The average person has 450 periods during their lifetime. So, finding the right menstrual product is a big choice, one that will impact how you experience each of your cycles.
Understanding how your chosen menstrual product affects your body, your health and your day-to-day life is key.
As one of the most prominent menstrual products in the U.S. and beyond, we had a look at a few realities about using tampons:
1. You’ll spend thousands on tampons during your life
It’s hard to calculate exactly how many tampons you’ll go through in a lifetime, but if you’re a monthly tampon user, the short answer is a lot. In 2017, the BBC developed a calculator to help people estimate how much they’re spending on tampons. Ready for the results?
In the UK, a 25-year-old who started their period at 13 will have spent £503.60 (USD $712.56) on tampons to date, and will spend £1,472.07 (USD $2082.78) throughout their life.
2. There’s a lack of transparency about how they’re made and with what chemicals
After years, the debate surrounding the ingredients in tampons rages on. In 2017 Grace Meng, a New York representative introduced the Menstrual Products Right to Know Act, which would require menstrual hygiene products to list their ingredients.
Plus, as the New York Times reports, bills that would incite research into the risks of the various chemicals in feminine hygiene products (such as pesticide residue that may be present in non-organic cotton) have been proposed but not passed.
3. Sadly, they’re still a leading cause of Toxic Shock Syndrome
Lots of us grew up with scary stories about using tampons and the fatal illness Toxic Shock Syndrome. It continues to be an illness developed by menstruating women who use tampons. Here’s why.
4. They’re not great for the environment
If sustainability is a factor in how and what you buy, there’s a lot of research about how tampons affect the environment.
It takes hundreds of years for tampons to biodegrade, especially if they contain plastic wrappers.
In America alone, 20 billion pads and tampons end up in our landfills and oceans every year.
5. If you’re feeling dry down there, tampons might be why
Vaginal dryness sucks — it can affect your comfort, your vaginal health, and your sex life. There are multiple causes, and experts have weighed in on how tampons — which yes, absorb your menstrual blood, but also absorbs vaginal moisture and flora — can be a factor.
That absorption can also disturb your vaginal bacteria and pH, so it’s worth looking into if you find yourself having trouble maintaining a consistently comfortable vaginal environment.
6. Going organic is good, but potentially only for the environment
Sustainability-wise, organic tampons can biodegrade faster than non-organic tampons, but some doctors have weighed in and said they present the same risks of TSS and vaginal dryness of regular tampons.
There is some debate here, but there is currently no medical consensus on the health benefits of organic tampons, which tend to be priced 10-20% higher than regular tampons.
There are also lots of alternatives to tampons, if you’re interested in giving another menstrual product a try. Read next: What is a menstrual cup?