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Are Tampons Safe? The truth from an unbiased Gynecologist

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The short answer is, it depends on which ones and how you use them.

The long answer is, I sure wish that feminine care products, and really ALL products used in and on our bodies went through better scrutiny to ensure overall safety. But, alas, money talks. If a product can be produced cheaper, but the product simultaneously ends up being less safe, many manufacturers will still give a green light.

In this post, I will address safety concerns as well as the practicality of managing menstrual cycles without pads.

Reported from CNN.com,

“Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York has introduced legislation nine times since 1997 that would require manufacturers to be more transparent and disclose the complete makeup of tampons, pads, and other feminine hygiene products. She wants companies to clearly label not only the fabrics used, but also any contaminants, fragrances, colorants, dyes and preservatives. Her bill directs the National Institutes of Health to look at the health effects of these products, because, she says, there is little research in this area.
But her bill has failed to move beyond the floor, every time. “

I’m not surprised, but I am disappointed. Especially since,

“about 70% of all American women use tampons. On average, a woman will use between 11,000and 16,000 tampons in her lifetime.”

What is the concern with tampon use?

Historically, it had been demonstrated that the bleaching process left a residual chemical called dioxin, which has been linked to uterine problems like endometriosis. That particular bleaching process was changed in the late 1990s, which decreased the amount of dioxin in tampons. In September of 2018, the FDA released the following statement,

“The absorbent fibers used in tampons sold today are made with a bleaching process that is free from elemental chlorine, which also prevents products from having dangerous levels of dioxin (a type of pollutant found in the environment).”

The problem is that even small levels of dioxin are not ideal.

This is because the vaginal tissues are extremely absorbent, causing even small levels to lead to slightly higher exposure. We are also already exposed to dioxin in our foods and environment, but who wants more.

According to Dr. Philip Tierno, director of clinical microbiology and diagnostic immunology at the New York University Medical Center and a leading expert on the health risks of tampons,

even trace amounts of dioxin are cause for concern because tampons come in contact with vaginal tissue, which is covered in permeable, mucous membranes leading directly to the reproductive organs.

Dr. Tierno added that the cumulative exposure in a woman’s menstrual lifetime is also a factor. Ironically, some natural tampons are not shown to contain less dioxin. Sometimes they even contain more.

Rumor mill: Is there asbestos in tampons?

Some rumors have reported that asbestos is added to tampons to increase menstrual flow and drive sales. To date, no legitimate evidence has surfaced to support this one. The FDA also has legislation and regulations in place that would not allow that dangerous addition.

I think we can safely rule out the asbestos claim.

Do I, Dr. Wendy, use tampons?

I do, sometimes, when I have a period, which is practically never. See, I have a levonorgestel containing IUD, so my uterine lining is super thin and I don’t have periods as a result. My reason for using tampons over pads is that they are easier and I feel cleaner.

Plus some people are athletes, have really heavy periods requiring double coverage with tampons and pads, and have wardrobes that are not conducive for granny panty usage. Plus, to me, pads are really uncomfortable, and stinky. I just don’t like them.

I’m not mad at y’all for not wanting to wear pads. I get it.

Recently I tried a Cup for the first time. I really liked that. I’ll post the one that I used at the bottom of this article. I tried the cup more to leave less of an environmental footprint, but I am kinda glad now that I made the switch.

Cups and other menstrual blood catching devices can be great if your body type, comfort and flow are conducive for usage. I would still pay attention to the components contained in those too, though. Also be familiar with proper use techniques. I’ll probably craft a post about these devices soon. Let me know in the comments if you would like to see that.

What is the safest way to use a tampon.

  1. Don’t use them just for discharge.
  2. Don’t use tampons while pregnant.
  3. Use the smallest, least absorbent but still effective type possible for your flow.
  4. Change your tampon regularly, at least every 4-8 hours to avoid toxic shock syndrome.
  5. Pay attention to legislation that calls for reporting of ingredients in feminine hygiene products. We have to advocate for ourselves.

Thanks as always for reading. Comment below and follow us @thegynecoblogic. Yay!

Oh, and this is that cup I tried. Click the pic to be taken to Amazon for the details.

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