Organic Pads & Tampons
The first alternative is a simple switch from conventional pads and tampons to 100% organic [disposable] pads and tampons. Because all-natural cotton products can still contain pesticides, make sure you find a brand that uses organic cotton. NatraCare and Organ(y)c are both great brands.
Organic pads and tampons are certainly a healthier alternative, but just like conventional pads and tampons they are disposable and will still end up in landfills and need to be repurchased each month. While the price is not outrageous, these are slightly more expensive than conventional menstrual products.
It is difficult to summarize cloth pads because there are so many different brands and styles. Some cloth pads, such as Lunapads and Glad Rags offer pads with removable inserts whereas other brands such as Precious Stars Pads sell an 'all-in-one' option that does not require inserts. There are daytime pads, overnight pads, regular-flow pads, light-flow pads, heavy-flow pads and panty liners. Some companies offer underwear with a built in pad or postpartum pads. Reusable cloth pads come in a variety of sizes and shapes, they can be made from different materials including cotton, hemp, flannel and bamboo, and of course some in every color, pattern and print. You can even make your own.
There is an initial cost when switching to cloth pads but with proper care, cloth pads can be re-used for 3-10 years. So, in addition to being healthier than conventional pads, cloth pads are also more economical and environmentally friendly.
Cleaning cloth pads is simple and not nearly as 'icky' as people may expect or fear.
Looking for cloth pads?
Instead SoftCup (Disposable)
The Instead SoftCup is a disposable menstrual cup. It is worn internally to collect, rather than absorb menstrual flow. It is hypoallergenic, latex free and completely safe when used as directed.
SoftCup is more expensive than conventional pads and tampons and since it is disposable, the expense is recurring. However, unlike conventional pads and tampons which have to be changed every few hours, the Instead SoftCup can be worn for up to twelve hours.
While SoftCup is not 'natural' or 'organic', it is free from bleached cotton, pesticides, residual fibers, dioxins, carcinogens, latex, polycarbonates, BPA, PVC and phthalates. It is made from the same material that is used in catheters and baby bottle nipples.
Compared to other menstrual products, removal and insertion can be a little messy at first and requires a degree of comfort with your body.
In addition to the disposable cup, Instead SoftCup also offers a reusable cup. It is very similar to their disposable but it can be reused for an entire menstrual cycle.
Reusable Menstrual Cups
Just like cloth pads, there are a number of reusable menstrual cups available on the market. There are different brands such as the DivaCup, Lunette Cup and Moon Cup. In addition to a variety of colors, reusable menstrual cups also come in different sizes and even different shapes. Most reusable menstrual cups are made from a medical grade silicone and most (if not all), can be worn safely for up to twelve hours.
Looking for a reusable menstrual cup?
Some women claim their reusable menstrual cup lasts for years, while others say they replace their cup yearly. Even if you decide to replace your reusable cup annually, it is still more economical and environmentally friendly than conventional pads and tampons, and is of course, much healthier.
Just like reusable cloth pads, there are reusable tampons as well. Reusable tampons do not seem to be as popular as other reusable menstrual products but can be purchased online or you can make them yourself. Prices will vary.
Compared to other reusable menstrual products, reusable tampons can be more difficult to clean and some people argue that their use could result in Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).
- Ravelry: Reusable Tampon Pattern
Want to make your own reusable tampon? Check out this free pattern.
Let me start by saying, I do not have any personal experience with this method. But, from what I understand, the sea sponge is worn internally and is a truly natural tampon. The sea sponge is reusable and one sponge should last several months.
- Sea Sponge Tampons Review - Bree Farmer (YouTube)
Bree Farmer offers a thorough review of this natural alternative to conventional menstrual tampons.
While this method is truly all natural, it is important to note that these are the same sponges that are found on the ocean floor and they are technically classified as an animal. And understandably, not all women are comfortable with this method for that reason.
If you're picturing a bloody mess, you're not alone. When I first heard about this alternative to conventional pads and tampons, that's exactly what I imagined. But it turns out, there is much more to free bleeding than bleeding freely.
Like the sea sponge, I have no personal experience with this method. Again, Bree Farmer offers more information. Click here for her video on free bleeding.