Reviewed by Ogbo Godfrey
Eco-friendly menstrual products that are suitable for women are: Menstrual Cups, Sea Sponge Tampons, and Menstrual Discs.
Menstruation is one of the most natural acts that women experience all over the world. The difficulty in experiences varies for women individually, and it doesn’t help that conventional menstrual products that should ease the stress of periods, aren’t good for use.
This article provides a detailed outline of the various available eco-friendly menstrual products, their advantages, disadvantages, and use.
1. Menstrual Cups
Women have sought for devices that can help the menstruation period. In a world of environmental consciousness, menstruation products have been steered towards a more eco-friendly route, and more products have been manufactured to suit the needs of women.
One of these instruments that have gained tremendous popularity is the menstrual cup.
Menstrual cups are bell-shaped instruments that are constructed from rubber, medical-grade silicone, elastomer, or materials that are latex-free, and are reusable.
They collect menstruation fluid when they are inserted vaginally. It is very important for women to carefully select the proper material and size of a suitable menstrual cup.
The sizes can vary due to certain factors such as childbirth, age, and preference of material used to make the menstrual cup.
Menstrual cups aren’t just trends that come and go. They have maintained momentous popularity as they have become trendy alternatives to orthodox menstrual products like pads and tampons.
These elastic cups are designed to gather menstrual fluid and are quite sustainable. It can be reused over a long period of time and this contributes to a sustainable environment.
As more women switch to the purchase of eco-friendly menstrual products, the demand for menstrual cups is on the increase, and this prompts companies that produce disposable and non-biodegradable menstrual products to reanalyze the materials and process used for manufacturing such products.
This transition motivates the innovation of better eco-friendly menstrual products just like the menstrual cup.
As with all products, there are some benefits and drawbacks that ladies need to contemplate when selecting a particular product to oversee their menstrual care.
1. Environmentally friendly
Because menstrual cups can be reused frequently, it helps to reduce waste that is accumulated with the disposal of pads and tampons. It makes menstrual cups a more eco-friendly option, as they reduce the accumulation of waste that goes into landfills.
While the price of purchasing a menstrual cup initially may be high, especially when compared with the price of a pack of any disposable menstrual product, purchasing products monthly is eliminated because menstrual cups can be reused over and over again. This saves money long term for the sustainable woman.
Depending on the type of flow, women can wear menstrual cups for 10 hours and more. This is excellent for an active lifestyle as it equips women with longer security, and enables fewer bathroom trips, providing longer-lasting protection, ideal for active lifestyles.
4. Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)
Toxic Shock Syndrome is a condition that is commonly associated with the use of tampons. Menstrual cups collect blood much differently than tampons do. Hence, there is less risk of having TSS.
Menstrual cups are made in different types and sizes to accommodate the difference in body types, flows, and preference. This equips each individual with an intimate fit.
The odour that emits from menstrual products like pads, is mainly due to the exposure of the blood to air. Since menstrual cups are inserted into the vagina, odour is reduced significantly.
Menstrual cups can be worn for various activities like sleeping.
As mentioned earlier, the initial cost of purchasing a menstrual cup might dissuade some women, particularly those who have not used it before, or are skeptical about a particular brand.
Menstrual cups must be cleaned properly after each use and this can be a problem to those without access to clean water and somewhere private.
3. Difficulty in learning
Inserting and positioning a menstrual cup might prove difficult to some women, especially during the initial stages. It can take a bit of time and some practice to properly ace the technique.
Although there are various types and sizes for women, some may find it hard to find a menstrual cup that fits properly.
5. Difficulty in removal
There are times when the menstrual cup creates a suction and it seals against the walls of the vagina. This can be quite uncomfortable and it usually requires some effort to remove it.
6. Risk of infection
Menstrual cups need to be properly cleaned always; before, during, and after menstrual cycles. Failure to do so can encourage bacterial growth and cause infections. Proper maintenance of menstrual cups is crucial to prevent infection risks.
During periods when there are no private and clean spaces available, it can be messy to empty and clean a menstrual cup. In places such as public restrooms, it can be harder to change a menstrual cup as opposed to changing a tampon.
Are you ready to join the moving train of eco-friendly menstrual cups but are unsure of the proper insertion and care? Here is a step-by-step guide to help you.
Guide to insertion
- Before you insert your cup, thoroughly wash your hands with a hand wash or sanitize your hands.
- Menstrual cups are meant to be folded before insertion. There are different types of folds including the “7-fold,” “C-fold,” and “Punch-down fold.”
- While standing, squatting, or lying down, insert a folded cup into your vagina. The cup should be aimed in the direction of the tailbone, i.e, in a slanted direction.
- Once you are sure that the cup is properly inserted, the fold should be released to create a sealed barrier between your vagina walls.
- Use your fingers to run around the cup to be sure that it has sealed properly to prevent leakage. A cup that is inserted improperly will cause discomfort, so make sure it is properly placed.
Guide to removal
- Wash or sanitize your hands properly.
- Insert your finger into your vagina and gently press the cup’s side to release the suction.
- Remove the cup carefully and slightly tilt it to prevent spilling the fluid. Dispose of the fluid into the toilet and clean the cup.
Care of a menstrual cup
- For daily cleaning or in-between cleaning, the cup should be rinsed with cold water first and then washed with any mild soap and water.
- For monthly care, the cup should be completely immersed in boiling water for a short period of time after the menstrual cycle is concluded.
- Harsh chemicals like hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, or any scented soap or abrasive cleansers should not be used to clean the cup as they may damage the material used in designing it.
- Check for any signs of wear and tear in the cup. There should be a cup replacement if there is any notice of holes in the cup.
2. Sea Sponge Tampons
As new, sustainable and eco-friendly menstrual products are popping up, it shows how far we’ve improved in our quest to show our love for the environment.
One of the unique products that has come to stay are sea sponge tampons.
The materials for sponge tampons are derived from the ocean and are wonderful eco-friendly alternatives to conventional menstrual products.
Sponge tampons can be broken down easily when they are disposed of. This reduces the effect of debris accumulation in the environment.
Sponge tampons do not contain harsh chemicals, scents, and abrasive synthetic materials. This decreases the chances of allergic reactions, skin irritations, and discomfort.
A unique property of sponge tampons is their absorbance customization. Since they come in different sizes, it allows individuals to adjust the tampon to the fit that’s perfect for their flow. This encourages comfort and prevents fluid leak.
Unlike their disposable counterparts, sea sponges support reuse for several months as long as they are properly cared for. This reduces the need to purchase a menstrual product each month.
5. Natural and eco-friendly
Since sea sponge tampons are designed from the ocean depths, it aligns with eco-consciousness and is a sustainable product.
Like menstrual cups, sponge tampons have antibacterial properties which are natural and reduce the risk of bacteria that contribute to menstruation odour.
1. Difficulty in learning
It takes a bit of time to learn how to correctly use a sea sponge tampon. This can discourage new participants from using it long-term.
Sea sponge tampons need thorough sterilization in-between and after use to prevent the accumulation of bacteria.
The lifespan of sea sponges vary due to factors like hygiene practices, usage frequency, and maintenance. Although they last longer than traditional tampons, users should be ready to purchase a new one when needed.
4. Health conditions
Sponge tampons may not be for everyone. Individuals with specific medical conditions, allergies, or irritations/sensitivities should talk with a healthcare professional before purchasing them.
5. Difficulty in tampon removal
Unlike their counterparts, sponge tampons do not come with a string for easy removal. This can be discouraging for new users who might have difficulty in removing the tampon, although there are methods to overcome this worry.
Guide to insertion
- Choose the right sea sponge tampon that suits your flow. Use small tampons for days with lighter flow, and larger tampons for days with heavier flow.
- Slightly wet the sponge tampon to make it more flexible. Gently squeeze the sponge tampon to enable its compression and then insert it vaginally. Position it towards the lower part of the back and make sure it’s positioned comfortably inside.
- Change the tampon when it is almost full to prevent leak.
Guide to removal
- Wash hands before removal. Ensure that the tampon is removed after 4 to 6 hours.
- Ensure that your muscles are relaxed for easy removal.
- Pull on the sponge gently. If there’s difficulty, contract your vagina walls as though you’re about to take a dump and pull it out.
Care of sponge tampons
- The tampon should be washed and properly sterilized before using it.
- Rinse with cold or warm water until all residue is removed.
- Squeeze out the water excess and sterilize by submerging it in a mixture of vinegar and water or hydrogen peroxide.
- Air dry and store in a clean, dry, and airy container to maintain freshness.
- To ensure hygiene, older sponge tampons should be replaced with newer ones.
3. Menstrual Discs
Menstrual discs are round, flexible contraptions that fit below the cervix to collect fluid in a cup-shaped device. They share visual similarities with a saucer or a small round bowl.
Menstrual discs, just like the menstrual pad, have gained prominence in modern eco-friendly menstrual products.
1. Health benefits
Menstrual discs have fewer risks to the health than pads and tampons. Since it collects fluid rather than absorbing it, it prevents irritation and dryness.
They are not likely to induce allergies as they are produced from materials that are hypoallergenic.
Menstrual discs are practically invisible when inserted and they can last up to 12 hours in the body.
This time frame guarantees less trips to the bathroom and it is very convenient for travelers, people with active lifestyles, and those without proper access to a restroom.
Waste production has lessened dramatically since the invention of menstrual discs. Menstrual discs are manufactured from bio-grade silicone and other biodegradable materials that facilities reuse over several years.
One’s female anatomy should be taken into consideration when selecting a menstrual disc and other sensitive eco-friendly menstrual products.
Each individual has a unique body type and a menstrual disc might not be the right fit for their anatomy.
People without lower or higher cervixes may experience difficulty in positioning the menstrual disc.
The price of purchasing menstrual discs may be high initially and may deter new users.
Menstrual discs are not available worldwide. This proves to be a major disadvantage as new users may be discouraged from purchasing them. Continued users may also be discouraged if it proves a hassle to obtain more.
Menstrual discs can be irritable to some when inserted. A healthcare professional should be consulted before purchasing or using a menstrual disc.
Guide to insertion
- Wash or sanitize your hands properly.
- Get comfortable. You could squat, sit, or stand. Fold the menstrual disc in half with your forefinger and thumb in order to facilitate easy insertion.
- Insertion is similar to that of a tampon as the folded disc is inserted towards the pubic bone.
- Once the disc is inserted, gently use your finger to ensure that it’s opened fully and placed properly below the cervix. If there is discomfort, you can twist the disc a bit to help it settle more comfortably.
Guide to removal
- Menstrual discs should be removed after 11 to 12 hours. Your hands should be washed and a comfortable position should be adopted.
- Insert a finger gently into the vagina and find the disc edge.
- Bend your finger under the peripheral end of the disc and slip it out. If it proves difficult, contract the vagina walls to help push the disc out.
- Dispose of the fluid, wash the disc with water and reinsert.
Care of the menstrual disc
- For daily or in-between use, wash thoroughly with unscented soap and rinse under running cold or warm water to remove any residue.
- Sterilization of the disc can be done by boiling it for a few minutes in water. Care should be taken to not let it touch the pot’s bottom.
The conventional menstrual products used by women for decades have been associated with significant environmental and health crises. This is because they are often non-biodegradable, and they contribute waste to the planet.
As we make our comfort and the planet’s health a priority, eco-friendly menstrual products present themselves as a symbol of advancement and conscious consumer choices.
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