What to know about feminine hygiene products
Reproductive health garners interest worldwide, yet a related area, feminine hygiene products, receive much less attention.
Euromonitor International reports in the United States alone, women spend well over $2 billion per year on feminine hygiene products. With recent research analyzing how chemicals in these products may affect women’s health, experts believe it is critical to know the types of products on the market to make an informed decision on what option is best for you.
No matter what option you choose, Dr. Judith A. Cothran, obstetrician and gynecologist on staff at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago says, “You always want to use an option that doesn’t have chemicals— perfumes or dyes can be an irritant. I do not recommend douching or using perfume sprays.”
Tampons are inserted into the vagina to absorb any blood before it leaves the body. They come in two varieties, applicator or non-applicator; non-applicators produce less waste and tend to give more control while inserting.
Many women experience more cramping while using tampons and they need to be changed every four to eight hours, as recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Wearing tampons for an extended period of time is linked to toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a deadly bacterial infection. In light of the long-term health concerns over chemicals used in commercial brands, if you prefer tampons, experts say to consider buying organic tampons.
Sea Sponges are reusable tampon alternatives. They are inserted into the vagina but are less harmful than commercial tampons because they do not contain synthetic materials, chemicals, or bleach. They can also be cut into smaller sizes to meet daily needs, reducing the risk of TSS. When it comes time to remove them, simply wash and reinsert— after washing, they are just as sanitary as disposable tampons.
Pads are worn outside the body. They stick to underwear and come in various lengths and thicknesses. Commercial pads are made from cotton, synthetics, plastics, chemicals and bleach. Organic pads are made from cotton and biodegradable plastics. Cloth pads are becoming sought-after for providing more air to genitals, comfort and the absence of chemicals or bleach. They are environmentally friendly in cutting down waste and reusability. Like tampons, all pads should be changed every four to eight hours.
Menstrual cups are soft cups inserted into the vagina. They are increasingly popular because of their many benefits over pads and tampons. They are available in different shapes, sizes, colors and materials, like medical grade silicone, natural gum rubber and thermoplastic elastomer.
They can be worn for up to 12 hours, during light to heavy flow, overnight, and sporting activities. The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reports there are no known risks associated with menstrual cups and many women report improved cramping and overall menstrual health. Menstrual cups are environmentally friendly in how they are produced while also cutting down waste and can be recycled at the end of their life— around 10 years.
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.