Of course I clicked when this tweet from Glamour came across my timeline.
The article mentions the following four products: washable period underwear, washable pads, menstrual cups, and sea sponges. The first three are great, but menstrual sponges are not.
This is what Glamour said about sponges:
Yup, you can stop your period before it exists the premises by putting a sponge up there. Menstrual sponges like those that Jade & Pearl and Jam Sponge offer actually look a lot like bath sponges, and they work the same way. The only disadvantage is that they may be a bit cumbersome and messy to get out. But they are good for the environment and your wallet, since you only have to change them every six to 12 months.
This is dangerous advice.
Sea sponges aren’t “like” bath sponges they ARE bath sponges. Some people promote them as “natural” alternatives to menstrual tampons, except they are untested and potentially very unsafe. Oh yeah, they are also filled with dirt.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, twelve “menstrual sponges” were tested at the University of Iowa in the 1980s and they and contained sand, grit, bacteria, and “various other materials.” Another batch was tested by the Baltimore district laboratory and in addition to the sand, grit and bacteria they also found yeast and mold. One sample contained Staphylococcus aureus (the bacteria that causes toxic shock syndrome). As the FDA notes there is least one case of toxic shock syndrome associated with the sea sponge and another possible one.
The grossness of a debris and “various other materials” containing vaginal sponge aside there are real potential safety concerns. Bits could break off and become a nidus for bacteria, the sponge itself could have harmful bacteria, sponges may change the vaginal ecosystem promoting the growth of good bacteria, the inability to clean them adequately between uses may reintroduce potentially harmful bacteria that was breeding in the wet sponge sat drying beside the sink, and the sponge may cause abrasions during insertion and/or removal.
Menstrual products, sea sponges included, are regarded by the FDA as “significant risk devices requiring premarket approval under Section 515.” Basically, you have to study any products that is new and prove it is safe.The concerns about sponges were so significant the FDA contacted the manufacturers of menstrual sponges to warn them of the risks and to require they stop marketing and selling the products. Some closed down, others relabeled their products for “cosmetic” use. By they way there weren’t just a few businesses selling sponges, the FDA visited forty-one businesses that packaged sponges as well as 500 retail establishments.
One of the companies suggested as a source of menstrual sponges by Glamour is Jade & Pearl who received a warning letter from the FDA in 2014 about marketing menstrual sponges (if you read the full letter you’ll see that Jade & Pearl actually had a whole list of FDA violations).
This is how Jade & Pearl advertises their sponges right now, but it’s pretty genius marketing to get Glamour to tell everyone that your product is potentially not just for cosmetic uses! See FDA, it’s “just a sponge.”
Sea sponges are potentially very unsafe.
Really, I can’t emphasize that enough. There are lots of very biologically plausible ways they could harm women and Glamour magazine should be ashamed for including them without the most basic of research. It makes you wonder if Google was just not working the day the piece was written or if it was sourced only from press releases.
I’m the expert and I say Women should not use sea sponges in their vagina. They are potentially very dangerous. They don’t even have the most basic of safety testing. Glamour should know better and I urge them to print a correction and remove the offending paragraph.