On the 18th of April, 2019, members of a prominent Facebook group woke up to some shocking news: the 21K+ strong group Sustainable Menstruation India (SMI) was being closed down on a whim. This was a group created by women and for women to support those who wanted to switch to reusable period products like menstrual cups and cloth pads. It was closed down with just a note that the founder Preethi Sukumaran left for the members to read. Our founder Priyanka Nagpal Jain joined SMI in 2015 when it was in its nascent stage, to help members with their queries regarding menstrual cup use. At that point in time, Priyanka had already been using cups for nearly a decade. This provided her the subject matter expertise and the ability to answer almost any questions the fledgling members had.
Consequently, through her discussions on the group, Priyanka realized that not every woman was comfortable with the idea of an internal period product. In fact, she went on to create her own brand of cloth pads and period underwear, SochGreen, later on.
Over the years, SMI turned into a bustling group thanks to media attention. Priyanka and several other members of Green the Red (or GTR, a volunteer-led group for eco-friendly periods) recommended SMI during all their events. However, they received several complaints that the joining requests of new members were not getting approved for weeks, sometimes even months. Thus, Priyanka started Menstrual Cups Cloth Pads (MCCP), a Facebook group to handhold women through their reusable period products’ journey. As of now, MCCP is a thriving group with 7k+ plus members, and several important FAQs, videos, quizzes, comparison charts, and documents are available for new members.
Cut to mid-April of 2019, we were greeted by the unilateral decision taken by the creator of the group to shut down the entire group. Apart from causing severe confusion, we believe such a one-sided decision only undoes the countless hours of work women like Priyanka and other members of GTR have put in towards pooling their collective knowledge of the subject. It’s taken nearly a decade for all these women to put the word out and earn the trust of thousands of women in India; all this has been brought down with one single stroke. A single stroke that does not back up any of its claims with scientific information. We are also appalled at the lack of a good debate; many women on the group came forward to take up the admin-ship of the group if Preethi wasn’t willing to do so anymore. Also, as the name suggested, Sustainable Menstruation India was providing support not only for menstrual cups but even cloth pads and period underwear. We believe Preethi Sukumaran could have passed on the baton to others, instead of closing down an entire group.
As a platform that has been at the forefront of women’s reproductive health in India, we at Hygiene and You, dismantle some of the points that Preethi Sukumaran makes about the use of menstrual cups.
The Issues at Hand
In her long post on the group, Preethi writes that “some of them (women) spoke were experiencing altered, lower blood flow levels.” Let’s take a minute to understand this. When women use pads of any kind, there is a constant sensation of the blood flowing and settling on to the pad; this makes women ‘feel’ the flow more. Also, visually, blood on pads appear to be more simply because it’s spread on a larger surface area. These two aspects have no correlation to the actual amount of blood lost.
It is also a known fact that the menstrual cup collects blood from a relatively higher position; thereby, reducing the time it takes for the blood to make its way out of the body. This also means that the cycle may appear to have “shortened” when one uses a menstrual cup.
Next, Preethi writes about how some women suffered from leaks. There are several different reasons for why a cup could leak. The cup may not have suctioned properly; the cup may not have been placed properly; the cup may not be facing the cervix; the cup may be of the wrong size for the user; the cup may have overflown on heavy flow days… the reasons are endless. There are ways to fix cup leakage issues. You can try different folds and different methods of insertion. You can also empty it sooner on heavy-flow days to avoid leakage. One of our popular videos, in fact, explains why menstrual cups could leak and what the potential solutions are. The fact that a menstrual cup may sometimes leak has nothing to do with the uterus or its functions.
Further, Preethi brings up the issue of infections. Infections in the private parts are a known concern among women. They can happen for a variety of reasons. In fact, many women have reported to us that their experience with infections has reduced after using cups as the use of cups does not cause irritation, dryness, and rashes. Even if a woman were to experience infection while using a menstrual cup, the menstrual cup may not be the reason. Remember, correlation is NOT equal to causation.
The next point that Preethi makes is that the use of menstrual cups “could potentially dry out delicate vaginal muscle…” We all know that the menstrual cup is an inert object and DOES NOT absorb any menstrual flow or vaginal discharge. All it does is collect the blood. Therefore, this point about menstrual cups drying out the vagina is moot. We also spoke to Dr. Shaibya Saldanha, a gynaecologist with over 20 years of professional experience, regarding Preethi’s claims. Dr. Saldanha says, “People have been using even tampons for many years, without any side effects. If used correctly, there should be no side effects.”
Preeti also claims that according to Ayurveda and Siddha, using cups are harmful in the long run. She writes, “Specifically the free flow of apana vayu is vital to women’s health and well being – when this is blocked by devices like cups, there is an increase in issues like PCOS / PCOD, infertility and on a smaller level bloating, cramps, etc.” To this, our gynecologist Dr. Saldanha says, “The negative effect of using menstrual cups is unlikely as the possibility of blood flow back into the uterine cavity is difficult. Even sperm has to actively swim its way up into the uterine cavity and can not flow upwards into the cavity. Also, the vaginal cavity has a milieu which actively prevents infection as it is open to the external atmosphere.” Since blood cannot technically flow back into the uterus, cysts in the ovaries (in the cases of PCOD and PCOS) cannot be caused due to menstrual cup use. And as reiterated before, a woman can have PCOD, PCOS, and infertility; however, there is no evidence to suggest that this could be caused by the use of an inert, silicone object that is inside the vagina for only 3-5 days of the month.
Now that we have debunked the points that Preethi Sukumaran raises in her post, there is no reason to believe in the “potential harm” that menstrual cups could cause. What it definitely shows is the lack of scientific research in the area of women’s reproductive health and the need for enough evidence-based studies to counter claims made by people.
Menstrual cups have been lauded by almost every woman who has used them. The comfort that the use of cups is life-changing for women; Preethi’s suggestion of using cloth pads may not be the ideal solution for every woman. At Hygiene and You, we believe that our job is to equip women with all the resources they need to make the right decision for themselves. You may want to use a menstrual cup, someone else may want to use a cloth pad, and someone may feel most comfortable in period underwear. Ultimately, it’s up to the woman to make the choice for her own health, safety, and comfort.
There already exists a 7K+ strong Facebook group – Menstrual Cups, Cloth Pads; if you want to assist anyone in making the switch to the cup, please add them to this group.
If anyone is interested in comparing all the different cups available in the market, they can find our cup comparison chart here.
If you require a suggestion about which menstrual cup is the best for yourself, please take this quiz on our website.
We also have comparison charts and quizzes for cloth pads as well as period underwear. They can be found on our website.
If you have any more concerns or queries, please drop us a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Attached below is Preethi Sukumaran’s post.
Preethi Sukumaran’s Note in the Group
Admin · 18 April at 00:03
CRITICAL: permanent closure of this group
I started this group to talk about and provide support for those wanting a cleaner and greener period in 2014. At that time, we had very few pad options and cups were non existent.
I was never a fan of cups , preferring to use cloth pads. The benefits of using a reusable option like cloth pads were immense, and I started reaching out and speaking and writing more about it.
As the interest around this movement grew, voices started to rise talking about how inconvenient cloth pads were in comparison to disposables and cups started to get promoted as a better option – not fuss, no mess, no washing / drying.
As my study and understanding of Ayurveda grew, my discomfort around cups grew. I sounded off these concerns with Ayurvedic practitioners, siddha experts, homeopaths, practicing naturopaths, etc.
I also began hearing from cup users who experienced concerns ( a small number). Some of them spoke about experiencing altered, lower blood flow levels. Some suffered from leaks. Some also developed certain infections conditions.
Infection is always the bugbear quoted against sustainable practices. Any remotely traditional practice like using a cloth pad is dubbed unhygienic. The entire movement of sustainable menstruation suffers due to the poor portrayal of the practice by disposable product promoters.
But hygiene is not the problem in the case of cups – not if we practice care.
Te bigger problem I believe will come our way is due to the insertion of a blood collection device which minutely alters the free flow of menstrual blood, could potentially dry out delicate vaginal muscle and also subtly alters the strength of the action of the uterus as it pumps out blood.
Please note that we are speaking about subtle altering actions. We may not see the effects of this right away. But I am concerned that we would come to see some ill effects over time.
When I go through this group, I see the most excitement and happiness over cup conversion. Many of you have invested time, effort and research over cups. You have made it work for you. And then proceeded to convince others.
But this doesn’t take away from the fact that I believe this practice is harmful and dangerous.
Now that I have concluded this, the options available to me are clear.
I cannot continue to nurture / promote/ support a platform that encourages a choice which I believe is harmful and potentially dangerous.
Therefore this group will be winding down. Transitioning to cloth pads is easy and a no-brainer. This requires minimal support Support is only needed in cups where there is now a large array of choices of brands, sizes, fits etc.
As an immediate step (within a day / two), we will begin by making this an archived group. In this format no new content or members can be added but existing members can go through the content.
I will begin the process of deleting members from May 1st onwards. I expect to be able to shut down this group in 2-3 weeks post this.
I would like to thank all the previous admins, members and every one who has contributed to this group and helping grow this movement.
I hope my intentions behind closing this group is well understood. To reiterate, the cup movement has grown phenomenally based on groups and fora like this one. But it is clear from the first principles of good health as outlined by Ayurveda and Siddha that this practice is harmful in the long run. Specifically the free flow of apana vayu is vital to women’s health and well being – when this is blocked by devives like cups, there is an increase in issues like PCOS / PCOD, infertility and on a smaller level bloating, cramps, etc.
With this information, I do not wish to support a forum which is now primarily devoted to menstrual cups.
Why this dramatic action of closing this group?
I sincerely believe that unless such dramatic action is taken, those using cups will NOT be able to understand the severity of the problems. Only such a dramatic action will make people think and re-consider this choice.
I feel that this dramatic action of closing this group will lead to people re-examining their cup choice – if by this even if one of you finds a positive improvement in your health and well being, I would be happy.
If you are a cup user: do take a moment to re-read what I have said with an open mind. Please consult an Ayurvedic vaidya to take a second opinion.
Cloth pads are a safe, time tested, reusable and are a truly green and environmentally sustainable option. There are no risks or issues associated with them. Please do think about this option.
My best wishes to everyone: I wish you continue to have a healthy and truly green period.