I discussed the increase in women choosing sustainable, reusable menstruation products over disposable pads and tampons. In this article, we look at the different types of non-throw-away items that can be used during menstruation, and the benefits and downsides of each in addition to the aspects of sustainability, health and cost-effectiveness.
We look at some more of the available products and their pros and cons for all women.
Made from healthcare-grade silicone, these devices are used to be inserted, collect menstrual blood, then emptied and washed before being reused. They come in two different sizes, for women who have and women who have not been through childbirth and can last for years. They come in a variety of styles and brands, but the general idea is they are a leak-proof funnel-shaped with a stem for removal.
- Long-lasting. They average between $30-40 a cup, however, one cup can see you through many years of use.
- Low-irritant. The materials they are made from suit sensitive individuals and leave you more naturally lubricated than tampons which draw away moisture.
- No laundry. Washing is as simple as rinsing in a sink.
- No odour. Unlike pads, the cup prevents blood from coming into contact with oxygen and thus does not generate a scent.
- Convenience when active. When inserted correctly the cup is unnoticeable and allows you to wear whilst playing sports, swimming and bathing without being disrupted.
- Insertion and removal. You have to feel comfortable inserting the cup, and it can take some practice to get the technique right. The same goes for removal. The instructions that accompany commercial cups, however, address the insertion and removal techniques adequately. It just takes a little practice.
- Washing. The cup does require you to wash it. This is convenient when home, but when in a public place can prove inconvenient. Some users state that when out, they may just empty into a toilet then reinsert. Others will choose an alternate product to use when out for long periods of time.
Most Popular Brands of Menstrual Cups:
- Diva Cup
- Moon Cup
- Ruby Cup
Sea Sponge Tampons
Not entirely re-usable, but still more sustainable than disposable tampons, sea sponges can be used for 3-5 cycles. They are used like a tampon. You moisten them with clean water before use, insert, leave for 4-6 hours akin to a regular tampon, and then remove and rinse out with water before reinserting.
- Activity. You can swim, shower, bathe, be as active as you like (even *ahem* “do the deed” should you feel so inclined) whilst wearing a sea sponge. They are as versatile as a tampon (or even moreso).
- Biodegradable. Sea sponges are 100% biodegradable. Once they’ve exceeded their lifetime, they can simply be tossed in the compost.
- Natural. They are good for women who wish to use tampons yet without the risk of irritation. They also help to maintain a natural level of moisture, as they are pre-wet before insertion and do not draw away moisture like regular tampons.
- Limited use. They are not 100% reusable in the sense they need to be disposed of after 3-5 months. Yet at around $12-15 for a set of 2 (approx. 8 months supply), they are still much more cost effective than disposable tampons.
- Washing. Similar to the Menstrual Cups, sea sponges need a place to be rinsed out.
- Derived from animal products. Sea sponges are not a plant nor coral. They are technically an animal that exists without a brain or nervous system. This may not coincide with some people’s lifestyle choices when it comes to using animal products.
The sponges are just the natural sort you can purchase from your local chemist to apply makeup – there isn’t anything special about the ‘tampon’ varieties.
The Interlabial Pad is kind of a cross between a pad and a tampon. The pad is worn externally and are used for both menstruation and for light bladder leakage. They are leaf-shaped and worn length-wise between the labia. They come in various shapes and sizes and can be washed and re-used.
- Can be re-used over and over. One interlabial pad would probably last a good two years.
- They are apparently very comfortable.
- Interlabial Pads cannot be used whilst swimming
- Not able to be used for heavy bleeding (ie first day of period or after birth).