Health Center - Reproductive and Pelvic Health

No matter your age, the health of your reproductive and urinary organs—your pelvic organs—is important. If something goes wrong "down there," it affects your overall health and quality of life. Get answers to all of your most pressing questions and put an end to embarrassing symptoms.

Tampons, Pads or Menstrual Cups? What's Right for You?

friendsBelieve it or not, these are the kind of questions that scientists and doctors have actually researched. Given that the average woman uses about 10,000 sanitary products during her lifetime, it makes sense that researchers and women are giving serious consideration to their menstrual management methods.

Sanitary pads: Sanitary pads, also known as sanitary napkins or menstrual pads, were one of the earliest forms of feminine hygiene and are still widely used today. Offered in various lengths and absorbancy levels, pads are often preferred by women on light-flow days or for when they might be spotting between periods. Some women combine a tampon with a pad for extra protection. The disadvantages associated with sanitary pads are that some women find the product uncomfortable or find that it isn't suitable for certain types of physical activity.

In one study evaluating women's use of tampons or menstrual pads, the researcher found that while most women used tampons, women younger than 41 were far more likely to use them. She also found that even tampon users still pop on a pad, often wearing one along with tampons, and that about one in four women in perimenopause (ages 48 to 54) use tampons and/or pads between their periods.

Tampons: Tampons, which have been around since the 1930s, are the most popular choice of feminine protection for women younger than 41, according to a prominent study. Women often choose tampons for greater physical freedom during their period. Like sanitary pads, tampons are also offered in various sizes and levels of absorbency. It is recommended that women change tampons at least every four to eight hours, using the least absorbent type to manage menstrual flow. Tampons are not recommended in between periods. Some women may remember the connection between superabsorbent tampons and an outbreak of toxic shock syndrome (TSS) in the 1980s, but these "hyper absorbable" tampons were taken off the market and the incidence of toxic shock syndrome plummeted. However, there is some evidence that women who use tampons may have an increased risk of urinary tract infections.

ask the expert

Q: A friend of mine uses a menstrual cup during her period. Can you explain what that is and what the advantages are of using one?
A: There are several advantages to both types of menstrual cups. Read more...