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Does wearing menstrual cups increase the risk of toxic shock syndrome? Let’s find out

There is a developing myth linking usage of menstrual cups and toxic shock syndrome. A gynaecologist helps us understand if there’s any truth to it.
menstrual cup
A medical expert sheds light on the link between toxic shock syndrome and wearing menstrual cups. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Team Health Shots Updated: 5 Oct 2021, 18:26 pm IST
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Women on periods rely on many menstrual products to manage the period discharge and blood. There are a number of conventionally used products such as sanitary napkins and tampons available in the market. Recently, there has been a trend of using menstrual cups, which is a menstrual hygiene device, inserted into the vagina during periods, to collect menstrual fluid.

Along with the increased adoption of menstrual cups, there is also a growing myth related to a link between using wearables such as menstrual cups and toxic shock syndrome. This myth is making women wary of using the ‘cup’ to manage menstrual fluids.

To better understand the particulars of toxic shock syndrome and its association with menstrual cups, we spoke to Dr. Sunita Varma, Director, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Fortis Hospital Shalimar Bagh.

menstrual cup
Many are under the impression that menstrual cups can cause toxic shock syndrome! Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Origin of this myth

Dr Varma stated that, if properly used, menstrual cups will not lead to the development of toxic shock syndrome. She adds, “Certain tampons were known to cause this syndrome due to their highly absorbent nature, leading to an infection caused by bacteria, primarily Staphylococcus and Streptococcus.” Due to the bacteria driven nature of the infection, it is also sometimes referred to as streptococcal toxic shock syndrome. Many people seem to be applying the same understanding to menstrual cups as well.

What happens when someone develops toxic shock syndrome?

The expert explained that this syndrome is essentially a bacterial infection caused by the spread of bacteria in the bloodstream, leading to sepsis.

Its symptoms include high fever, low blood pressure, mental confusion, and body rashes. Dr Varma added that patients can land up in the ICU as the condition progresses. She highlights how this could also be a life threatening condition. In some cases, toxic shock syndrome can impact major organs of the body, such as the liver, heart, and kidney.

menstrual cup
Menstrual cups are very safe to use. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Proper use of menstrual cup

As per Dr Varma, studies indicate that proper and hygienic use of a menstrual cup does not cause toxic shock syndrome, and any linkage between the two is a myth.

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She, however, emphasises that menstrual cup should not be used casually, and offers three key tips with regard to hygiene:

-Wash your hands regularly, especially before and after using the menstrual cup.
-Clean and sterilise the menstrual cup, before and after its usage.
-Follow hygiene measures or instructions displayed on the product packaging by the manufacturer.

Dr Varma informs us that if these hygiene measures are followed properly, then using a menstrual cup is very safe.

So, ladies, be mindful of the tips and insights offered by Dr Varma, and take good care of your menstrual hygiene.

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