ASK AN OBGYN: Which Is Better – Tampons Or Pads?

Written by on June 11, 2015 in ASK AN OBGYN - Comments Off on ASK AN OBGYN: Which Is Better – Tampons Or Pads?
tampons and pads, istock photo
Dear SuzyKnew!  
Do you have an opinion on which is better- tampons or pads?
Dear Reader,
Choosing which method (tampons or pads) to manage your monthly menstrual flow is a very personal choice and really depends on your lifestyle. Many women actually switch back and forth between tampons and pads (also called sanitary napkins) during each cycle depending on what activities they are undertaking (sports vs. school or office work), time of day (many women use tampons during the day and pads at night) or choose different products featuring varying absorbency levels on different days depending on how heavy their flow is.  Determining when and where the product can be disposed of and changed is an important consideration for many women, especially those who don’t work in nice offices or at home. Also, there are newer products on the market, such as menstrual cups and a disposable pad/underwear combo that you may want to add to your repertoire.  There are a lot of products out there for the approximately 1.75 billion women of the world that are of menstruating age.  I encourage you to experiment and share what you discover with your female friends and family members.
Here’s some food for thought:
If you are concerned about the environment, you may consider a tampon without an applicator.  All that extra plastic and cardboard ends up in our landfills and oceans, and is really not physically necessary to insert a tampon.  Used pads also end up in landfills.   The real environmental offender here is the pad/underwear combo.  Although some women may appreciate the convenience of a single use product, I personally cringe at the thought of future generations fishing these out of our landfills.   One of the benefits of the menstrual cup is it’s relative low environmental impact, because it is a reusable (washable) product.
 If you are concerned about toxic shook syndrome (TSS), which is a rare but potentially fatal bacterial infection, then you should stick to pads. However, it is exceedingly rare and can be avoided by changing your tampon every 4-6 hours, washing your hands before or after you use the bathroom and handle any menstrual products, and using the least absorbent tampon that you need.   Symptoms of TSS are rapid and severe: high fever, vomiting, fatigue, etc… Basically, if you or a woman you know one that has rapid onset and severe symptoms seek out immediate medical care.
 If you are a first-timer or know a first-timer, Please take the time to orient them to the whole new world of being a woman, including hygiene, cramps, risk of pregnancy, as well as how to use the different products.  Encourage them to ask questions and keep an open dialogue so that if they have a question or problem, they know where to go for answers.
 If you are concerned about women and girls in developing countries, you should know that many girls drop out of school when they start menstruating.  Many cultures have menstrual taboos that cause girls to miss school.  Also, tampons and pads are costly and beyond the reach of many women and girls around the world.  The Clinton Global Initiative has pledged millions to provide free products to girls at school, so that they can stay in school and receive an education.
 Thanks for the great question!  Take care!

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First published June 26, 2014

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