Sauna, sports, sex: three activities that don’t always go well with menstruation. Will a soft tampon or sponge tampon be the solution?
Excuse me? A sponge?
A menstrual sponge is a soft and flexible sponge made of absorbing foam material (for example polyurethane) which you wear internally during your menstruation. Menstrual sponges are like tampons, but without strings. Different names for the same product are sauna tampon, soft tampon, sex tampon, string-free tampon or tampon sponge.
No strings attached?
Indeed. A tampon without string has a couple of advantages. First of all you don’t notice it: nobody sees that you’re menstruating. Also, the absence of a string means it can’t hinder you during certain activities. Perfect if you’re planning some intensive exercise –such as mountain biking, spinning or horse riding- or having a wellness day in the sauna. Because, of course, that’s always when your period starts.
Can you also have sex with it?
Definitely. Prostitutes have been using them for years during their menstruation. You can have sex with it without your partner noticing. Or almost without, because there are men who claim they can feel the sponge. Naturally you can also have sex on your period without a sponge tampon; it’ll just be a bit messier. Beware: a sponge is no contraceptive. It doesn’t protect you against STDs or unwanted pregnancies, so use a condom as well.
Any more advantages?
Sure. You can leave a sponge in for longer than a normal tampon. Up to eight hours, depending on how heavy your flow is. That’s convenient when you’re travelling or just want a good night sleep. Also good: they’re anti-allergen and thus also suitable for women who don’t tolerate tampons made of cotton or cellulose. Because of the soft material, they tend to form to the shape of your vagina. If inserted properly, the sponge closes off the cervix. Because the menstrual blood doesn’t come in contact with oxygen that way, there’s less chance of unpleasant odours.
There must be some disadvantages as well?
Of course there are. No product is 100% perfect. Sponge tampons are more expensive than normal tampons, even though you can keep them in for longer. And just like a normal tampon, you throw away a sponge after use (in the bin of course, not in the toilet). There are people who cook out the sponges and reuse them, but you’re not meant to do that.
Not suitable for prudish women…
Inserting it is just like inserting a normal tampon without applicator: you push it to the right spot with a clean finger. Unless you’re going deep sea diving or doing a triathlon, there’s no need to insert the sponge very deep. Anatomically, it’s impossible for a sponge tampon to get lost in your body. However, don’t insert it too deep the first time as without string it’s naturally a bit trickier to remove. Gain some feeling for it first. You’ll have to reach a bit deeper anyway, especially when using the ones without a removal loop. And yes, it could happen that there’ll be a bit of blood on your fingers afterwards, even though this is mostly absorbed by the top end of the sponge. Then again, washing your hands before and after changing a tampon has always been a good idea.
Did you know?
The sponge tampon isn’t a new invention at all. Sea sponges have been used as tampons by women since ancient times. The real sea sponges are made of the remains of sponge animals: primitive multicellular organisms living on the bottom of the ocean. You can keep in a sea sponge between four and six hours, then rinse and reuse. One sea sponge will last for about six months. Not so nice: since it’s a natural product, sea sponges could contain grains of sand etc. And just rinsing them with water doesn’t make it a very hygienic solution.