Alternative Menstrual Products: Good Idea or Just Gross?

Amy Kuras

sea sponge tamponsHow much money would you say you've shelled out for pads and tampons over the years? Probably a lot, right? For women in one entrepreneur's business in Mozambique, the cost was just too high, and they were missing days of work every month fearing embarrassment because they couldn't afford pads to contain their menstrual blood.

Elizabeth Scharpf, a World Bank manager working in Mozambique, heard about the need and decided to get the local women involved in solving the problem. They came up with the She 28 pad, a sustainable, inexpensive pad that will be more affordable for women in the developing world, around 8 to 10 cents per pad.

That's pretty cool, and just another creative way we women have come up with to deal with our "monthly gift."

Here are a few more, from simply crunchy to just kind of creepy:

Menstrual cups: Known by several different brand names, including Moon Cup, Diva Cup,and Lunette, these latex or rubber cups fit over the cervix and have a little stick at the end to ease in insertion and removal. They catch the blood and can be rinsed out and reused. Where exactly do you rinse them out? The manufacturers don't say ... and please let it not be the office (shared) bathroom sink.

Washable pads: These are more crunchy than weird and are much like cloth diapers (and often used by the same people). The basic concept is an outer liner that wraps around the underwear and is held in place  by a snap, with either a fixed inner absorbent core or one you can take out and replace. You can buy them or make your own washable pads.

Sea sponge tampons: Smallish natural sponges, you just insert them into your vagina and off you go. These were probably among the first ways women came up with to deal with their periods and are still in use today.

Menstrual apron: One of many solutions before disposable pads became widely available in the 1920s, it's an apron that ties around your waist, with the apron part behind you, and a little cloth-covered rubber bag in the middle that goes between your legs to catch the flow. Sounds yucky? Here's something yuckier: this item is on display at the Museum of Menstruation and Women's Health, which is owned and run (out of his house) by this guy. Is it not just a leeettle creepy for a guy's major pastime to be running a museum about periods?

Menstrual extractor: Another item from the Museum of Menstruation, this device purportedly would suck out all the blood and loose tissue from the uterus, potentially reducing periods to just one day (if you use it several times on your first day). OW. Ow ow ow.

Would you, or do you, use any of these?

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