Period products can be expensive, wasteful and uncomfortable. Pads, tampons, menstrual cups and more all create a difficult choice even for those well-seasoned menstruators. So, what is the best option for your body? Here’s my review of each:
Pads are an easy, but uncomfortable option. The constant feeling of a pad can be bothersome. However, the lack of effort that using a pad entails is a huge plus. The lack of potential negative health effects takes away much of the anxiety associated with tampons, menstrual cups and discs. In actuality, pads can have extremely detrimental health effects. According to iCliniqu, exposure to chemical compounds can cause neurocognitive developmental delays, asthma, cancers and reproductive illness. Pads are also not environmentally-friendly. Stanford Magazine reports up to 12 billion pads are added to landfills each year in the United States alone. Also, the cost of pads can amount to almost $5,000 in one woman’s lifetime as noted by PandiaHealth. While pads are an easy option, the lack of comfort, high cost and their negative impact on the environment can be a major deterrent, awarding pads only a 5/10.
Tampons, similar to pads, are a quick easy option. Generally, tampons are fairly comfortable and easy to forget. However, the potential negative health effects can cause a scare for first time users: Toxic Shock Syndrome or TSS (a health condition characterized by high fever, body aches, mental confusion and more as defined by MayoClinic) is a real fear for many menstruators. For example, a small tear from removing a dry tampon can cause bacteria to enter the body, leading to extreme health effects. Although, TSS occurs in only about one in every 100,000 people in the United States. Additionally, Healthline reports PFAs have been found in tampon wrappers and applicators. Environmentally, tampons are not much better for the planet than pads with 7 million being added to landfills each year. Compared with pads, tampons only cost one woman about $2,000 in her lifetime, making them a more economical option. Tampons, with a better comfort level, cost and environmental effect, but worse health concerns, receive a solid 7/10.
Menstrual Cups: ★★★★★★★★★☆
Menstrual cups can seem intimidating at first: how is silicone the size of a shot glass supposed to feel comfortable? But, after the first two to three uses, menstrual cups lose their intimidation factor and feel far better than a pad or tampon can. A decrease in cramping, less discomfort while wearing and a simple removal and insertion process, make menstrual cups far more comfortable than pads or tampons. The potential negative health effects of menstrual cups are similar to tampons (TSS, infection, pain, etc.), but are far less likely and have positive health benefits. In addition to being less likely to cause infection and a removed risk of spreading PFAs (a chemical that has been linked to organ dysfunction, fertility issues, and cancer), menstrual cups maintain the natural vaginal pH balance (an indication of overall vaginal health) and eco flora (a group of organisms that manage reproductive health) as well as preventing infection that could occur with tampons and pads. In contrast with pads and tampons, a menstrual cup lasts for 10 years with proper care (removing any environmental effects), meaning a woman could save thousands of dollars throughout years of menstruating. Overall, menstrual cups are cheaper, more environmentally friendly, healthier and more comfortable, earning them a 9/10.
Understanding what is right for your body, which products work for you and what is most manageable is key to menstruating comfortably. While finding the right product may take some trial and error, using the product that is best for you can make a huge difference in comfort, cost and conscience for menstruators.