Lancet Study Claims Menstrual Cups Are Safer, Healthier & Totally Harmless; Plus Its 100% Eco-Friendly 

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Till date, these were being advertised as a sustainable and more convenient alternative to sanitary napkins or tampons. But, now menstrual cups can perhaps be hailed as the medically-approved best option for menstrual hygiene, as per the latest study published in the acclaimed journal The Lancet

So far, the opinions of women about menstrual cups have been quite divided about the menstrual cup. While a group of conscious users are enjoying its benefits and actively advocating its use, a lot of women are still averse to the idea of the cup, mostly due to the notion of it being unsafe, uncomfortable and harmful for vaginal health. 

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The Report Collated Findings Of 43 Studies

However, the Lancet report can put all the myths and misconceptions to rest. It corroborated the findings of 43 studies across both low-income and middle-income countries to arrive at the conclusion that “menstrual cups are a safe option for menstruation management and are being used internationally.”

The report explored the capacity and feasibility of the menstrual cups on a variety of parameters like leakage, acceptability, and safety and availability. The introduction to the study clearly emphasises the need for safe and affordable menstrual hygiene products for women across the globe.

Menstrual Cup Has Been There Since 1930s

The hype around the menstrual cup is fairly a recent development, with more and more women searching for sustainable menstrual alternatives, but the product itself has been around for many years, even in the 1930s, especially in Western countries. However, the lack of finesse in the initial designs was a roadblock to its popularity, states a report by National Public Radio.

The present menstrual cups available in the market are much more advanced in design and convenience. Made of medical-grade silicone, latex or rubber, these cups are meant to be inserted inside the vagina. The cup acts as a receptacle and can hold menstrual blood for upto 8 to 12 hours, depending on its quality and capacity. It can be removed, washed and put back in again.

 

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The study has also found menstrual cups to be more leak-proof then pads or tampons, while also lasting for a longer duration.

Ideally, one menstrual cup can last comfortably up to ten years for a woman, thereby drastically bringing down a woman’s average expense on menstrual hygiene. At the same time, it can save the planet from a huge load of trash from pads and tampons, each of which takes up to 500-800 years to decompose.

No Rash – No Trash – No Cash

“No, there is no pain in keeping the cup in your vagina for a long time. True, initially one might feel its presence but after using it a few times, it almost becomes a part of your body,” reveals Dr Meenakshi Ramoo Bharath, a veteran gynaecologist from Bengaluru, who pioneered the Green The Red campaign for menstrual hygiene.

Since the cup is not absorbing the blood like tampons or pads, it prevents any foul smell which occurs due to chemical reactions with the superabsorbents. Also, it prevents any sort of rash or irritation arising from excess chemicals in the pads. “It is the No Rash – No Trash – No Cash way of maintaining menstrual hygiene,” she remarks.

“For the past four years, we have been advocating the use of menstrual cups to all women. Finally, this Lancet report is going to give the concept the credibility it long needed,” she asserts.

 

Global Experts Appreciate The Study

Recently, quite a number of non-profit foundations across the world have started distributing menstrual cups among women in marginalised communities with limited access to menstrual hygiene products. For them, menstrual cups are way cheaper and easier to use than primitive options like rags or even hay and charcoal.

Though some communities still continue to view menstrual cups as a cultural violation for young women due to its penetrative usage, experts feel that the Lancet study can put their debates to rest.

In a conversation with The Hindu, Dr Penelope Philips-Howard from Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine lauded this study as a trailblazer. She mentioned that at a time when 1.9 billion women are menstruating around the globe, such a detailed, comparative analysis of all menstrual hygiene products was the need of the hour.

This comprehensive report published in an esteemed medical journal like The Lancet is ought to give menstrual cup the limelight it truly deserves. If you are yet to make the bold switch from the itchy, chemical-laden napkins, now you have no more reason to hesitate.

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MyStory: “Two Months After I Joined IIT For My PhD I Was Diagnosed With TB”

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A person suffering from Tuberculosis (TB) not only battles the ‘Mycobacterium tuberculosis’ bacteria inside his lungs but also from the stigma attached to the disease. It weakens the patients in many different ways in their fight against the dreaded disease.  

My fight with TB was also filled with stigma. I joined IIT Kharagpur for my PhD in January 2015. Two months later, in March 2015, I was diagnosed with TB. I had to take sick leave from March 2015 that eventually lasted till June 2016. Initially, I did not respond well to medication. Further tests revealed that I had multidrug-resistant TB (MDR TB). This meant that the type of TB I had was resistant to two or more of the antitubercular medication I was taking.

About a year after the intensive phase of my treatment, I felt better and applied for readmission to IIT in July 2016. A prerequisite for rejoining was that my faculty members had to verify my application. With the formalities completed, I resumed my education, but I felt that something was amiss. 

My guide indicated that he did not want his work to suffer on account of my illness. I also heard from a senior colleague that my guide had said that I would spread the disease like an ‘infested animal’. I was disheartened at being subjected to this indignity by my supposed mentor.

However, my primary concern was defeating TB, so I didn’t dwell on it. Today, as I reflect on it, I realise the reasons behind the stigma were ignorance as well as fear.

Even among the educated, there are misconceptions about TB. People think all forms of TB are contagious. Others believe the patient is infectious for the entire length of the treatment. Some even believe that TB spreads through touch. This breeds the fear of contracting the illness.

As we know, people stigmatise and discriminate when they fear. I felt the impact of the stigma on two levels – in my professional life and my personal life.

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Professionally, the reluctance of my supervisor to mentor me and his discouragement affected me. I could not decide whether I should wait for the IIT authorities to tell me to leave or drop out. That decision was made for me by luck when I found out that my CSIR grant application was never processed. 

This meant that I would have to pay for my education. Given the expenditure on my treatment, this was unaffordable for me. This was the final nail in the coffin. I was forced to drop out and could not go back to completing my PhD.

What I faced was not technically illegal. I was discouraged from doing my PhD, but it was still a form of stigma. The external stigma I faced led to depression and isolation. 

Eventually, I realised I had to fight. The treatment for TB is difficult, requiring strict compliance and the management of side effects, and these demands resolve. I began motivating myself. I began following a proper diet and completing my treatment to ensure I could recover. I also turned to books as they transported me to other worlds and helped with my isolation. I also focused on reviving my old relationships.

Gradually, things improved. I could not proceed on my desired career path, but I am an educator now. I constantly realise that I have a role to play in shaping young minds. 

Workplace stigma has tangible consequences. It affects an individual’s career, financial opportunities and their right to work with dignity. So what can we do to address this stigma? 

First, we need to sensitise people by educating them about TB, and the impact stigma has on patients.

Another measure is group counselling involving the patient, the employer and the immediate supervisor. Informal versions of these sessions happen in the workplace in the context of illnesses like cancer. Why should it be any different for TB? 

The goal of this session would be to ensure that the patient is in a supportive environment. 

Finally, at a systemic level, there needs to be a workplace policy on stigma mitigation and a mechanism where the patients can anonymously register their concerns about stigma at the workplace.

A person’s career or job is often their calling and a provider of financial security. Workplace stigma creates a hostile work environment, affecting a person’s ability to do their job and their financial security. Financial insecurity and stigma make it harder for the patient to fight TB both in terms of means and motivation. Therefore, addressing stigma in the workplace is critical to patient well-being and recovery but also to their right to work with dignity.

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It's not how much we give
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- Mother Theresa Quote
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