Menstrual cup improved work efficiency, ensured privacy, and greater mobility: ARTH study

A report, ‘Why India needs to move beyond sanitary pads’ by Action Research and Training for Health (ARTH), revealed that menstrual cups were accepted by 84.4% of 784 women in rural Rajasthan.

Menstrual cup improved work efficiency, ensured privacy, and greater mobility: ARTH study

Monday June 05, 2023,

4 min Read

Renowned scientist, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, released a report on the occasion of World Environment Day—'Why India needs to move beyond sanitary pads’—which focuses on the use of menstrual cups as a method for managing menstrual hygiene.

According to the report, users shared their experience of using the cup, and most women found that the menstrual cup helped them “improve their work efficiency, ensure privacy, and greater mobility.”

This was indicated through meetings with 784 women by ARTH field staff. These women purchased cups between January 2022 and March 2023. Around 84.4% of them had used it for all of the last three months, while a small number had used it for only one or two of the last three cycles.

The 784 women included 109 adolescent purchasers, of whom 83.5% used the cup, while the rest used pads, cloth, and a combination of the two.

The report, brought out by Action Research and Training for Health (ARTH), was released during a webinar titled 'Sustainable Menstrual Hygiene Options', hosted by ARTH and Population Foundation of India.

Speaking on the occasion, Swaminathan said, “The report estimates that a woman generates around 14.1 kg of non-biodegradable waste in a lifetime if she uses commercially manufactured disposable sanitary pads."

"On the other hand, if she uses menstrual cups she will generate .06 kg of non-biodegradable waste. This reduces the generation of total non-biodegradable waste by 99% and is an example of a win-win intervention that is good for the environment and good for health and hygiene,” she added.

She added that menstrual cups are practical, hygienic, and cost-effective and more women needed to know about them and myths around their use need to be busted.

The webinar also included young women who shared their experiences of leading initiatives for menstrual hygiene and cloth pad accessibility in their respective communities.

According to National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) (2019-21), as many as 77% of girls and women (89% in urban areas and 72% in rural areas) in the 15-24 years age group were using a hygienic method for managing menstruation.

In this regard, ARTH has successfully introduced menstrual cups in two districts of Rajasthan as part of a documented study, the findings of which were shared at the webinar.

The study analysed various methods available for menstrual hygiene management and the urgent need to expand to sustainable and reusable methods, benefitting both women and the environment.

Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director of the Population Foundation of India, pointed out the cost-effectiveness and long-lasting nature of menstrual cups. However, she urged the need to undertake communication campaigns with communities to support the use of menstrual cups.

“Evidence shows that women who transitioned from locally made cloth pads to cups experienced high levels of satisfaction. Promoting cups as a method of menstrual hygiene management along with other options like pads and tampons will offer choice to women and let them choose a method that they prefer to use,” she said.

The ARTH report states that pads are the most used method as these have been widely promoted by the corporate sector and distributed free or subsidised by the government. It notes that pads consist of 49% polymers and disposal of used pads remains a problem. Only two Indian cities—Pune and Bengaluru—separate menstrual waste during routine garbage collection.

The recommended methods for treating and disposing of used pads include the use of incinerators, deep burial, composting, and pit burning. However, not doing this can lead to negative health and environmental impacts. The study also observes that tampons—with 10% non-biodegradable content—are not reusable.

Making a case for menstrual cups, the report states that cups have been available since the 1930s, and are sold under various brand names in the market and on ecommerce sites. Made of medical-grade silicon, the cup does not break down into microplastics.

In July 2019, ARTH introduced menstrual cups, called RituCup, to rural women through a network of 630 trained community health entrepreneurs (CHEs). Promoted over three-and-a-half years, as many as 5,695 cups were purchased by women in Udaipur and Rajsamand districts till March 2023.

Edited by Suman Singh