Are you tired of relying on traditional pads and sanitary napkins to manage your monthly cycle?
After all, they can get bulky and stinky, and have a terrible toll on the environment. If so, you may be wondering which product is best for you when it comes to tampons vs menstrual cups. Not to worry – we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to tampons and menstrual cups to help you decide.
What are Tampons?
Tampons are a type of menstrual product made of cotton that come in a cylindrical shape that can be inserted directly into the vagina. Once it is inserted in the vagina, it expands to absorb menstrual blood.
Types of Tampons
There are two main categories related to how you insert them; tampons that are inserted using your finger, and tampons that come with applicators to assist you in inserting them. These applicators are made from either plastic or cardboard and function similarly to a syringe to help you insert the tampon into your vagina.
Tampons also come in a variety of absorbent capacities so that you can choose the right level of absorbance for your flow. The most common types of tampon from lightest flow to heaviest are Light, Regular, Super, and Super Plus.
Pros and Cons of Using Tampons
Tampons have some great advantages over sanitary pads, including making it possible to engage in activities like swimming and other forms of exercise more easily. Since tampons are inserted internally, there is no odour, bulkiness, or irritation of the skin due to moisture. Their discreteness also makes it easier to wear certain types of clothing. Plus, they are lightweight and easy to carry compared to sanitary pads.
One potential downside of wearing tampons include the major environmental impact. While they may be smaller than sanitary pads, they are still big contributors to landfills due to plastic packaging and applicators. If you do choose to wear tampons and want to reduce your waste, try these eco-friendly tampons.
Another con of wearing tampons is that they absorb natural lubrication and bacteria in addition to menstrual blood, which can put you at risk for toxic shock syndrome. While this tampon’s side effect is very rare, it is life-threatening and should be taken seriously.
How to Insert and Remove Tampons
Wash your hands with soap and water before inserting a tampon. Follow the detailed instructions on the box, which will tell you the steps to follow. Note that it can feel uncomfortable the first couple of times you wear a tampon, so don’t give up if it doesn’t feel right.
To remove a tampon, gently tug the string that should be dangling from your vagina to slowly slide the tampon out. Be sure to dispose of it in the garbage and not in the toilet, as it can clog the pipes.
Tips for Comfortable and Safe Tampon Use
- Always use the lowest absorbency needed for your flow. For example, if it’s the last day of your period and you know it’s usually very light, opt for a Light tampon rather than a Super.
- Be sure to change your tampon every 6 to 8 hours (minimum), and even more frequently during heavy flow.
- We don’t recommend using tampons overnight or while you’re napping to avoid going too long between changes.
- Be aware of the signs of toxic shock syndrome so you can seek medical attention immediately. Signs to look out for include a sudden high fever, muscle aches, vomiting or diarrhea, low blood pressure, confusion, redness of the eyes or mouth, a rash on the palms or soles, and seizures.
Can You Wear Tampons With an IUD?
Yes, it’s totally safe to use tampons if you use an IUD for birth control. Although both products enter your body through your vagina, an IUD sits inside the uterus, whereas a tampon stays in the vagina. While an IUD and tampons are compatible, it is recommended that you not use tampons within the first two days of inserting an IUD to minimize the risk of infection.
What are Menstrual Cups?
Menstrual cups are reusable period products made from flexible medical-grade silicone in the shape of a funnel that are inserted into the vagina to catch menstrual fluid. They come in three sizes based on the menstruators' age and flow.
Pros and Cons of Using Menstrual Cups
When it comes to the menstrual cup vs tampon, an advantage of the menstrual cup is that it holds more blood, which allows you to wear one for longer before needing to empty it (up to 12 hours depending on your flow). Due to the shape, they create a suction effect which helps prevent leakage, making it possible to swim, sleep, and be active with no worries while menstruating. Menstrual cups are also a very environmentally friendly option since they can be washed and reused for several years. This also makes menstrual cups more cost-effective in the long run.
The only disadvantage of menstrual cups is that they can get messy and be difficult to insert and remove. It’s also tricky to find the perfect fit initially, and while you can guess your size, you may have to learn through trial and error. Finally, menstrual cups may cause an allergic reaction for some who are allergic to rubber or silicone.
How to Insert and Remove Menstrual Cups
To insert a menstrual cup, fold the cup so the edge is curved. Use your other hand to separate your labia while you gently push the folded cup into the vagina horizontally. Hold onto the bottom of the cup and spin it around so it unfolds and creates a seal.
Removal is where things can get messy until you’re used to the process. You need to carefully pull the stem of the menstrual cup until you can feel the base of the cup enough to pinch it. Pinching the cup will release the suction so that you can pull it out. Empty the blood into a toilet and rinse the cup out with clean water before reinserting it. You can find a thorough step by step guide here.
Can You Have Sex With a Menstrual Cup In?
Having sexual intercourse while wearing a menstrual cup is not recommended unless it is designed to be worn during sex. There are plenty of other ways to make period sex enjoyable.
Tampons vs Menstrual Cups: How to Choose the Right Option for You
The choice of which product to use for managing your period should be based on your values, affordability, and comfort. You can always give both tampons and menstrual cups a try and see how comfortable you are with each.
If you’re committed to minimizing your impact on the environment, then menstrual cups offer a convenient, comfortable, and eco-friendlier way to absorb menstrual blood while enjoying day-to-day activities.
Tampons and menstrual cups are two popular menstrual products that offer women different options for managing their menstrual cycle. Both have their pros and cons, so it’s important to choose the product that best fits your needs and lifestyle while also being conscious of your environmental impact. Whichever product you choose, remember to always follow the instructions for safe and comfortable use and seek advice from a healthcare provider if necessary.
Editor: Lanna Last & Thomas Sauls