolescentes en su gestión
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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.