AMPs stands for Alternative Menstrual Products. It has taken over the name RUMPs which stood for Reusable Menstrual Products. The old name was slightly off-putting for some people. The new name encompasses a wider variety of products that are available including organic tampons and pads- for if you are just not ready for reusable products, you can still care for your health (and the environment). I will include in my AMPs section mostly re-usable items (that do not last as long as a silicone cup) available, but a few alternative disposable healthier-than-others models too.
Honey completely freaked out when he saw me buy a sponge for testing (not everyone can afford a menstrual cup straight up, I want my blog to be relevant to women of all socio-economic situations, I reasoned )... in his defence it was not a covered one; they were all just in a basket. So I popped that one in the bathroom and ordered another one from the MeLuna website. I thought while I was at it, I would try the soft tampon.
Other bloggers have tried them too and here is what they say...
The value I see in a sponge is that it's cheaper than a cup initially (at about the cost of a box of tampons, however will last a few cycles) and can be bought locally. If you are wanting to cut down on waste but cannot afford a cup "yet" this could be the way to go. A warning however, there has been one TSS case involving a sponge, but none yet involving cups. Comparatively most cases involve the use of tampons made with rayon.
While I was waiting for my MeLuna package, I must admit, I looked at my bathroom sponge and wondered how it was all going to fit. the next problem I had was that the bathroom sponge started to fall apart after a couple of times washing my face. I really was not confident that sponges were a good path to take.
So my sponge is here, its much smaller than I expected and the sponge seems tougher. I am pretty impressed with it. It was easy to insert, when I popped it up high enough I could not feel it at all. Its not obvious from the picture, but the larger sponge is about twice as high as the MeLuna sponge. The reusable sponge scores an outstanding – on my scale, the minus being that it is not as reusable as other forms of AMPS, however the yoghurt vector and the possibility of “love” (as the soft tampon packet puts it) boosts the sponge far above her other AMPS rivals.
These sponges work very well for putting Greek yoghurt where it needs to go if you are taking a course of antibiotics and want to discourage a yeast outbreak. Tampons swell making them difficult to insert and only a tiny bit of yoghurt it seems makes it to where it needs to go. I love that I can rely on a product to so a better job, and it is re-usable. Remember it should not be used however, if you have had Thrush as you could outbreak again.
The soft tampon
Why would I want it? It's not re-usable. Initially my thoughts were… I do however, prefer a small handbag and I have this irrational fear that I am going to be stranded cupless or even... asked the question we have all been asked (and had to ask at some point) "do you have a spare..." and these just seemed a little more user-friendly for "non-cuppies". I have thought of keeping organic cotton tampons in my hand bag along with my soft-cup for "Justine Case" but then the tampons go manky... The soft tampon looks more hygienic.
Then my thoughts were… I love Greek yoghurt. Sometimes you need in more personal places. Putting it on a tampon makes it swell and difficult to insert. The soft tampon appears to have a wider surface area, therefore making it easier to get the cream where it needs to be. Sounds fantastic in theory.
It scratched on the way up and more on the way out. This is possibly because I used the wet method instead of the lube method. AKA there are 2 ways of preparing the soft tampon for insertion, one is with KY type gel and the other is wetting and squeezing most of the water out. It took me a good day and a half to try it again, this time with the KY gel (and as a period hygiene tool, rather than a promotion of friendly bacteria tool). That was much nicer. It lasted about as long as a mini would have lasted me (which is the size I bought).
The other benefits of the soft tampon are… you can wear them over-night. If you are not ready to take the “cup-step” and hate pads this could be a good alternative for you. There are several brands available and sizes and shapes vary with the brands.
One more thing that might be of interest, is the fact that you can use them (If you and your partner are game) for sex during your period, which is beneficial to fight cramping. Also one more benefit is that you can rinse your sponge before putting it in the bin, which will attract less flies to your bin.
This AMP is rated Acceptable + the rinse method and germ-free packaging bolstering its ratings after a staggering drop due to user-friendliness.
Why would a person who loves her cups bother with a disposable cup? One reason is I love to blog... and I want it to be relevant.
Not everybody can afford a silicone cup straight up, you could even be telling yourself... that's $50 of food or fuel I could have and what if I hate it?
What do I keep in my handbag? In the past it was a few tampons, with a little bag and some painkillers in a handy container like an old mini M&Ms or eclipse box... which helped keep them water proof, gave me a handy way to dispose of them if a sanitary bin was unavailable and allowed me to soldier on if I had cramps.
I like a small handbag and there is just not room for a silicone cup in there... a Softcup however, fits very snugly. But until this week, I really did not know how to use it effectively... so it would not have been helpful in an emergency.
This information can also be helpful for a cup owner who has an imbalance of probiotics and yeast or who has a fungal infection... it has been advised that you not use your silicone cup for that cycle as yeast and fungi can “stick around” and re-infect you next time. If you had some disposable cups available, you wouldn't have to go back to tampons and pads (if you didn't want to) and you could just dispose of the cups when you are done.
Insertion of a soft cup is quite different to inserting a silicone cup, really don't make the mistake I made of trying to do it the same way, they are totally different cups and they need to be inserted in the way they were designed for. Reading the packet instructions was the best way I found to get it right. But you could also go here... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amPXaswKxyk or I also found this website, it has a few more steps than the packet instructions... namely step 6 http://www.wikihow.com/Use-an-Instead-Softcup.
The Softcup manufacturers do not recommend re-using the single use cup, however many women do, and I am one of them. Some women even find that they can use a Softcup for several cycles. There a multiple ways for sanitising a cup, obviously boiling is not an option for the Softcup, however, soaking for a few minutes in a solution of Milton and water or vinegar and water, washing it then popping it into the sunlight for a few hours, or rubbing it over with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol would work.
Compared to a silicone cup...
Insertion (for me) was harder to get accurate, I had a few “bathroom emergencies” as I had not taken the time to practise before life got busy, however, it really came together for me on my study day at home... I was calmer and I had time to get it right.
You are going to need two cups or to swap it with a pad at night... just as with silicone cups, using just the one cup eventually smells like something crawled in there and died. However, washing it in a solution of water and vinegar, and leaving it to dry for a few hours restored the smell to neutral. Soaking overnight in a solution of Bicarb soda and water was also effective. Actually I also used a solution of Tee tree oil and water, but I read this morning that TTO (along with any other essential oil) is not that great as it can damage your cup, I will remember that for the future.
They do not hold as much as a silicone cup... on my day at home, after a few hours I felt a leak... it was like... grrrr this cup is just not going to work for me... however the problem was just that the cup was full. The size is deceptive. The clear part folds up as you insert so really only the rim can catch the fluid. You will need to change your cup on a heavy day as often as you would change a regular to super tampon.
Light days... well I liked the Softcup better on light days than my silicone cups as they were easier to remove. This makes me think that they might be a good option for teenagers too.
Availability... here in Australia, I had to get them from the internet (just the same way I bought my silicone cups). I had bought a huge box of “disposable” Softcups which I thought would help me get used to using the silicone cup... LOL my silicone cup arrived first, so now I mostly give them to my friends who want to try a cup but are not sure it its for them... and then there is the one in my handbag. I would possibly take a disposable MC or 3 camping just in case one gets lost.
In other countries I have noticed Softcup will send you a freebie.... I have also read that they are available in the tampon section and 2 cost about as much as a box of tampons. This could be a convenient way to start saving some money. Neither of which are available to Australians.
I rated this AMP as exceeds expectations (even though initially it didn’t) its popularity skyrocketed on my light days with how easily it was removed. I love that people seem to use this cup as a stepping stone to Silicone and that rocks.
Affordability... the initial price is more affordable; however over a longer time, the silicone cup is going to be better value. I got my Softcups from here http://www.vitamingrocer.com.au/Soft-Cup-Reusable-Softcup-2-Count-p/154402.htm?utm_source=google&utm_medium=shopping&utm_campaign=pla&utm_content=154402
Organic Tampons and Pads
Available at Woolworths and Coles is a brand of organic tampons and pads called TOM organic. TOM standing for Time Of Month. Before I bought my cup, I was using TOM tampons (I was not so impressed with the pads as they were not individually wrapped and therefore could have been in contact with dust, germs, fungi and other nasties). As far as tampons go, they were comfortable, had less environmental impact as they were not made with harsh chemicals (which are washed off into waterways… etc) which also made them healthier for the user. The other fantastic thing about this product is that the box was narrow about the size of an old mobile phone and fit snugly in my handbag.
TOMs tampons were a reasonable size and comparable to the “cooler” brands in shape, as opposed to the tampons that were available from the health food store (big enough for an elephant to feel) and no-name brands (with no pointed tip that felt like they were being inserted backwards). They were not available in the “shrinky” kind or with wings, but with the lack of bleaches and rayon I was happy to go with that. Pricewise other brands are slightly cheaper but in my opinion, TOMs is better quality.
I give this AMP an exceeds expectations – this was a good product which prepared me for silicone cups and rescued me from pads.
If you are up for reusable; the natural sponge is the nicest NSCAMP (non-silicone cup AMP), it did not scratch at all going up, did not make me cramp, lasts longer than a box of tampons and was easier to use than the softcup. I read today that it can also be used during sex too, but I have not tried it. I love the fact that I can reuse them, so next time I need some more probiotics inserted, I will give it a go with the sponge. I am thinking that this could also be a better solution for my “emergency” gear for my handbag, I like the idea that if kids go through my bag (as happened once at church)… its a neatly wrapped sponge and if I lose it its not as expensive to replace as a cup.
If you are just not ready for other AMPs I cannot recommend TOMs (and other organic tampons) enough, if you are not a tampons girl (and for night time) Anion pads. Both are top quality and work very well. The soft tampon is good too, but remember the lube.