Pads Vs. Tampons Vs. Period Underwear - What Are The Benefits Of Period Underwear?
If you’re the owner of a uterus, chances are you’ve had to deal with the many frustrations that come with having your period every month. Whether it’s worrying that your bulky pad can be seen through your pants, concern over whether your tampon has been in too long (has it been three hours? Four?), or fear that everyone around you can smell you, periods are no walk in the park.
Weighing up traditional menstrual products...
If you’re anything like us, you’ve been using tampons and pads since you first started your period. With your monthly visitor came concerned sessions of Googling, “How to insert a tampon” and “Are tampons safe?” You were told horror stories about toxic shock syndrome and the dangers of leaving your tampon in for too long. Or maybe you went the pad route, and instead found yourself worrying about leakage or people seeing it through your clothes.
Did you know leaving your tampon inside your vagina for a long time, repeatedly every month, can cost you your health?
Let’s break down some of the cons of using tampons:
- The risk of toxic shock syndrome. Whilst rare these days, it remains to be the most dangerous complication of using tampons. Caused by infection from bacteria, toxins from these bacteria can compromise your organs and bodily tissue. This is the main reason you need to change your tampon regularly...
- Having to change a tampon every few hours. To avoid the risk of toxic shock syndrome, you need to change your tampon every few hours. Which can be incredibly annoying if you’re at work, school, or in the middle of something that makes it difficult to get to the bathroom – like sleeping.
- Not everybody can use tampons. Every vagina is different, meaning type and size can be tricky to figure out for first time users. Others may find tampons too uncomfortable to use at all, meaning they may be unable to do some of the things they usually do. Especially those with Endometriosis or PCOS, find it difficult to use tampons due to the pain and irritation they cause.
- They can be drying and irritating. Especially if you’re at the beginning or end of your period. There is no easy way to be prepared with a tampon before you actually get your period... its not going up there without some kind of lubrication.
- They are not eco-friendly. Most tampons are made from polypropylene, a plastic that is not biodegradable. This means millions of tampons and accompanying packaging end up in landfill every year. Discarded menstrual products are the fifth most common waste item found in landfill.
What are the pros of using tampons?
Tampons can be convenient at times. They can be worn when swimming, just watch out for the string falling out of your bathers! Tampons are also convenient when you don't want to wear much... unfortunately you can't put a big pad in a tiny g-string or thong!
A much more sustainable period option has been around for quite a while now, in the aim to replace tampons all together - the menstrual cup.
However, they don't come without major risks too....
The cons of using menstrual cups:
Unfortunately there isn't a lot of information or research out there about the harm a menstrual cup can do. Most people believe they have changed the world for the good, but they sure do come with a lot of risks that only your doctor will tell you.
- You can still get Toxic Shock Syndrome. Many claim that you can leave a menstrual cup in for up to 12 hours, but this is extremely risky and the longer you leave the cup inside you catching that pool of blood, the faster the bacteria will grow. If you find yourself getting Bacterial Vaginitis or thrush quite regularly after getting your period, it could mean you aren't changing your cup frequently enough.
Menstrual cups can cause a cervical prolapse. Although rare, this is actually more common that you might think. There are 4 stages of a cervical prolapse, starting with stage one - where you can feel a little bump where your cervix opening is. With stage four ending with your whole cervix collapsing and your organs come down inside your vagina.
This is why it is IMPERATIVE to break the suction of the menstrual cup underneath your cervix before you pull down on the cup's steam. If you start to notice a little bump, or it is all of a sudden painful to have sex, this could be why.
I will note that there are kegel exercises you can do to help strengthen the muscles inside your vagina to prevent this from happening, or to reverse that little bump so it goes back up and away. But be warned, once that bump is low enough downwards there is a point of no return.
- It is really hard to empty a menstrual cup and put it back in while in a public bathroom. And god-forbid you spill any blood on your clothes while emptying it.
The cons of using pads:
- They restrict what you can do. Pads are bulky and can make it difficult to do some things, like going to the gym or swimming.
- Pads have to be changed frequently. This reduces the likelihood of bad odour and also prevents bacteria build-up, but is a pain if you can’t get to a bathroom
- There is leakage potential. Pads attach to your underwear, meaning they can move around, resulting in potential leakage and accidents.
- Pads can be irritating. Contact dermatitis (or, “pad rash”) can be quite common during that time of the month, usually from various elements on the pad, such as chemicals, adhesive, or fragrance.
- Pads are not environmentally friendly. Like tampons, millions of pads end up in landfill every year, further contributing to the plastic waste crisis our world is experiencing.
What are the benefits of Period Underwear?
You’ve no doubt seen the latest innovation taking over the world of periods: period underwear. To first-time users of period underwear, bleeding directly into your undergarments might sound a little bit odd and daunting, but there are so many incredible benefits to period underwear, and so many more reasons to start cutting out the more traditional ways of dealing with your period!
Period underwear have been gaining a lot of popularity over the past few years, and it’s easy to see why. They have a ton of benefits and make that time of the month so much easier.
- They’re thinner than pads, meaning you won’t have that bulky, nappy-like feeling.
- They’re perfect for the lead-up and end to your period. Realistically, it’s hard to predict the start of your period with absolute accuracy. That’s where period underwear comes in. You no longer have to worry about your period sneaking up on you, or returning for one more hoorah at the very end (why does it have to do that?!).
- They’re a lifesaver at night. Anyone else sleep like a stiff plank on your period because you’re worried any movement will result in mass bed sheet carnage? Period underwear takes the stress out of sleeping because there’s pretty much zero risk of leakage. Our period underwear can hold up to four tampons-worth of liquid, meaning you get sweet dreams all night long.
- They’re great for more than periods. Period underwear can be used at any point of your cycle, including those times when discharge is happening and you don’t want to have to wear a liner. They’re also fantastic for postpartum use and any incontinence issues you may have. Or long bike rides to help you with that arse sweat in your sexy tight bike shorts!
- They’re sustainable (and money-saving)! Because they’re reusable, period underwear are saving our environment and our wallets. Let’s face it, the pink tax is real, and it’s painful having to fork out cash every month on more products that are just going straight to landfill, and aren’t even good for your vagina anyway!
- Easy to clean. Simply rinse out and chuck in a wash bag in the washing machine on cold wash. Easy as that!
- Better for your vagina. No nasty chemicals to be seen and usually made from great eco-friendly materials, like bamboo and cotton for extra breathability.
- Great for school-aged children. Remember the old “Can you check the back of my dress/skirt/pants?” you’d ask your friends after every class? Period underwear is a great way to reduce that stress and allow kids to focus on school and not on potential accidents.