Although tampons tend to be one of the more common period products women use, many women are in search of alternative options, whether it be because they cost too much, they don't want to use plastic, or they're concerned about the environment. Luckily, if you're wondering what to use instead of tampons, there are a number of other options that work, and although some might sound surprising, experts say they can actually improve things for you during this part of your cycle. Many of these options are also much more natural and eco-friendly, and some can even help when you're stuck in a bind and don't have any menstrual products on hand.
If you currently use tampons, you're not alone — an estimated 70 percent of menstruating women use tampons. However, many women are starting to look for other options. "Women do not want to use ... chemical laden cotton or rayon knowing there is a connection to cancers and delicate tissue of their vaginas and other female anatomy," Dr. Elizabeth Trattner tells Bustle.
It's hard to know where to begin if you're not familiar with other products but there are a number of other options that although might seem different at first, can help with your period. Here are seven strange alternatives to tampons that actually work.
Sea sponges are perfectly suitable natural alternatives to tampons. "They are already hygienic, they’re fully biodegradable, and each sponge lasts around 3-6 cycles, so you can save a lot of money by investing in one," Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics, tells Bustle.
Menstrual cups are also another good alternative, and they're growing in popularity. "One cup can be reused for up to 10 years," Dr. Mashfika N. Alam, an online doctor on icliniq tells Bustle. "However, they need to be cleaned properly after and before use." Although using a cup may take some getting used to, they are not as difficult to put in as you may think.
3Stacked Sterile Gauze
Out of pads and need something in a pinch? Check that medicine cabinet for some gauze. "Sanitary/sterile gauze stacked into a multilayered sheet can be used," says Alam. "This is safe and hygienic, but needs to be replaced frequently."
"Interlabial pads are reusable, puffy-like pads held in place by the labia and or a velcro button on the other side," says Trattner. "Usually they have an eye-like shape to fit in between the labia and catch fluid." These can also be used for when a women has discharge or after intercourse.
"Menstrual discs do not plug the vagina like a tampon or menstrual cup because they sit in a different part of the body called the vaginal fornix, which is in the posterior part of the vagina," OB/GYN Jane van Dis, MD, medical advisor to FLEX, tells Bustle. "Menstrual discs like FLEX collect menses instead of absorbing them, like a tampon." Menstrual discs can be worn for up to 12 hours and they hold five times the amount of menses as a tampon. They also can be worn during sex and overnight.
You may have heard of period-friendly underwear such as Thinx and Kinxwear, and turns out, they actually work. "Although the idea of simply bleeding into your underwear may sound strange to many, the truth is that it’s a way more comfortable experience, and the garments are designed to help reduce the appearance of stains — a simple wash will do the trick —as well as neutralizing odors," says Backe.
If you're looking for something eco-friendly, try using a reusable cloth pad. They are applied just like regular pads, but rather than being made with plastic, they're made with reusable cotton. This can help you save money, cut down on waste, and help you avoid any unwanted chemicals.
They may not be your traditional period product, but these tampon alternatives can help you get through your menstrual cycle just as well.