We’ve all seen the commercials of girls jumping up and down and doing cartwheels as they sail through the air, claiming that despite the fact that they are on their periods, they can flip, swim, jump, and practically fly. The magic tool behind the ability to become Wonder Woman on one’s period is embedded in the commercials’ product: the holy, clean, precious, and glorious tampon. While the tampons that we use today were not invented until the 1920’s, tampons have been around for centuries. In fact, tampons were first invented by Egyptians, and accounts from the famous Greek writer, Hippocrates, references tampons made from lint and wood during the fifth century.
While tampons do allow women to continue playing sports like swimming and diving without having to worry about their periods, the negative effects of tampons could quite possibly outweigh the benefits. Tampons, by design, will sit in the vagina and indiscriminately absorb everything. This means that the tampon will not only absorb blood, but many other vital fluids and bacteria in the vagina that would not have otherwise left it during the period. This causes the vagina’s pH to be compromised, which could result in a yeast infection. These yeast infections may be contracted by their sexual partners. Though the numbers have significantly decreased over the decades, tampons have also been linked to Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). According to Mayo Clinic, TSS is a rare, potentially life threatening disease that caused by exposure to bacteria, primarily group A streptococcus bacteria, that begins to produce toxins. Historically, TSS victims have most frequently been women who use superabsorbent tampons. As the number of women who attend college and graduate programs each year increases, the number of women who get busy every year increases as well. It can be very difficult to remember that one is wearing a tampon at all, which increases the risk that one may suffer from yeast infections or Toxic Shock Syndrome.
If it weren’t enough already that you could end up in the hospital from simply trying not to get your menstrual blood everywhere, DivaCup reported that the average woman who uses tampons will use 240 every single year. The average American woman will also menstruate for about 40 years, meaning that approximately 9,600 tampons are used in a lifetime. All of these tampons end up a landfill, since they are non-recyclable.
It can be daunting to know that every single time you put a tampon into your vagina in an attempt to keep your underwear and pants free from blood, you’re helping to contribute to trash in landfills and putting yourself at risk for ailments you didn’t know you could get. So what do you do? A wonderful alternative to tampons are pads, but for women who don’t like to use those, or feel concern over the fact that their use causes the same economic and ecological problems, may want to use a menstrual cup instead. Menstrual cups are less expensive than the purchase of multiple tampons or pads and can be used for many years if cleaned and worn properly.
Tampons make our lives easier. We can wear them for hours, in a healthy manner, without needing to change, we’re not sitting in a pool of our own blood collecting in our underwear, and we are able to dive into pools and win synchronized swimming competitions with them in. But none of that is worth one’s own health and there are alternatives to wearing a small piece of cotton that could quite possibly cause you more problems than you’ve been prepared to deal with. If you’re feeling concerned about your tampon usage, I urge you to do further research about the topic, and consider the switch to alternative forms of menstrual care!