Go With the Flow
by Brianna Larsen
Learn what girlshealth.gov has to say about taking care of your period.
Pads, tampons, cups, and sponges—whether you’re just starting your period, have had it for awhile, or are wondering if your special “Moon-time” is soon approaching, it’s up to you to decide what to use. All these choices may seem a little intimidating, but here’s the scoop on the many menstrual products out there and how to find what’s best for you.
What feels right?
Pads – Disposable pads are made out of many different kinds of absorbent materials and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and thicknesses. You wear them on the base of your underpants, so they include an adhesive strip on the back to keep them from slipping around.
Reusable pads are made of cotton fabric and are designed to be used and then soaked, washed, dried, and reused. They usually have “wings” that snap around the base of your underpants.
Tampons – A disposable tampon is a small tube of cotton or rayon and other materials with a string attached to the bottom. Like pads, tampons come in a variety of sizes, but unlike pads, you insert tampons into your vagina using an applicator or just your fingers. You remove the tampon by pulling on the string. The tampon absorbs the menstrual blood before it leaves your body.
Sponges – Sea sponges can be used like tampons. You insert them into your vagina to absorb menstrual fluids, but instead of throwing them away you rinse them out and use them again.
Cups – Reusable and disposable cups are usually made out of rubber or plastic and are shaped like an upside-down bell. You insert them like a tampon and rinse them like a sponge, but, unlike either, cups don’t absorb the blood—they hold it, carrying up to one ounce at a time.
Every girl’s opinion about the “perfect” product is different. Some girls prefer pads because they’re so easy to use. I love cloth pads because they’re really soft, and I can use them over and over again. Other girls like tampons because they don’t get wet when you go swimming and are less bulky for dancing, sports, and other activities. Sponges and cups are a less expensive alternative to tampons, and if they’re reusable, they cut back on garbage.
While choosing menstrual products, we need to consider what’s safest for our bodies because some of them go inside our bodies—even pads are in close contact with our skin. Most tampons contain synthetic material (made chemically rather than naturally) which can absorb lots of blood, sucking it deep down into the tampon. But that also dries out the sensitive vaginal walls and leaves behind proteins that create a breeding ground for bacteria. The bacteria release toxins into the body which can possibly lead to a rare disease called Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). To avoid TSS, choose tampons with the lowest needed absorbency and change them about every four hours. Also, never insert a tampon into your vagina if you aren’t menstruating.
Another health concern is the chemical dioxin—a byproduct of the chlorine-bleaching process used in rayon for tampons. Dioxin has been linked to reproductive problems and cancer. In addition, the cotton used in pads and tampons is sometimes grown with chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
All of this isn’t meant to make you worried, only a little more aware. There are some companies that sell non-chlorine-bleached organic cotton pads and tampons, which are much safer for girls. All menstrual products are safest if you change them every four hours. So go ahead and experiment until you know what’s right for you. Then you can greet your “Monthly Miracle” with a smile!
Do you have more questions about your period? You can check out The Period Book by Jennifer and Karen Gravelle from the New Moon Store. Go to www.newmoonstore.com.
© 2005 New Moon® Publishing, New Moon®: The Magazine for Girls and Their Dreams, Duluth MN.
Content last reviewed May 15, 2008
Page last updated October 31, 2013