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For Parents

For Parents

Period Hygiene: Tampons, Pads and Menstrual Cups

Recommended age: Around 8 years old, before actual periods start. In this way, young people are prepared for how to deal with the upcoming menarche.

When it comes to personal hygiene during menstruation there are multiple doubts and preferences, but one thing is sure: people want to feel comfortable and clean, and avoid blood stains on clothes. While on one side we should move away from the stigma and forced concealing that comes from centuries of describing menstrual blood as “impure” or “disgusting”, young people may ask themselves or others “how do I manage it?”. Additionally, unhygienic practices can lead to infections in the genital area and can cause urinary tract infections and reproductive tract infections. Examples of unhygienic practices are using reusable absorbent material, not respecting the timing for changing pads, practising a lower frequency of personal washing or changing absorbent material outside a toilet facility.

Here are briefly summarized the pros and cons of each method:

  1. Pros and cons of tampons

Good for various flows. They come in different levels of absorbency to serve both light and heavy periods.

Fairly long-lasting. For both safety and hygiene purposes, it is recommended to change them every 4 to 8 hours (4 to 6 is even better), which is still a good amount of hours.

Swim-friendly. They are easy to carry and easy to use when swimming.

Difficult to put on. If one is approaching for the first time, they may struggle a bit to insert it in a way that doesn’t feel uncomfortable. 

Toxic shock syndrome. It is a rare condition caused by bacteria getting into the body and releasing harmful toxins. It is important to not exceed the hours indicated for the use.

Not environment friendly. They are not reusable.

2. Pros and cons of pads

External use. For women who struggle to insert something inside the vagina, this is the best option.

Easy to understand when to change them. Because one can see them, it’s easy to understand when to change them. They are also easy to use.

Different levels of absorption and sizes. Every person can find what suits them best according to their menstrual cycle.

Easy to change. Even in the absence of toilets, for example, if one is camping.

Discomfort. Pads may be uncomfortable to wear during physical activities and some may leave a “wet” sensation. 

Not environment friendly. They are not reusable.  

Irritations. Pads create the perfect environment for bacteria to spread if they are not changed with enough frequency, leading to itching, burning and irritations.

3. Pros and cons of menstrual cups

Environmentally friendly. It doesn’t produce any waste and can last various years (depending also on the use).

Money saving. You need to buy pads and tampons every month, while you only need one cup that can last up to 10 years. Instead of 30-40 euros per year, you could spend 30 euros in 10 years. 

Lasts more hours. You can change the cup even after 12 hours.

Comfy. They do not cause irritation and are comfortable to use.

Insertion takes time. It might take some trials to get comfortable with them and learn how to insert them.

Needs cleaning. You need to clean your cup with water before inserting it again and this may not always be possible depending on the context. Sanitization with boiling water is necessary, although only between one menstruation and the other.

It can be messy. You need to get your hands dirty, literally. For someone, it might be quite intimidating, especially those who struggle to see blood.

If you want to know more about puberty changes click here.

REFERENCES

Anand, E., Singh, J., & Unisa, S. (2015). Menstrual hygiene practices and its association with reproductive tract infections and abnormal vaginal discharge among women in India. Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare6(4), 249-254.

Joshi, D., Buit, G., & González-Botero, D. (2015). Menstrual hygiene management: education and empowerment for girls?. Waterlines, 51-67.

Torondel, B., Sinha, S., Mohanty, J. R., Swain, T., Sahoo, P., Panda, B., ... & Das, P. (2018). Association between unhygienic menstrual management practices and prevalence of lower reproductive tract infections: a hospital-based cross-sectional study in Odisha, India. BMC infectious diseases18(1), 1-12.

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