The average woman will use nearly 10,000 feminine hygiene products during her life, spending thousands of dollars on period protection, including pads and tampons.
Has either type of product been proven to be better? And what about options like menstrual cups and cloth pads?
Menstrual pads, also known as sanitary pads, sanitary napkins and maxi pads, have been around for a long time in one form or another and are still hugely popular today. They’re available in a range of lengths and absorbing capabilities that can cover light spotting to heavy overnight flow. Pads are often used as a backup for a tampon. The main downsides of pads are that some women find them uncomfortable to wear, and they can limit certain kinds of physical activity.
Pads seem to be the most popular choice in products, according to a survey conducted by the CDC. They polled 739 women; 62 percent of them reported using pads, compared with 42 percent who said they use tampons.
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Tampons have been around in their current form since the 1930s and are the most popular choice of feminine hygiene for women under 41 years of age, according to one study. Tampons are favored mostly because of the greater physical freedom they allow. Tampons come in different absorbency levels similar to pads. Tampons carry the risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS), mainly if they’re left in place longer than the recommended four to eight hours. There’s also a chance that tampon usage may increase a women’s risk of experiencing urinary tract infections.
Pads vs. Tampons
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1. Menstrual Cups
Menstrual cups might seem to be new, but in fact, they’ve been around for as long as tampons; they just haven’t been as widely used. You can find disposable and reusable menstrual cups. The reusable cups are bell-shaped and are made from silicone or latex. Instead of absorbing menstrual fluid like tampons do, menstrual cups collect the fluid for later disposal.
Menstrual cups don’t pose a risk of TSS and can be safely worn for up to 12 hours, providing the advantage of convenience. Cups don’t contain bleaches or chemicals that could cause allergic reactions or sensitivity. You can even wear some menstrual cups during sex to avoid making a mess during your period, but keep in mind no menstrual cup will protect against pregnancy or STDs. The downsides to menstrual cups are that they take some time to learn how to insert and remove, and the reusable ones need to be cleaned.
2. Cloth Pads
Reusable cloth menstrual pads are another option available to women.
Cloth pads are:
- They breathe better than plastic-backed disposable products
- They can last for several years
- Good for the environment. They keep thousands of disposable products out of landfills.
The downsides to cloth pads are that you’ll need to take the time to wash them, and the initial startup cost of buying a set of cloth pads can be too expensive for some people.
3. Period Panties
Period panties are commonplace in Asian countries, and they’re starting to catch on world wide. These are panties that are specially designed to be leakproof or absorbent or both. Most are meant to be worn as a backup to a tampon, cup or pad, but some menstrual underwear, like Thinx, can be worn in place of a pad or tampon.
There’s really no winner out of all the choices we have available to us, and many women simply continue to use what their mothers recommended to them when they were teens. However, with items we’ll be using every month for many years to come, it’s worth taking the time to give some thought to what would work best for you.