Do you work for a charity, non-profit, or relief effort focused on women’s health globally? We regularly receive inquiries about providing menstrual cups to support great causes, and want to address that here. We applaud initiatives dedicated to assisting women living in developing countries, disaster zones, etc. with accessing menstrual hygiene products; it’s an important problem, and one which we are very sympathetic to. Unfortunately, have made it a policy not to offer free Moon Cups or a wholesale option for charities and non-profits working in the developing world, due to the fact that menstrual cups are not actually a safe option for most women living in developing countries.
While we can understand the appeal as a potential solution, due to the cost-effectiveness and zero-waste nature of menstrual cups, they simply aren’t a viable one. We’ve summarized the main reasons for not offering Moon Cups to causes like this below. We hope it will be informative and thought provoking for anyone interested in these issues.
The underlying problem with providing menstrual cups to women in the developing world is that most places, especially rural ones, do not have reliable access to sterile water. Cups need to be emptied and then washed out before reinsertion, multiple times per day. This is so that bacteria do not grow in residual menstrual blood and cause infection. Unfortunately, unless you’re washing a cup out with clean water, bacteria and other pathogens present in the water supply can be transferred to the body. The vagina is a perfect environment for such pathogens to multiply, and because it is a mucus membrane, it is also one of the most vulnerable parts of the body for infections to start in.
A related issue is that most women in the developing world work physically with their hands, which means they are often less clean than would be ideal for handling any insertable menstrual hygiene product (applicator-less tampons or menstrual cups). Because they may not have the option of washing their hands as often, or using as clean water (and soap) as necessary to prevent the growth of bacteria, they may transfer pathogens from their hands to their menstrual products, which can then be dangerous if inserted into the body.
For anyone interested in reading more, we point you in the direction of this excellent article from an organization which focuses on menstrual health for rural Indian women. The article goes into more detail about what they deem suitable or unsuitable as far as menstrual hygiene options go. Although we are absolutely in favor of finding solutions for menstruating women in developing countries, we do not believe menstrual cups are the right choice for women in this kind of situation.
In our experience of travelling to developing countries, The Moon Cup team members have personally chosen not use a menstrual cup while there. Even staying in nice accommodations with a running water supply, we didn’t trust the safety of it to clean such an intimate item. We feel that if we wouldn’t use a cup while travelling for a relatively brief period of time, we certainly wouldn’t be comfortable offering our cups to women living in similar areas. So although some menstrual cup companies may agree to provide cups to initiatives for women in the developing world because it is good PR for them, The Moon Cup will not participate in such ventures, as we feel we would be potentially hurting more than helping these women by doing so.