Sammy Nickalls
March 03, 2016 1:45 pm

When you hear the word “sponge,” you probably think of a lot of things: Cleaning; doing the dishes; the ocean; maybe even Spongebob Squarepants. Whatever you think of, you *probably* don’t think of periods. However, I do now, and always will. Why? Because I spent several days using a sea sponge as my period protection.

Jade & Pearl kindly sent me a sample of their “Sea Pearls.” According to the official website, Sea Pearls are “completely natural sea sponges” that come from the actual, real ocean:

Interestingly enough, I couldn’t find any actual mention of what the sponges are actually used for. The words “period,” “blood,” “flow,” and “menstruation” were nowhere to be found on the site or on the pamphlet that came with the sample, and I couldn’t help but think of the stigma surrounded with these words. Like, come on, folks, let’s not dance around it! Be proud of your period!

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But I couldn’t help but be excited after reading about the origin of the sponges, because I was truly hoping using an actual sea-sponge would make me feel like a mermaid. So I let Jade & Pearl know for reference that I wear a regular-sized tampon, and they sent me two medium sponges (you can purchase them in four different sizes, from “teeny” to “large”).

Here’s what the medium looks like:

Looks a little scary, but being a sponge, it compresses quite easily, I swear.

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Sea sponges: What you need to know

This one was a “classic” sea sponge, which means it comes from the Atlantic, Caribbean, or Bahamas. However, you can also purchase a “premium ultra soft” sponge, which comes from the Mediterranean Sea (apparently, that’s the fancy sea). However, Jade & Pearl claims that all Sea Pearls are “extremely absorbent, soft, & durable” and “free of chemicals, dioxin, bleach, chlorine, fragrance, dyes, or synthetic material.”

They also do the environment a solid, since they’re reusable for up to six months or more, and they’re a naturally renewable resource (important, considering the average woman will use over 9,000 tampons in her lifetime). They’re also easy to clean, (you can use a chemical-free soap or a mixture of tea tree oil, vinegar, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide).

I couldn’t help but be a little nervous.

Sponges are known for their absorbency; could they carry an increased risk of TSS? However, with a bit of research, I found that most gynecologists think they’re totally safe, if used properly.

“Yes, they’re absolutely safe,” Dr. Raquel Dardik, a gynecologist at the Joan H. Tisch Women’s Health Center at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, told Mashable“There haven’t been a lot of really big alternatives to tampons and pads in forever. A tampon is just a piece of cotton that’s shaped so that it absorbs blood so that it doesn’t come out, and in that sense, menstrual sponges are doing exactly the same thing because that’s what sponges do.”

My conscience comforted, I went into this confidently and channeled my inner mermaid.

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Here’s how wearing the sea sponge went.

After cleaning my sponge, I found that, unlike menstrual cups, there isn’t some specific way to insert it. Or perhaps there is, but I didn’t find any instructions. The actual insertion was quite easy — it conforms to your body and goes right up. However, it felt quite uncomfortable, like I was using too large of a tampon, and very dry. This was relieved after about half an hour, after it had, well, soaked for a while.

I had no leakage issues at all. After all, it is a sponge. But a minor issue presented itself when I went to take it out. It’s rather difficult to tell the difference between a damp sponge and your body, and I pinched myself several times before I finally managed to grab hold, relax my muscles, and take it out.

A warning, for those who want to try the sponge — taking the sponge out was not a clean process. Which makes sense, because picture putting a sponge in dish water for a few hours, then taking it out without wringing it. Now, picture period blood. Not exactly a pretty image. If you’re uncomfortable with the thought of touching your own blood, you may not want to give a sea sponge a shot, because cleaning the sponge most certainly involves getting your hands dirty.

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It wasn’t all bad though.

However, weirdly, the thing I liked most about the sponge was the fact that I learned to not be grossed out. After all, it’s just blood, something we deal with every month.

I could definitely see the sea sponge working for other people, and maybe I’d have liked it better if I used a smaller sponge. However, I believe I’ll stick to my menstrual cup instead. I’m still a mermaid in my heart of hearts, after all.

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