Written by: Mutshidzi Kwinda
For a long time, I saw tampons as a thing made for different classes and races. Don’t get me wrong, this was just a misconception I had created for myself with no underlying stereotypical cause. Growing up in the rural areas, all I had known as a menstrual barrier was pads and pads only. This was until I went to university and learned that there was something called a “tampon”. But still, I thought it was not made for me.
Like most people, I had this belief that tampons could potentially break one’s hymen. A hymen is “The hymen is a thin, fleshy tissue that’s located at the opening of your vagina” and is often broken during intercourse (hence bleeding when you first have sex) or while doing rigorous sport not by using a tampon. Nonetheless, tampons do have some cons that come with them. And this applies to other menstrual barriers like pads, menstrual cups, sponges, amongst others.
Comparison between tampons and pads health-wise.
Rita Rubin, wrote an article in 2015 titled, ”Are Feminine Hygiene Products Safe?”. In it she shows that, over the years, research in this concern has not been incontrovertible enough. There has been much debate about whether the ingredients incorporated in sanitary pads, tampons, and other feminine hygiene products have a risk of causing irreversible damage to the gynecological organs.
However, since the data and research are insubstantial. We can not in any way say whether this is true or not. Which is why it is important to do your research. After all, we use feminine hygiene products every month for most of our lives. Let’s look at some cons and pros of using tampons and/or sanitary pads.
Tampons: Pros and cons
The good thing about tampons is that they are easy to carry around. Because they are small, they can easily fit into your pocket. And once you get used to using them, after a while you forget you have something inside your vagina.
However, you must keep track of time when you have a tampon. This is to avoid leaving it on for a long time. If a tampon is left in for too long, i.e, for more than 2-8 hours at a time (depending on the menstrual flow). It can expose your vagina to infection-causing bacterias and cause a condition called toxic shock syndrome. One of those bacterias is called Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.
To avoid this, avoid wearing tampons overnight if you are a deep sleeper. Or you can also use them alternatively with pads whenever possible.
Pads/sanitary towels: Pros and cons
Unlike tampons, pads can be worn for at least 12 hours, which means that you can wear them overnight without worrying about the time. This is also of course dependent on your flow and the absorption capabilities of the pad. With pads, you do not need to insert anything in your vagina, therefore, there is no discomfort, irritation, or pain experienced (which usually happens with first-time tampons users).
If worn for an extended period, pads can however produce a foul smell. And can also irritate the skin around your labia and perianal area. Making it itchy. Which is why it is important to gently wash your pubic area with warm water every day to remove any residual blood from wearing a pad. This is also true for tampon
Now the question is, amongst women of colour especially black communities, “What is more predominantly used between pads and tampons, and why?”.