Tampons vs. Menstrual Cups
Tue Jul 26 19:40:00 2016
When it comes to managing your period, there are a lot of different options available. We’ve come a long way from the days of wearing a reusable sanitary belt and pad and are lucky enough to live in the western world where sanitary products are readily available to most of us. Still, the debate between cups and tampons is never ending. Some people are die hard tampon users while others swear by menstrual cups. As a menstruating person, it’s important to have options. It’s just as important to understand the impact of each option on your health and wellbeing. So which is really better? We’re going to take a complete look at each and let you decide for yourself.
Tampons come in varying sizes (from smaller ones for lighter flows to larger ones for heavier flows) and are inserted into your vagina, typically with the assistance of a plastic applicator. Tampons absorb menstrual blood.
Cups also come in different sizes. There is a smaller one for women who haven’t given birth and a slightly larger one for those who have. Cups are also inserted into your vagina but, instead of absorbing your blood, they collect it for later disposal.
The average woman goes through between 8 and 17 thousand tampons in her lifetime (depending on the heaviness of her flow and how many years she menstruates for) and spends approximately $1,773 dollars on them.
Menstrual cups range in price from $25-40 and each one can typically be used for between 5 and 10 years. This means that over a woman’s lifetime, she would spend $120 on menstrual cups at most.
Length of Use
The recommended amount of time you can use one tampon is between 4 and 8 hours (at the very most). This, of course, depends on how heavy your flow is. Leaving a tampon in longer than 8 hours increases your risk of developing toxic shock syndrome (TSS).
You can safely leave a menstrual cup in for up to 12 hours. This also depends on the amount you bleed.
Since tampons come in different sizes, they hold different amounts of blood. The smallest ones hold up to 6 grams (about 2/10 of an ounce), while the largest can absorb up to 18 grams (about 6/10 of an ounce).
Most menstrual cups can hold up to a full ounce of menstrual blood at one time. The average woman only flows 1 to 2 ounces per cycle.
What’s In Them
Most mainstream tampons are made from a combination of cotton and rayon (a synthetic material made of chemically treated wood pulp fiber). They are then bleached which can cause the formation of dioxins, which are linked to reproductive issues, cancer, and immune system suppression. Additionally, many tampons are scented. These scents are comprised of chemicals which can be damaging to the vagina.
Cups are made of medical grade silicone and are hypoallergenic and free of toxins.
There are several health risks associated with using tampons, including toxic shock syndrome (as mentioned above), vaginal dryness (your vagina is super absorbent and when they dry out can increase your risk of getting TSS even more), and exposure to toxins and carcinogens that can cause long-term health problems like cancer, infertility, and a weakened immune system.
None to date. Unless you don’t empty it out every 12 hours, that is! There’s only been one reported case of TSS from a menstrual cup and she left it in for over 12 hours. We recommend not leaving anything in your vagina for that long (and trim your nails before you put them up there, too).
Effects on the Environment
According to the book Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation, an average tampon user throws away 250 to 300 pounds of menstrual hygiene products in her lifetime. The toxins found in tampons do more than just harm your body - they also hurt the planet. When you dispose of a tampon, you’re setting all these chemicals free into the environment. If every woman (that’s 50% of the population) does this, think about how much pollution is caused just from menstruation products.
Since cups only need to be replaced every 5 - 10 years, they don’t present nearly as much harm to the environment. Even if you do throw one away, there aren’t any toxic chemicals to worry about.
An Outline of the Pros
Some positive benefits of tampons include:
- Ease of insertion
- Less mess
- More options that fit your body type
- Easily disposed of
There are already a plethora of pros to using a cup but here are a few more for good measure:
- Balanced vaginal pH levels
- Lower costs
- Less landfill waste
- More time between changes
- Can wear during intercourse
- Easy to use
- Can sleep in them
An Outline of the Cons
- More landfill waste
- Exposure to harmful toxins
- Vaginal dryness
- Risk of toxic shock syndrome
- Need to change every 4-8 hours
- Can’t sleep in them
- More mess
- Can be difficult to insert for some
- Possible fit problems for people with fibroids or a dropped uterus
- Learning curve for cup removal
- Need to clean regularly
So, there you have it. We’ve done the research and presented you with the facts. Tell us - are you Team Tampon or Team Menstrual Cup?
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