Recently we've stumbled upon something we'd never heard before as an alternative for menstrual products. We know by now that there are many eco-friendly and more self-conscious feminine hygiene products in the market. Products that are much better options than tampons and one-time use pads, we've talked about the cup, there are disks, and re-usable pads as well, but had you ever heard of menstrual sponges?
From what we've managed to research, it is said that sea sponges are a great alternative to tampons because they are dense, meaning they are highly absorbent, so they are ideal for your menstrual days. But this isn't a new thing, if we go back in time, historians believed that in the 5th century in Egypt, women made tampons out of papyrus, wrapped bits of wood with lint, grass, and sea sponges! We were already on the fence about the use of sponges, but grass and wood, I think we would pass.
We are aware that as we progress into a more eco-friendly lifestyle, we are urging to find sustainable and recyclable products not as damaging to planet earth, so we can see why sea sponges would be such a good alternative. But is the hype worth it, and are they safe?
What is a sea sponge?
According to the National Ocean Service, sea sponges are simple aquatic animals with dense, yet porous, skeletons, which are highly adapted to their environments. Sponges are commonly mistaken for plants, but in reality, they are immobile aquatic invertebrates, and they come in different shapes, sizes, and colors. But, regardless of the type of sponge, one of its main objectives is to filter water, collect bacteria, and overall fuel the productivity throughout its ecosystem. So, are you sure you want to use it as an alternative for your menstrual product?
We know conventional menstrual products, like tampons and pads are very harmful to the environment, not only their production leaves a big carbon footprint, but after they are used they get washed into rivers, polluting them, and the sea. While, according to different providers, sea sponges will last months, and because they are natural, once they are back in the water we won't be damaging any ecosystems 🤔
But what about hygiene?
We've established that sponges practically filter the water, so they must be filled with debris, microorganisms, and sand. Some retailers recommend cleaning them with different products like tea tree oil, baking soda, vinegar, and other common household items, but will this do the trick? A test executed by the University of Iowa on menstrual sponges found not only sand but grit, bacteria, and other materials in them, and a later examination by the Baltimore district laboratory revealed that another batch of menstrual sponges had sand grits, bacteria, yeast, and mold. If the sand wasn't the breaking point for you, I hope the rest was.
Jen Gunter, OB/GYN and author of The Vagina Bible, reiterates on the risks of using a sea sponge in replacement of your tampon, and how bits of it can break off and become a nidus for bacteria in your vagina. If it isn't cleaned properly it can introduce harmful bacteria and its porous surface can cause abrasions during insertion and/or removal.
"Testing has revealed they have bacteria and debris and they could introduce far more oxygen — a bad thing — into the vagina than a tampon or menstrual cup" - Jen Gunter, gynecologist
One of the main reasons why I removed tampons from my life years was because of the scary stories of toxic shock, and even though they were great for days at the pool, it wasn't exactly my cup of tea, so the idea of sea sponges is not something I'm quite comfortable with, or will be anytime soon.
We are not telling you what you can and can't put in your body, but we can offer the necessary resources for you to make the safest and best decision for you. We like to remind people that their bodies are precious, and you should only want what's best for them. So if you're not 100% sure about a certain product, then we don't think you should be using it. For us, it's clear, the sponges in the sea and the blood in the cup.