The issue of safe feminine hygiene product options is rarely discussed, but it is a vitally important topic for roughly a third of the population. Approximately 43 million women in the United States use tampons, and millions more use pads or sanitary napkins.
Menstruation is and the vagina, generally is a topic that promotes expressions of disgust, mockery, gross-out jokes or pleas for ignorance, particularly from men. But, the truth is feminine hygiene is no joke, so let’s all agree to be adults here and talk seriously about a health issue that affects every woman on the planet.
When you think of the vagina what is the first thing that you think of? Probably not skin, but that is exactly what you should be thinking of. The skin is, of course, the largest organ in your body. Less than one-tenth of an inch separates your body from potential toxins. Just like the skin of a fruit to herbicide, the skin is extremely permeable, especially the skin around your vagina.
This means that anything coming in constant contact with your skin will land in your bloodstream for distribution. So, you can liken feminine hygiene products to a time bomb, just waiting to explode. How many tampons do you think you use during the span of a lifetime? On average 16,800 and if on estrogen replacement therapy as much as 24,360.
So, What Is Really Going On In Those Sanitary Pads and Tampons?
- Chlorine- Chlorine is used to bleach the cotton used in the sanitary products, particularly tampons and menstrual pads.
- Dioxins and Furans- Both of which are known carcinogens that can cause reproductive, developmental and hormonal problems, and can have a detrimental effect on the immune system.
- Pesticide Residue- Most of the cotton that is used for tampons and pads is made from conventionally grown cotton, which is treated with heavy pesticides. And, while the FDA “recommends” that tampons are free of pesticide residue, resting on the popular o.b. brand detects the presence of pesticides like pyrethrum, procymidone, mecarbam and fensulfothion which are all possible carcinogens linked to endocrine distribution. I would also like to add that most brands use GMO cotton. If you avoid eating GMO foods, do you really want to be using GMO feminine Hygiene products?
- “Conventionally grown cotton uses more insecticides than any other single crop. Nearly $2.6 billion worth of pesticides are sprayed on cotton fields each year – accounting for more than 10% of total pesticide use and nearly 25% of insecticides use worldwide.”
- Parabens- Found in vaginal anti-itch creams, feminine wipes and washes; typically a preservative. Parabens are skin irritants and allergens, and may have damaging estrogenic properties.
- Synthetic Materials- Most tampons and pads are not 100% cotton these days, they are made from synthetic fabrics like rayon, or Super Absorbant Powders. Some of these substances along with the other chemicals and fragrances can cause rashes and skin irritation, particularly when used in menstrual pads.
Pads and tampons are considered “medical devices,” which means that companies do not have to disclose any of the ingredients that they use in their products. Other feminine care products are regulated as personal care products, which means companies can keep fragrance ingredients secret, as well.
What about Toxic Shock Syndrome?
“Researchers don’t know exactly how tampons may cause toxic shock syndrome. Some believe that when superabsorbent tampons are left in place for a long time, the tampons become a breeding ground for bacteria. Others have suggested that the superabsorbent fibers in the tampons can scratch the surface of the vagina, making it possible for bacteria or their toxins to enter the bloodstream.”
- sudden high fever (102°F, 39°C or more)
- nausea or vomiting
- sore throat
- fainting or near fainting
- rashes that look like sunburn (skin peeling may occur days later)
- muscular pain
How to Minimize Your Risk:
- Avoid super absorbent tampons, choose the lowest absorbency rate to handle your flow
- Never leave a tampon inserted overnight
- Avoid tampons with plastic applicators
- Alternate between tampons and sanitary pads
- Change your tampon, at least, every 4-6 hours
- Do not use between periods
What Are Some Safer Alternatives?
If you want to stick to the convenience of traditional tampons and pads, at least, opt for natural and organic ones. They have become more widely available lately and are around the same price as regular options.
The Best Options
A menstrual cup is exactly what it sound slike, a reusable soft sided cup that fits inside the vagina to collect menstrual flow. It is reusable, leak-proof and much more comfortable than a conventional tampon.
There are many great Menstrual Cups on the market, I personally prefer the Diva Cup. It is medical grade Silicon and considered to be completely safe. There is also no risk for TSS when using this product.
Buy yours here!
Reusable pads are another great option. They are comfortable and have a waterproof liner so that they do not leak through onto clothing.
Buy yours here!
These little sponges are a renewable resource that can serve as an all-natural alternative to tampons. Retailers claim that a menstrual sponge can last up to six months when properly cared for.
I bought mine here!
But, Do They Really Work?
If you don’t, believe me, let the comments speak for themselves! Wellness Mama posted a similar post, and while scrolling through the comments while doing my research, I found these! Here are some of the best!
“I have polycystic ovarian syndrome and my periods have always been unpredictable. I decided to make the switch to cloth pads and I’m so happy that I did. Within just a few months I began to have regular cycles. I used to have heavy bleeding and severe cramps/horrible stabbing pains. I’ve been pain-free and regular for 8 months now. I’ll never go back to chemical ridden disposable products again.”
“Love, love, love my diva cup! Switched about 3 years ago & only wish I’d known sooner. Went from bleeding through a super plus tampon in 20 mins on my heavy day to just having to empty my diva cup morning and night and only once a day the rest of my cycle.”
“Flow went from heavy down to probably less than normal? (define normal) Cycle went from a full 7 days to 3 or 4 days with only 2 being at all heavy. And all but stopped at night. (don’t even need the cup at night) Much less cramps and discomfort in general. I had done a LOT of hormone work the year or so prior to starting to use it, so I’m sure that was part of things, but deff saw some big changes after using it for several months. It takes some getting used to and some trial and error.”
“Menstrual cups have Changed my period! My horrible cramps are a thing of the past!!”
So, while convenience is a good thing, do not let that be the only thing that keeps you from using natural alternatives. Your body and your vagina will thank you! And, remember if you wouldn’t feel comfortable eating a product, do not put it in your body.