To Tampon Or Not To Tampon?
If you’re a human with a uterus, you’ve definitely asked yourself this question. You’ve probably also encountered a bunch of unreliable sources that have fed you information that is not only scary, but also very, very wrong. Tampons have been called all sorts of things, whether it’s ‘unsafe’, ‘unhygienic’, ‘high-maintenance’ or ‘just not worth it’ - each one of which is completely untrue. You thought you were misunderstood? Thousands shy away from the advantages that a tampon offers simply because of the uninformed bad rep.
First things first. Let’s start with what a tampon is and how it works. Tampons come under menstrual hygiene products, a.k.a the line of products available to help absorb and manage your flow. They’re made up of soft, high quality materials (Sanity tampons use viscose) that are pressed into a cylinder to facilitate easy insertion into the vaginal opening. Unlike a pad that offers external protection and absorbs the blood after it has left your vagina, a tampon soaks up the blood inside the vagina itself. To suit your flow, preferences and comfort, tampons are available in various sizes and absorbencies. That’s all it is- a convenient little cotton cylinder. Not a virginity-taker, a vagina-stretcher or monster that will eat up your insides.
Tampons are used by women of all ages, sizes and cultures. Although India offers a slightly younger demographic, it’s a device that has been trusted in the west for ages. They’re especially fantastic for women with social or active lifestyles. You can swim in them. You can dance in them. You can destroy the damn patriarchy in them.
Now don’t get me wrong, pads are great too- they definitely have their own advantages. However, you have to agree that there are some perks that are indefinitely exclusive to tampons. The biggest one to me personally, is the fact that you can wear literally any underwear you want. You don’t have to worry about panty lines or avoid that cute dress just because Aunt Flo decided to pay a visit. Screw her. Secondly, no matter how thin or absorbent your pad is, there’s always a point where you feel like you’re wearing a giant diaper. Tampons solve that completely. (I mean, just because your period makes you cry like a baby, doesn’t mean you should assume full costume, right?) On top of this, if you ever get unlucky on vacation, you can just pop a tampon under your costume and run into the sea. How cool is that?
You never have to worry about a tampon shifting or falling out of place. There is absolutely no chafing or itchiness. They also don’t cause any foul odours and are a lot less messy. Besides, the device is a whole lot more portable.
But how did the tampon ever come to be? Has it evolved ever since? How many myths still stand true with respect to the technology we have access to today?
Well, the concept’s been around for longer than we can imagine. You’d be surprised at some of the materials that ancient women across the globe have donned. Roman women would make their tampons out of wool. African women used rolls of grass, while the Indonesian ladies saw potential in vegetable fibres. Japanese women would use paper that they changed out 10-12 times a day and Hawaiian women took it a step further with native ferns. Ouch.
The first version of the modern tampon came out somewhere during the 18th century. Interestingly enough, these weren't created for menstrual management. Besides being used as contraceptive devices, they served as carriers of topical medication to the vagina and absorbers of discharge released as a result of Leukorrhea. Ofcourse, this changed quickly and the first menstrual tampon was on the shelves by 1930. Given the time and era, there was some obvious apprehension, but a spike in women’s education and activity overcame the problem quickly. Thanks to years of further research and regulations, tampons have evolved to become the safest and the most convenient. Today, these little cotton cylinders are one of the most commonly used menstrual products around the world.
Okay, we’ve spoken about the history, advantages and evolution. But is a tampon article really a tampon article if we don’t talk about the myths? Here are some common misconceptions, busted using scientific reason:
1. Using a tampon is painful.
No matter how old you are, tampon usage shouldn’t hurt at all. Sometimes, you might experience discomfort if your vagina is a tad bit too dry due to light flow. Water based lubricant should solve this. You can also try out different tampon types (applicator/digital) or switch to a less absorbent tampon.
2. Wearing a tampon would mean you’re no longer a virgin.
Ridiculous. Plain ridiculous. Your virginity only has to do with sex. If you’re concerned about your hymen breaking, know that a tampon is actually narrow enough to fit through the vaginal opening without affecting the hymen. However, the hymen can break even due to physical activity or changes in weight. Therefore, it shouldn’t be associated with your virginity in the first place.
3. Tampons can get lost inside of you.
Even if your tampon gets pushed up or the string disappears, there in no way it can get lost inside of you. Infact, there’s a little guard at the junction of your vagina and uterus. It’s called the cervix and the opening is so small that only blood and semen can pass through. So if you ever feel like your tampon has disappeared, just reach in and dig around. It’s bound to be right there.
4. Tampons can stretch out your vagina.
The vagina can pop out a whole baby and still return to it’s normal size. A tampon won’t make a difference at all. Have some faith in your body, it’s wonderful.
The Other T-Word.
a.k.a. TSS- Toxic Shock Syndrome.
TSS is a dangerous but extremely rare infection caused by a bacteria known as Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus). It’s found on the skin and mucous membranes of almost 50% of young adults. It peaked in the 80s, when unregulated, highly absorbent rayon tampons were circulating in the market. Some of these tampons could be worn for the duration of the whole period (wow, I can’t even wear the same emotion for the whole period.). This created an environment for the bacteria to grow and flourish, resulting in a toxin that was terribly harmful. This should explain why professionals advise an upper limit of 6-8 hours when you’re wearing a tampon.
However, thanks to regulations, awareness and newer brands like Sanity that offer a change in material and absorbency, TSS has become rarer than ever. You don’t need to be worried about TSS and tampons as long as you’re using them correctly. Here are some precautions you can take:
1. Be careful when you insert or remove your tampon
Wash your hands thoroughly every time you change out a tampon. Also, ensure that your nails are not jagged so you don’t tear any skin.
2. Change your tampons regularly (4-6 hours is ideal)
3. Choose the appropriate absorbency
Use tampons in accordance with your flow. Super absorbent tampons are advisable only when your flow is really, really heavy. Using them otherwise can dry you out and chafe your insides, allowing infection to enter easily. Even if you do have a heavy flow, it’s wise to use a lighter tampon on the last few days as your period dwindles.
4. Don’t use tampons for anything other than your period
I mean, if you want to slap some googly eyes onto your tampon to make a crafty ghost or use your tampon to clean up murder, you can, by all means, go for it. However, as far as the vagina is concerned, make sure to only put a tampon in there when you’re bleeding.
TSS is one of the biggest reasons women avoid the use of tampons. Clearly, there’s nothing to worry about.
Bottom line is, tampons are awesome. Let that soak in.
Seriously though, I used to be on Team Pads myself. But once I tried a tampon out, I could never look back. Look at it like this: wearing a pad is a constant reminder that you’re on your period. With a tampon, you’ll only be reminded when the cramps, crying and cravings set in (sigh). See, you’re going to have about 450 periods in your lifetime. The suffering is inevitable. But are you aware of the amount of cute pants you can wear and swimming you can do in that amount of time to make it suck a little less? Okay, that last line probably sounded like it was straight out of a tampon commercial. But to be extremely honest with you, if we’re talking about going out and living your life hassle-free, I really think you ought to get your tamp-on.