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Tampons vs pads – choose your fighter!

Let’s face it – every menstruating person has their personal approach to feminine hygiene products. And when it comes to the period – it is extremely important to find the most comfortable protection from unexpected free bleeding. Tampon, pad, menstrual cup… There are plenty of possibilities and everyone should choose those that they like, make them feel safe, and minimize the risk of unwanted red spots on the underwear. The most popular period products are pads and tampons – and both have their pros and cons.

7 minreading time • Text: Dominika Olchowik

Tampons vs Pads Jarek Danilenko illustration

Illustration: Jarek Danilenko

Pads and tampons - which team are you on?

Since I remember – I have been a proud member of the Team Pads. They just fit my period needs perfectly. I want to feel protected (even though wearing pads may feel like having an adult diaper on sometimes :) and comfortable. Also – my periods usually keep me in bed, so during these days I am the complete opposite of an active person. Tampons are known to be more suitable for people with a very sporty lifestyle. Also, you basically can’t feel them inside, so my zippy friends are always opting for this product. They simply got used to tampons so much that they would never think of switching to a pad. Menstrual cups are also becoming widely popular. 

I like when me and my pals are exchanging our experiences with period protection. Usually, we end up deliberating tampons vs pads, as they are usual MVP competitors in our period products battle.

Is it possible to find and name the best menstrual product? Definitely not – but we can examine them so it will be much easier to choose and get the one you may like the most! Or to decide when to wear a different kind of protection to make sure that you are safe and sound at any time during your menstruation. It is always good to know your weapons, so we present to you the ultimate battle – tampons vs pads!

Tampons – what to know about them

The tampon is a menstrual product that, inserted inside the vagina, absorbs blood and protects from free blood flow. A very common question is – can teenagers, who have just started their menstruation, wear a tampon? The answer is yes – it is safe to use a tampon even during the first period (menarche). The only factor that should be displayed is the level of comfort and a good arsenal of information about female body structure and how to put the tampon in.

Tampons are usually made out of cotton and rayon (but you can also buy 100% organic cotton tampons). You apply them with your finger unless they come with a special applicator to help you put them properly inside the vaginal canal. Tampon always has a string attached, which you need to pull to get the tampon out of your body. What may be important for some people – tampons come in small, handy boxes and are packed individually, so they don’t take too much space and are very discreet. It is very crucial to know that you should wear a tampon only during menstruation – these fellas can really mess up your vaginal pH, so if you are expecting period or experiencing some spotting, using pads would be the right choice.

Usually, a normal absorbency tampon hold is up to 5 ml of menstrual blood. If the tampon is applied properly, you should not feel it inside your body. This is why it is important to remember to change your tampon every 4 to 8 hours at least!  

The pros of using a tampon are:

  • There is no shame in having a period – still, for many people this subject is a hot potato, they want to stay discreet, and avoid making menstruation public; tampons are small and very cleverly packed, so they can fit even in your pocket! No one can tell if you are carrying tampons with you.
  • If you seek invisible protection, then using tampons may also be the best choice – as you apply them internally, there are no boundaries with picking lingerie (although keep in mind that the string attached to the tampon might show up if you are wearing a widely cut swimsuit).
  • Regarding swimming – yes, you can totally swim with your tampon in! If you apply the tampon correctly, it shouldn’t feel any different than your usual swimming pool session; tampons are also more comfortable during any type of workout, as pads tend to wrinkle and displace.
  • Tampons come in different shapes and varying absorbency, so you can easily get something tailored for your period needs.

Unfortunately, using a tampon is not only flowers and rainbows. There are some disadvantages of using tampons that we need to point out:

  • Applying a tampon inside your vagina may be problematic and stressful at first.
  • Wearing a tampon for too long can cause infections and irritate our vagina’s environment – it is important to change it throughout the day, at least every 8 hours!
  • Speaking of diseases – TSS. Although it’s rare, it can also be a life-threatening condition, so as soon as you recognize some alarming symptoms – don’t hesitate to contact a medical doctor!

Toxic Shock Syndrome – only from tampons?

Wearing a tampon for too long can cause Toxic Shock Syndrome. What is it?

A tampon, besides menstrual blood, also absorbs natural lubrication and bacteria responsible for keeping the pH stable. Irregularities can lead to different types of infections and sometimes end with a disease called Toxic Shock Syndrome TSS. This is a rare condition – its peak was in the ‘80s, but currently it is said that one out of 100 000 women can get TSS because of tampons.

Some of the symptoms of TSS are:

-        High fever

-        Stomach issues, such as nausea or diarrhea

-        Muscle aches

-        Irritated skin/rash

Putting tampons in the right way and changing them a few times throughout the day help to avoid TSS. But this is not only the case of tampons – you can get TSS (with a very low probability) from other products, like pads or menstrual cups. However, it doesn’t need to be connected with period protection, but the truth is that using them incorrectly can be the main factor in causing TSS. To sum up,  always check if there’s a need to change the product and keep your lady parts clean and fresh!

...vs pads – know the opponent!

Pad is known for being a go-to item during menarche, the first menstruation. Why? It is very easy to apply as there is no internal action needed – the pad should be glued by the sticky side to the underwear. Sometimes they have additional “wings” to wrap them on the sides to prevent any leaking. Pads are usually made by using a combination of synthetic fibers and plastic, but nowadays the reusable ones, made from cotton cloth, are becoming more and more popular. They definitely feel very comfortable and you can wear them more than once – simply put them in the laundry right after wearing them.

Pads come in different sizes and shapes to fit a variety of bodies (also different types of underwear) and have different levels of absorbency. For example, a pad dedicated for night usage might be bigger and thicker than the classic, most common ones, and its absorbency is higher than the daytime pads’. This is why pads are suitable from light to heavy flow and you can easily get the products tailored for your needs.

Using pads might be a better option for girls who suffer from endometriosis or very painful and heavy periods. Wearing period products externally (without inserting anything inside your vagina) is definitely more comfortable for people with such problems. 

Make sure to change your pad when it’s necessary – however, there is no golden rule about the time you need to do it. Simply pay attention, check from time to time, and change it at least every four to five hours.

 First – the good stuff! Pros of using pads are:

  • They come in different shapes and sizes so it is very easy to find the best ones for girls with different preferences and health conditions.
  • The pad is a great option for even a very heavy flow.
  • Easy and external application on the underwear.
  • You can wear a pad overnight!
  • Pads have a very low risk of causing TSS.

 On the other hand, there are a few cons of pads we need to mention.

  • If a pad isn’t applied correctly, it may wrinkle up.
  • If not changed for a long time, the pad can develop an unpleasant smell.
  • Pads are less discrete than tampons – if choosing them, you shouldn’t wear a very cut, g-string type of underwear.

Choosing between tampons or pads is personal and depends on what one likes and searches for in period protection. It is important to remember that there are some other great options, for example menstrual cups. They are made of rubber, latex, or silicone. Just like tampons, you insert one inside your body. Cups are safe as long as you pay attention to washing your hands thoroughly before applying them. Once you take it out, remove the blood from it and rinse it with water and light detergent, like mild soap. Menstrual cups should be cleaned from 4 to 12 hours after putting it in, depending on menstrual flow. 

Unlike pads and tampons, menstrual cups should be discussed with a gynecologist. A medical doctor should help you consider a size based on your age, your period flow intensity, and what your pelvic floor muscles look like. Menstrual cups don’t affect the vagina’s bacterial environment and don’t dry out its natural moisture like tampons.

Is it better to wear pads or use tampons?

It is impossible to settle the tampons vs pads battle unanimously. Both products have their advantages and disadvantages, and your choice should depend on your lifestyle, needs, and preferences. Get the one you like the most! Don’t be afraid to try different products! Make your comfort the priority. I encourage you to look here and pick for yourself.

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