If you’re like most people, you’ve probably not thought much about your period care options. Is your menstrual product of choice both convenient and sustainable? If you use tampons already, have you thought about what’s actually in your tampons? Are the materials safe for your body? Because the vaginal walls are permeable, any chemicals in a tampon can reach your bloodstream, which isn’t a good thing when we’re talking about tampons that you’ll use for most of your lifetime.
Risk Factors to Know When Using Tampons
Tampons are made with mostly cotton and rayon, amongst other materials. And these materials can pose as serious risk factors depending on how they’ve been grown and processed, prior to being used to make a tampon.
1. Genetically Modified Cotton
Almost all cotton produced globally has been genetically modified in some way to be resistant to certain herbicides that are used on plantations to kill harmful weeds that compete with cotton for growth. By making cotton resistant to these herbicides, crops of cotton can be sprayed over and over again during the entire growth cycle to kill the weeds without harming the cotton.
However, this may lead to cotton containing harmful contaminants from the accumulated herbicide that’s been sprayed. This is a problem because the long-term health effects of these herbicides and contaminants on humans aren’t fully known. The World Health Organisation has stated that it suspects these contaminants to be cancer-causing agents and carcinogenic.
2. Bleached Rayon
Nowadays wood pulp, which is used to make rayon for tampon production, is purified using a bleaching process that uses chlorine dioxide. This bleaching process can cause dioxins to make their way into tampons in trace amounts. Dioxins are a very dangerous chemical and a by-product of the bleaching process. When you consider tampon usage to be more than a single-use application the risk is amplified. A woman will use thousands of tampons in her lifetime making repeated exposure to be problematic as dioxin can accumulate over time.
3. Toxic Shock Syndrome
Tampons should be changed every 4-8 hours. Wearing tampons for extended periods of time can create the risk of infection known as Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). The symptoms are a lot like ones you might see from other kinds of infections: swelling, fever, redness, and a general feeling of being unwell. Every woman’s flow is unique, so it’s important to listen to your body and adjust accordingly. If your flow is light, you may be able to wear a tampon for a longer period. On heavier flow days, you may need to change the tampon more frequently. Above all, it’s crucial to be aware of any discomfort, unusual odours, or signs of infection and consult a healthcare professional immediately if you experience any concerns.
The vagina is a very permeable space meaning anything we put inside it can be absorbed into our body and cause toxic build-up making our body vulnerable to a whole host of conditions. Oxidative stress, metabolic changes, disruptions in critical bodily systems, as well as, adverse development, reproductive, neurological and immunological effects, are all such conditions. Infertility, endometriosis, thyroid disorders and cancers are on the rise and exposure to environmental toxins can amplify this trend. So, knowing what’s in your tampon and using one correctly, is kind of really important.
What to Look For in Safe Tampons
Tampons made from organic materials are an excellent choice to enjoy the convenience and portability of tampons in a safe manner. Organic cotton tampons are free from dyes, fragrances, chlorine bleach and many more of the traditional materials that can pose as a toxic risk for our bodies. Opting for tampons made from materials with the GOTS certification will help you distinguish the tampons to prioritise for their safety features. GOTS or Global Organic Textile Standard has a clear criteria and utilises independent certification. GOTS certified products may include fibre products, yarns, fabrics, clothes, home textiles, mattresses, personal hygiene products, as well as food contact textiles and more.
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Regular Flow Organic Cotton Tampons
Heavy Flow Organic Cotton Tampons
Why Are Tampons the Best Menstrual Products?
It’s important to note that the “best” menstrual product is subjective and varies from woman to woman. Every woman has unique preferences, needs, and considerations when it comes to choosing menstrual products. Here are some potential reasons why tampons are favoured by so many:
1. Convenience: Tampons are compact and portable, making them convenient for on-the-go use. They can be easily carried in a small bag or purse without taking up much space.
2. Active Lifestyle: If you lead an active lifestyle, tampons can offer freedom of movement. They can be comfortable during activities like swimming, exercising, yoga, meditation or participating in sports, as they fit inside the vagina and less likely to create movement restrictions.
3. Discreetness: Tampons are discreetly inserted inside the vagina, which many individuals prefer for privacy reasons. They are not visible under clothing when worn.
4. Absorbency Options: Tampons come in varying absorbency levels, allowing women to choose what suits their flow best, from light to heavy.
How to Use a Tampon?
Your tampon use will be determined by the lightness or heaviness of your menstrual flow but here’s a general guide on how to use a tampon and how long you can typically wear one:
1. Hygiene first: Always, always start by washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water to maintain hygiene. You may also want to wash yourself ‘down there’ with a pH-balanced wash to freshen up before inserting the tampon.
2. Get in a comfortable position: Find a comfortable position, such as sitting on the toilet, standing with one leg elevated, or squatting.
3. Unwrap the tampon: Remove the tampon from its packaging, but be careful not to touch the tip of the tampon (where it will be inserted) to avoid contamination.
4. Insert the tampon: Hold the tampon with your index finger and thumb, ensuring the string is visible. Find the vaginal opening and gently guide the tampon into your vagina at a slight upward angle (towards your lower back). Push it in until your fingers touch your body or until the applicator is fully inserted.
5. Properly dispose of the applicator: If you’re using a tampon with an applicator, extend the applicator fully, and then withdraw it while holding onto the string. Dispose of the applicator properly in a designated waste container.
6. Checking the positioning: Make sure the tampon is comfortable and properly positioned. If it’s uncomfortable, it might not be inserted correctly. Adjust it by using a clean finger to push it in further or gently remove and reinsert it. If you’re worried about a particularly heavy flow and want more protection you can use a pantiliner for extra protection.
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Gynaecologists and obstetricians do recommend tampon use as a safe and effective option for managing menstrual bleeding. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ACOG) states that tampons are a safe and appropriate option for most menstruating individuals to manage their menstrual flow. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) in the UK also acknowledges tampons as a commonly used form of menstrual protection. So, you can safely select tampons as a convenient and safe period care method to use each month.
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