Ask the Sexpert: Alternative Menstrual Products

Cotton pads are one of the many eco-friendly period products now available. Sea sponge tampons are another option

Cotton pads are one of the many eco-friendly period products now available. Sea sponge tampons are another option

What’s the deal with all of the new “go green” feminine hygiene products? Should I start using them instead of normal tampons and pads?

    Some menstruators decide to use alternative menstrual products for a variety of reasons, which include avoiding chemicals in common pads and tampons, saving costs of common pads and tampons and/or to create less waste through reusable or natural products. For instance, testing has found that both scented and unscented Always pads contain toxic chemicals such as carcinogens and reproductive toxins. For more information on this topic, the Women’s Voices for the Earth website is a great resource.

Types of alternative menstrual products include organic and disposable pads and tampons, reusable menstrual pads, menstrual cups and sea sponges. Let’s go through what each of these products are, including some reputable brands.

    Organic and disposable pads and tampons are as convenient as commonly sold pads and tampons, but they are made from more natural materials and have far less chemicals. They are about the same price as most non-organic, disposable options. Some brands of organic and disposable pads and tampons include Natracare, Seventh Generation and Organyc.

Reusable pads were historically used before the invention and sale of the common, disposable pads and tampons that we typically see in grocery stores. A reusable pad consists of a removable liner on a holder with clips/buttons/velcro that keep the pad in place. They are sold in a variety of materials, colors, sizes, patterns, absorbances and styles. Pads cost somewhere between $12 and $20 and can last between five and 10 years depending on usage, care and brand. Reusable pads should be changed at the same frequency of a disposable pad. To clean the pad, soak it in cold water and then machine or hand wash. Brands of reusable pads include GladRags, Lunapads & Lunaundies and Party in My Pants.

    Menstrual cups are reusable and flexible cups that are folded while inserted and worn internally. This is an alternative to a tampon that catches and holds blood rather than absorbing it and can hold about one ounce of blood. While wearing a menstrual cup, you can participate in the same activities you can while wearing a tampon. During your cycle, the menstrual cup should to be emptied every eight to 12 hours and washed with warm water and mild, unscented, water-based soap. After your cycle is over, boil your cup in water for five to 10 minutes. Your menstrual cup should be stored in a breathable container. While most menstrual cups cost about $20 to $30, they can last up to 10 years depending on usage, care and brand.  Some brands of menstrual cups include: DivaCup, Evacup and Softcup (one cup is required per period for Softcup).

     Sea sponge tampons are a natural, biodegradable, reusable alternative to disposable tampons. They do not use an applicator but are inserted with fingers, worn internally and absorb blood just like typically used tampons. Sea sponge tampons need to be changed every few hours during your cycle. They come in different sizes and absorbances. A pack of two sea sponge tampons typically costs around $20 to $25 and last for six to 10 months. Before initial use, boil in water for 10 minutes or wash thoroughly, and then during your cycle clean monthly with water and mild, unscented soap. Brands of sea sponge tampons include Sea Pearls and Jam Sponge (in the UK).

I hope this information helps you understand the variety of menstrual products available and helps you choose the menstrual products that make you feel most comfortable.

With love,