Menstrual Cups, Instead, Keeper, Moon, DivaCup, and Gynotex
Menstrual cups like Instead, the Keeper, Moon and DivaCup are alternatives to menstrual tampons. Barnard has a Menstruation Alternatives event planned for Nov. 3 which will cover the topic of menstrual cups (as well as menstrual suppression, and yoga for PMS).
If you just can't wait until Nov. 3 to find out about tampon alternatives, here's a quick primer.
Menstrual cups are not birth control methods.
These tampon alternatives are not birth control methods, and should not be used as such. Their design tends to resemble that of some of the barrier methods and it is possible to have sexual intercourse while using one of these menstrual products. However, they do not offer any pregnancy protection.
There are several menstrual cup brands available.
Instead Menstrual Cup
Instead is a disposable menstrual cup, shaped somewhat like a diaphragm. It consists of a thick, flexible ring at the top, connected to a thin, flexible pouch. The plastic pouch collects the menstrual blood. You insert the cup into the vagina, and you place it over the cervix. Instead can be left in place during your period for up to 12 hours, on light flow days. Because this cup is inserted high in the vagina, sexual intercourse is possible with the cup in place.
Keeper Menstrual Cup
The Keeper is a reusable menstrual cup that looks a little like a cervical cap (or a small plunger). The cup has a flexible rod connected to its base to aid in its removal. It is made of natural gum rubber, and the cup collects the menstrual blood. You place the cup inside the vagina, fairly close to the vaginal opening. The Keeper can be left in place during your period for 6 to 12 hours, and it can be reused for up to ten years. Because this menstrual cup is placed low in the vagina, sexual intercourse is impractical with it in place.
The Moon Cup, the soft silicone version of the Keeper, is aimed at women who are allergic to latex rubber.
DivaCup Menstrual Cup
The DivaCup, made of soft silicone, is similar to the Moon Cup but has a shorter stem and, according to the manufacturer, a more secure fit. The cup should be removed before intercourse.
Gynotex Menstrual Tampon
The Gynotex menstrual tampon is a disposable device that resembles the birth control sponge. It is made of a soft foam material which absorbs the menstrual blood. You insert it into the vagina, and you place it over the cervix. Gynotex can be worn for up to 8 hours, but it is recommended you change the tampon after 4 to 6 hours. Because it is inserted high in the vagina, sexual intercourse is possible with the tampon in place.
Remember: While some of these menstrual products allow for unencumbered sexual intercourse during the menstrual period, they do not offer any pregnancy protection and should not be relied on as birth control methods.
ETA: Here's a pic of the Sea Sponge Tampon:
Sea sponge tampons tend to come in different sizes:
UPDATE: I checked with Barnard; unfortunately, the event is only for students.