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I decided to give Sea Pearls natural sponge tampons a try after experiencing a lot of dryness and pain in the past. I don't like the feeling of any kind of pads, so these seemed the best option. A few other people had recommended them to me. It took me a little while to get over the ick factor, but after realising that I am happy to use cloth nappies, it seemed to make sense that I should be able to cope with my own fluids.
I went online, to www.natural-woman.com, ordered them (£6.50 +p&p for two), and eagerly awaited their arrival. They arrived in a couple of days.
The packet contains two sponges – about the size of a small plum, a small muslin bag which can hold them both, but is a bit flimsy and tends to fray onto them whilst they are in there, and an instruction booklet which gives advice on using them, how they are made, looking after them etc. Having heard that they are sometimes too large, and in need of trimming – they aren’t to be cut in half though as apparently it messes up the special shape (although mine all look fairly random shapes to me), I decided I should try one out period less, as trying to sort out fit whilst bleeding seemed more work than made sense. The booklet tells you that you can tie dental floss around the centre if you want to, to make removal easier.
Taking them out of the bag, they seemed very stiff and hard, but after washing my hands thoroughly, rinsing the sponges, and squeezing out the excess water, they became very soft and squishable.
It took some maneuvering to get myself into the right position to get one in (as an applicator tampon user, it was a pretty unique experience for me). Once it was in, I couldn't feel it at all! I was amazed - if I had been just "testing out" a normal tampon I would have been in agony. A little bit more wriggling was all it took to pull it back out again. I had been slightly worried about that bit, but I actually found it easier than putting it in, so no need to tie on the dental floss! I had bought two packs, and in both packs I had one quite a bit larger than the other – I don’t know if that is normal or just potluck.
The first day of my period is always very light, and I used the smallest sponge. I was very apprehensive for the first 3 hours, but after removing it to see how well it was doing, I was pleasantly surprised to realise it would have lasted much longer. The rest of the time is always heavier for me (super in Liletts, regular in Tampax), so I switched to the larger sponges. I have needed to change them about every 4 hours, and I’ve also found myself doing it as and when I went to the bathroom between times – it seems easier to just do it while you’re there. The smaller sponge only makes it to around 3 hours before leaking. I used a large one overnight, and it coped fine. You can use two in one go if you need to, but I haven’t needed to. When changing them, you just take them out, rinse out the blood under running water, squeeze out any excess water, and reinsert – simple!
All it took was a bit of practice, and now they are very easy to insert, and even easier to remove than I had thought, as where they get heavier with use, they get lower (you can’t feel it getting lower) and more within reach. I have found it is a lot easier to do all your insertion/removal whilst sitting on the toilet.
At the end of each day, you put them to soak in any of the following solutions to kill any bacteria, and simply rinse and use the next day (I have then been soaking my nighttime one during the day in fresh solution, for use the next night). They need to be air dried, and stored in their bag in a cool place, away from direct sunlight when not in use.
Solutions: 1 tbsp baking soda in one cup of warm water 1 tbsp vinegar in one cup of warm water Half hydrogen peroxide, half water A few drops of tea tree oil in one cup of warm water (also eliminates odour) 1 tsp Colloidal Silver in one cup of warm water
You could also boil them for 2 minutes, but it makes them denser and they wear out more quickly.
Now you’ve heard my story, here are the pros and cons.
They are gentle… You are inserting a damp sponge instead of a dry, man made tampon.
Time length… Because they leak much earlier, you change them more often, which is much better for your body
Cost… £6.50 for 2, each sponge is meant to last about 6 cycles, so even if you are like me with the supply of 4, then it is £26 for the year. With tampons being around £1.20 for 12/16 – think about how many you use for one cycle… now multiply it by 12… One hell of a saving!
Environment… No tampons clogging up toilets or tips
You learn a lot more about your own cycle
They are less drying, so lower the risk of toxic shock syndrome – the chance of which are increased with a lack of vagina mucus
The Ick Factor… Washing out your own blood
Time length… Many of us leave our tampons in for 6-8 hours (regardless of what the instructions suggest), these need to be changed more regularly
Public places… This can be got round – I took a spare out with me, wet it before going into the toilet, and then put the used one in a waterproof bag for sorting at home...I didn't actually need to wait as the toilets were empty when I came out, so did it there and then.
I am very impressed with these, I feel like I am being much kinder to my body by using them, and I hope that by not letting myself get as dry as with normal tampons, my pain issues will start to clear up. It can be frustrating having to change them more often, but that is more just a case of changing bad habits than anything else! I know that many of you are thinking “ew, I think I’ll leave them”, but they really are great, and not icky!