Tampons vs pads vs menstrual cups

Tampons vs pads vs menstrual cups

Find out how various sanitary products can make or break your next ‘time of the month’.

The time of the month can be less than pleasant for most women without having the added stress of having to decide on the right sanitary product to use. Factors such as flow, comfort, expense and the environment can influence a woman’s choice in picking the most suitable sanitary product.

Pads and tampons have always been popular choices but menstrual cups are emerging as a new alternative for the modern woman. Here’re a few things you need to know about tampons, pads and menstrual cups.

Sanitary Pads

Sanitary pads, also known as sanitary napkins or menstrual pads are easy to use and disposable which some women may find to be more hygienic. Usually made from cottony material for maximum absorbency, there are now new and improved pads that absorb moisture to prevent that diaper-like feeling.

Pros: These also come in various lengths, absorbency and also whether or not wings are present for a more secure hold. The range of choices allows a woman to pick the right sanitary pad to cater for a certain day or time of day, during her menses. Pads are also relatively inexpensive and widely available in supermarkets and pharmacies. Sanitary pads used to be seen as bulky and unattractive but there are new ultra-thin pads that don’t ruin the shape of clothes.

Cons: Pads may be uncomfortable during a workout and swimming is definitely not advisable. Near the turn of the 21st century, the safety of certain chemicals such as furan found in bleached paper products, came into question. It is still being researched whether furan and other chemicals found in sanitary pads may negatively impact women.

Fragranced pads are marketed to prevent unpleasant odours but the fragrance could irritate the vagina. To minimise odour, it is best to change the pad every three or four hours. During days with heavy flow, pads need to be changed more often to prevent leakage.

Precautions: Do not flush pads down the toilet no matter its bulk because it could back up the toilet. Always wrap the used pad in toilet paper and throw it into the sanitary bins provided so it can be disposed properly.

Tampons

These are highly absorbent bullet shaped sanitary product that are inserted into the vagina in order to absorb menstrual blood. Tampons are available with various levels of absorbency and sizes to cater to different types of women and their flows.

Pros: Swimming and other active sports are possible when wearing tampons because the tampon is placed inside the body. Additionally, tampons do not limit clothing options the way bulky pads do. For instance, tampons are great for occasions where you want to wear tighter clothing.

Cons: Tampons absorb not just menstrual blood but other vaginal fluid too. This may disturb the pH and bacterial balance of the vagina. Toxic shock syndrome is a life threatening bacterial infection that could happen to women who do not remove a tampon from their body. Keeping a tampon in for long periods of time can lead to bacteria growing within the tampon and entering the body via the bloodstream. Toxins released by the bacteria can threaten a woman’s life. It is advised that tampons be changed frequently, every four to eight hours even during days with light menstrual flow.

Precautions: As with pads, do not attempt to flush tampons down the toilet because it might block the toilet. Wrap the used tampon in toilet paper and throw it into a sanitary bin to be disposed of appropriately. It is best to read the directions printed on the box if it is your first time using a tampon. It may feel uncomfortable trying to insert a tampon for the first time due to unconscious contraction of the vaginal muscles. Take a deep breath, relax and if you experience any discomfort, the tampon might not be the right size or in the right place. Remove the inserted tampon and try again with a new tampon.

Menstrual cup

These cups are usually made out of surgical grade silicone and designed for long-term use. A menstrual cup is a flexible cup that is inserted inside the vagina during a woman’s period, to collect menstrual blood, instead of absorbing it like tampons or pads.

Pro: Some types of menstrual cups are reusable which means that it generates less waste but do make sure that the one you choose is a reusable one. Since the cup collects blood inside the vagina, the blood isn’t exposed to air such as in the case of pads. This means there won’t be any unpleasant menstrual odour to contend with. A cup can be inserted for up to 12 hours but do empty it more often on heavy days to prevent spotting or leaking.

Cons: One of the main disadvantages of the menstrual cup is that emptying the cup can get quite messy and spills may occur the first few times. It may also be difficult or slightly awkward to clean the cup, especially in a public bathroom. Proper usage of the cup may be impeded depending on the shape of the woman’s body.

Precautions: After every cycle, the cup needs to be sterilised with boiling water so do get a new small pot just for the menstrual cup. Insertion of the cup can be a little tricky but with practice, it’ll get easier. For the first few times, in case of leakage, do wear a pantyliner or pad. For more information on how to properly insert a menstrual cup, type in ‘An Inside Look at Menstrual Cups’ into the Youtube search box for a step-by-step tutorial (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgdPI7oqmRE).

Always remember to weigh all the options when it comes to choosing a sanitary product that’s right for you. If you’re unsure of how to use a product, it’s perfectly fine to ask an older sister, mother or a trusted friend for help and/or advice. What’s most important is to ensure that hygiene is not neglected. Always wash your hands before and after changing your pad, tampon or emptying your menstrual cup, to prevent infections.

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