Sea Sponges, Diva Cups, The Keeper- Oh My!

Okay, I’ll admit it. My sexual health education group is a little bit obsessed with menstruation. Not in a creepy way, we just love informing everyone on campus about exactly what is happening down south during that time of the month. Along with the hormonal mumbo jumbo, we also like to talk about menstrual alternatives. Here are some fun facts to get started:

  • 70% of the US population uses tampons
  • The average woman will menstruate for 39 years, which means 500 cycles and over 10,000 pads or tampons used in a lifetime
  • If the cost of a box of tampons is about $4, and you go through a box with each cycle, you end up spending close to $2600 on tampons/pads in your lifetime
  • Standard pads and tampons are made with non-organic cotton which can often contain pesticides and synthetic fibers such as rayon

Now, if you’re comfortable and happy using tampons, don’t let these facts deter you. Women have been using tampons for years, and they are approved by the FDA. However, if you want to hear more, well, that’s what I’m here for.

There is another way!

Absorbers

  • Sea Sponges- Image Courtesy of GlobalEnfant.com

  • Sea Sponges: Yes, these are actually sea sponges. From the sea.They work by absorbing menstrual blood like a tampon would. You simply insert the smalsponge into your vagina, and leave it there for a good 4-6 hours. You need to rinse out the sponge before reinsertion, and disinfect it before the beginning of each cycle (a good boil will do). Sea sponges can be found at any health food store (Whole Foods is good) or online, and cost about $6 each. Lasting between 6 and 12 months each, that saves you a solid $40, and helps save the environment just a little bit.
  • Disposable Organic Pads/Tampons: These are basically exactly what they sound like. While better for your body, they are slightly more expensive than their non-organic alternatives- about $5.50 a box.
  • Reusable Pads: Again, these are just what they sound like. Reusable pads are made of cotton, and usually have two components: a special absorber and changeable liners. When you’re done, you just do a cold pre-rinse and then wash them in the laundry. They come in fun colors, and though pricey at first (about $17 dollars each), save you money in the long run.

Catchers

  • The Keeper: The name says it all. The Keeper is a small, rubber cup that is worn internally that catches rather than absorbs menstrual blood. After each use, you simply dump and rinse the cup. This is tough to do in a dorm setting, since the bathrooms are public, so I recommend dumping in the toilet and rinsing in the privacy of your shower. The Keeper and other menstrual cups can be left in for up to 12 hours. When inserted correctly at the base of the cervix, you won’t even feel it inside of you. Jade and Pearl (a great website for all of the products mentioned in this post) sells The Keeper for about $35, and considering it lasts up to 10 years, is extremely cost-effective.

    Diva Cup- Image courtesy of divacup.com

  • The Diva Cup/Moon Cup: These are catcher cups like The Keeper, but latex-free.
  • The Instead Cup: This catcher cup is similar to The Keeper/Diva/Moon Cups, but this one is not reusable. It can be left in for 12 hours before being replaced. They are sold in packs of 12 for around $5, so the cost is somewhat comparable to that of tampons/pads. The major benefit of the Instead Cup is that because it is smaller than the other catchers, it can be worn during sexual intercourse. Another benefit of catchers in general is that unlike the cotton in tampons, they don’t dry you of your natural vaginal secretions.

And there they are! If you know of any other menstrual alternatives, please comment, as I’d love to learn more. Also, if you have any questions about the products, I’d be happy to answer them to the best of my ability.

About Michaela

Michaela

Michaela is a recent Seven Sisters graduate with a self-designed degree in Sexuality Studies. When she's not blogging, you'll find her teaching Health and Wellness and A Cappella to high school students, helping women find properly fitting bras, and working as an editor on a documentary. She hopes to continue her education one day with a PhD in Feminist Anthropology.

  • http://www.gladrags.com Alexandria

    Thank you so much for this article! I work at gladrags.com which sells reusable pads, cups, and the sponges and love it when people spread the word about reusable menstrual products as they are better for you and the environment (and tons cheaper!).
    Just a quick note on the sponges– It is not recommended that you boil them as this will decrease their lifetime. As the jade and pearl website says “Do not boil your sponges! Boiling makes the sponge denser and more absorbent, but it also shrinks and toughens the sponge, thus shortening its useful lifetime.” Instead it is recommended that you soak them in a mixture (you can see them on the jade and pearl or gladrags FAQ pages) for about 15 minutes.
    Thanks again! I love all of these but the Keeper is my favorite! So clean and its the cheapest.

  • Guest

     Uh… this is awesome!