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Menstrual Products: Which is The Best Choice for You?

The selection of tampon versus pad versus menstrual cup is definitely a personal preference. Which feels most comfortable? Which enables you to do the activities you want – swim, wear certain outfits, be physically active, etc.? And which product (or combination of products) best supports your overall health?

Let’s weigh out the pros and cons. Some may be stating the obvious, but others may surprise you.

Pads

Pros

  • User-friendly: It’s pretty easy to remove the adhesive strip, place them on your underwear, and go. This makes them a great go-to for first-timers.
  • Variety: offered in a variety of sizes and absorbency, they enable you to be flexible based on your flow.
  • Double-up for back-up: Pads can be combined with the use of a tampon for heaviest flow days that can be more common with endometriosis.

Cons

  • Swimming: Taking a dip in the water is definitely a no-go if you’re wearing a pad. This is pretty obvious and may not be a show stopper if you’re rarely by the water, but if you spend your summers by the pool, lake, or ocean, or are training for a swim meet or triathlon, this is stopping you from doing something you love.
  • Physical activity: Outside of swimming, pads can still be cumbersome and awkward during a workout or other physical activities.
  • Odor: Because pads are “external” methods, there’s a higher chance of experiencing an odor, but the scented pads present another host of risks.

Timing

  • Six to eight hours is the recommended timeframe to change the pad to prevent bacterial growth.

Tampons

Pros

  • Comfort: This is a BIGGIE. Once switching from pads to tampons, I found it hard to even consider going back. If you’re fortunate enough to not experience other symptoms, you could have the joy of almost forgetting you have your period at all.
  • Freedom: Swim, dance, run… move with greater freedom and confidence.
  • Variety: Like their pad counterparts, they too come in a variety of absorbency to flex with your flow.

Cons

  • Increased risk of infection: There’s not a lot of studies done on this, however, there is definitely a lot of talk around the connection between tampons and UTIs. Tampons don’t cause the infections, but if used during an infection, they may make the flare worse. Again, not well researched, but something to consider if you get frequent UTIs. And if you don’t change your tampon after each bowel movement, you could potentially also increase your risk for a vaginal or bladder infection.
  • Poor materials: Some tampons are made with chemically sprayed cotton and other less than desirable materials. This means the pollutant dioxin could end up in your tampons which has raised a lot of concern.1 Going organic can be a good solution here. (For more on this check out my article on organic tampons.)
  • Vaginal dryness: Use only the level of absorbency you need. Otherwise, it may increase your likeliness of vaginal dryness as well as your risk for toxic shock syndrome (TSS).

Timing

  • Four to eight hours is recommended to prevent infection.

Menstrual cup

Pros

  • Heavy duty: The average menstrual cup can hold about 30 mL, which is the equivalent to approximately three super tampons.
  • Environmentally-friendly: Because it’s reusable, there’s less waste than with disposable pads and tampons.
  • Budget-friendly: Again, because it’s reusable with the maintenance of cleaning with gentle soap, it’s definitely the most cost-effective option.

Cons

  • Cumbersome: It can be a bit cumbersome to first learn how to insert and remove it.
  • Messy: The process of removing the cup can be messy. It’s also harder to change in a public restroom because you don’t have immediate access to a sink with soap.
  • Timing: Because you can leave it in for up to 12 hours, it can be easier to forget to change it.

Do you have experience trying the different methods out? Share below!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Endometriosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. DeVito M, Schecter A. Environ Health Perspect. 2002;110(1):23-28. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1240689/. Accessed May 19, 2019.

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