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Pads vs Tampons

Updated on July 24, 2009

Some parents are brilliant at explaining menstruation to their daughters, but some mothers really aren't all that good at sharing this type of information. It's not that they don't have it; some of them just get weird about talking about it. I guess that's understandable, especially if it's a man who has to do the explaining. Fortunately for today's teenagers, the internet can teach you anything you really need to know. There are a lot of facets to the topic of menstruation and I'll probably address more of them in future articles but for now we're just going to compare pads and tampons. If you'd like a FANTASTIC and safe alternative to these, read my article on the Mooncup menstrual cup -- you will love it!

Pros of Pads:

  • Good to use if you have cramps.
  • No risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome.
  • Tons of sizes and styles available.
  • No risk of "forgetting" them.
  • No pain on insertion or removal.
  • No risk of getting stuck.

Cons of Pads:

  • Can't carry them in your pocket.
  • Need a trashcan for disposal.
  • Can make the bathroom smell.

Pads, Maxi Pads, Sanitary napkins, etc.

When I was a teenager, the maxi with wings was a new concept, and these companies have continued to improve their product over the years. Prior to wings, I'd have said that maxi pads were crap, because you'd stain your panties nearly every time. That, and the pads were horrible when it came to absorbing; everything went to one place (which made it easier to reach your panties.) And if you had a heavy flow and needed super pads -- ohmigod, you'd feel like you were walking around with a diaper in your pants. Some women even needed to wear two at a time!

But today's pads are really quite convenient. They're practically futuristic in some cases. If you've got a heavy period, there are pads you can use which will go totally unnoticed by you or anyone else, for that matter. When you wake up in the morning the sheets will be the same color they were before you went to bed, and the pads are so absorbant that odor is pretty much a non-issue anymore.

Pros of tampons:

  • Some women think that tampons feel more hygienic than pads.
  • Some are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.
  • Some can be flushed.

Cons of tampons:

  • (Small) risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome.
  • Can make your cramps worse.
  • They can be uncomfortable the first few times you use them.
  • They can hurt quite badly if you take them out too fast.
  • They can overflow and stain your panties.
  • You can forget they are in, which can lead to pain or infection.

Tampons, Tampax, etc.

Tampax is actually a brand name, tampons are the products themselves, but in some parts of the country you'll here people use the words interchangeably. When I first started getting my period, Tampax, Kotex and Playtex were the only types of tampons anyone really talked about. And then a couple of years later O.B. entered the market.

Tampax, Kotex and Playtex are all basically the same tampon. Some have plastic applicators, some have cardboard, some are super compact -- but they are all the same basic product. Ob on the other hand, is totally different; those you have to insert yourself, with your finger. Can't say I really enjoyed doing that, and my first box of Ob tampons was my last. But, some women really like them, so don't rule them out until you've tried them.

Some extra tips:

  1. Don't choose a pad or tampon based on an advertisement.

    That super happy girl in the tampon commercial -- the one swimming laps with a big smile on her face? She's not really menstruating, y'all. If she were, she wouldn't look that happy. Please don't buy menstrual products based on commercials.

  2. Insert and remove tampons SLOWLY.

    Even if it's your 1000th time using a tampon, you can injure yourself if you're too rough about it. When you've got a decent menstrual flow, this isn't really an issue, because the vagina is lubricated. But in the beginning or end of your cycle this flow tapers off, and if the tampon isn't lubricated when you try to remove it -- it can really, really hurt if you pull it out too fast. Take your time.

  3. If you're using OB make sure you wash your hands before and after insertion.

    If you're going out to a party or club, it may not be possible to do this properly, since so many places like that run out of soap -- or never have it to begin with. You're better off taking a pad or a tampon with an applicator in those cases.

  4. Don't use scented pads OR scented tampons.

    Not only is this not necessary, it can irritate the vulva or vagina and lead to a rash or even infection. If you think having your period is a pain in the backside, it's nothing compared to what it would feel like to have an infection there.

  5. If you've got bad cramps use pads.

    Tampons can make menstrual cramps worse. If you've got bad cramps, use a pad instead. You will be very glad you did. You can always go back and forth between the two types, depending on how bad your cramps are.

  6. If you lose the string don't panic!

    Tampons aren't going to go any further back if you lose the string. If the tampon is beyond your reach, squat down as low as you can and see if you can find the string -- it's probably just inside. If it isn't you may still be able to feel the end of the tampon; if you can, you can probably pull it out that way (bearing down helps to push it out even further). If you absolutely can't reach it, go to the doctor and he'll have it out in a jiffy. Believe me, you will not be the first person to need to do that.

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