Tampons — or tampon-like devices — have been used by women for centuries. In ancient Rome, women used wool soaked in opium to stem menstrual flow. In Japan, women used folded paper, and in other parts of Asia and Africa, women used plants and grass. Today’s tampons are made of cotton, rayon and other fibers.Most American women (70 percent) use tampons, up to 16,000 in a lifetime.
Although tampons are widely used, convenient and easily accessible, they do have some downsides. They need to be changed every few hours.They have an environmental impact (waste from tampons and pads can add up to 250-300 pounds over a woman’s lifetime). And in rare cases, particularly when a super absorbent-size tampon is left inserted for a lengthy time, a woman can develop a serious illness called Toxic Shock Syndrome.
Fortunately, today’s women have choices for their menstrual cycles (beyond wool, paper and plants).
Found under brand names such as Diva Cup, Lunette, Lena, Blossom and Mooncup, the menstrual cup is a silicone or rubber device that you can insert into the vagina where it collects blood from your period. It is available in different sizes, based on factors such as your age and whether you’ve had children. Some cups are disposable, while others can be cleaned and reused. A menstrual cup can stay inserted longer than the recommendation for a tampon, 12 to 24 hours, which makes it convenient for traveling, sports or an activity like camping.
These washable, reusable pads are sold under names such as GladRags and Lunapads. Although they do not create environmental waste, they do have some impact because you will need multiple pads and they all will need to be washed.
While a menstrual disc is inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual fluid, similar to a menstrual cup, there are differences in the devices. A menstrual disc, like one called FLEX, is a disposable device that sits farther in the vagina than a menstrual cup and can remain inserted for up to 12 hours. You can have sex while the disc is inserted, while you would need to remove the menstrual cup before sex.
Instead of putting a pad in your underwear, these panties come with the pad built in so there’s no shifting or slipping. Sold under names such as Thinx and Dear Kate, period panties claim the linings hold the equivalent of two tampons worth of fluid. Period panties need to be changed several times a day. They are reusable and need to be washed.
Which product should you use? It is an individual decision, based on your preference. But with new options that provide additional convenience, comfort, flexibility and environmental focus, you have many choices to consider that are better than opium-soaked wool.
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