Ah, tampons. One can’t really live without them, but there are problems that come along with using tampons that sometimes make you wonder why we we should be so happy to get our periods at all. (We should be, by the way.) Tampons can cause a lot of unnecessary drama. If you’re lucky enough to have a tampon, but the wrong kind of tampon, it can ruin an entire day. Then again, if you don’t have access to tampons, like so women around the world, it’s a whole different kind of problem.
Although many women are moving on to menstrual cups or free bleeding into Thinx, there are just as many hold outs who still love their tampons (and of course, the brave, patient souls who opt for pads). And they have been for centuries. Women have always found some way to “plug” their period. Before the patented Tampax (the first with an applicator), Roman women used wool tampons, while Egyptian women used soft papyrus. Later, in the 1860s, women refer to using fabric, silk, or sponge during their periods.
Using tampons is often the best way to prevent stains on your clothes while you’re bleeding, without feeling bulky with a pad. Although, now that absorbent period underwear and menstrual cups are finally flooding the market, it’s likely that the next generation will come up thinking that tampons are old fashioned.
In their defense, there are lots of problems that you only have if you use tampons.
1Like when you don’t have one on you.
We’ve all been there. You knew you were getting your period but somehow forgot to run to to the store to stock up at home (and now it’s pouring outside, or your car won’t start) or transfer some from under the sink to your bag before a night out and BAM! That’s when you get your period. You then have to do a mental calculation — try to gauge how heavy the flow is, what you’re wearing, and how long until you can get a tampon/if you care about getting one in right this very minute. If you’re lucky and find yourself around other women, it’s time to cross your fingers and hope that someone else has one.
2Or when someone lends you the wrong kind.
Ah ha! You beat the odds and found someone who will lend you a spare. But it’s not your kind. There are two kinds of women in this world: ones who use tampons with an applicator and those who do not. If you’re an applicator only kind of lady, when someone hands you an OB on the fly in a public bathroom, or vice versa, it can be worse than not having a tampon at all. Or if they hand you a “light day” tampon and it’s heavy day, you have to worry if it’s enough until you can save yourself. Are there worse things in the world? (Like not having anything at all or a chance to get some?) Yes. But is it a real problem while you’re in it? Absolutely.
3When you can’t afford tampons.
Tampons are expensive. In most states, tampons (and other female hygienic items) are taxed as luxury goods and most women spend around $70-$100 a year on tampons and pads alone. If you’re on a budget and haven’t stocked up, having to spend $7 on the fly can be tough. If you don’t have any money at all or are homeless, you could be out of luck altogether.
4When you forget to change it.
There are times that, yes, you can actually forget to change your tampon. Which means all sorts of problems. Leaks and random discomfort are one thing. But there are also some women who forget to change their tampon and then put another one in by mistake. This is not good for you. In rare cases, it could lead to toxic shock syndrome (this is only if you leave them in for long enough that enough bacteria turns poisonous — and you have a tear up there). Although very, very, rare, the side effects of TSS could be fatal. Or at least cause a bacterial imbalance that can lead to other uterine or vaginal infections. So try to remember to change them.
5When you forget to change it before sex.
When the mood hits, the mood hits. There’s no reason to be ashamed that you have your period (and no reason to not be having period sex). But when you forget to take your tampon out before getting started, it can be a total buzzkill. Tell them to wait a minute and then get back to business.
6When you don’t have a place to toss a used tampon or applicator.
Many public bathrooms warn to not flush sanitary products down the toilet, and you shouldn’t, because it will clog TF out of your toilet eventually. But not all bathrooms have women’s backs with a proper trashcan in the stalls, either. If you’re the hiking and camping type, this means making do with your own trash. You should never feel ashamed about your period, but disposal of your tampons can get tricky. (And then you have to feel guilty if you do just flush it anyway.)
7The whole “to go Number 2 with a tampon, to not go Number 2 with the tampon” conundrum.
Again, sometimes you might not have a real choice, but if you’re going to the bathroom with your tampon in, you might be doing it wrong. Half of women leave their tampons in after pooping. The other half thinks that’s totally gross. There’s the whole issue of the string getting bacteria on it and then causing an infection. Others also find that if they poop while it’s in, the tampon gets loose, making it uncomfortable to the point that they have to take it out. Whether you’re in or out, it’s not an easy choice to make.
8 When your vagina gets itchy, or sore.
Tampons are totally safe to use and again, TSS is really rare, but it does happen. More troublesome than TSS is the fact that if you use the same size tampon for your entire cycle and don’t give your vagina a break to breathe, you might experience an irritated vagina afterwards. Give it a day or two — and try to break up your tampon time when you can. Or at least use a tampon that corresponds with your flow, so it’s not dry and rubbing on your sensitive skin.
9When you end up with tampons all over your bag.
Nothing will make you feel like you have your life together more than knowing you have a tampon on you when someone else asks you. But then you reach into your bag and see that your stash has somehow managed to open itself between everything you have in your huge bag. You can’t give someone a a tampon with a ripped wrapper. And you shouldn’t use one either since it could have some bacteria on it from whatever else is in your handbag.
10That feeling when you get too used to tampons.
Always do what works for you, but be open-minded. For way too long there have been so little options for women (even though menstruating happens to almost all of us). But these days there are so many choices! Try out a menstrual cup. Hey, try a few different brands! Or maybe see what freebleeding is all about. Tampons are just fine, but they are annoying sometimes, and not all that sustainable. Be flexible.
No matter what problems you tampons may cause you, be proud of your tampons and your period.