Self Care

Tampons, Pads or Menstrual Cups: Comfort, Cost and Safety

What do you think of when you think of menstrual hygiene products? If cheery advertisements of a girl in white pants showcasing Whisper or Stayfree come across your mind (upon hearing this question), then you are among the diaspora who have limited choices presented to you. Sadly the sanitary napkins dominate the concept of menstrual products in India. This article offers a detailed observation and draws a comparison so that you can make a wise choice between tampons vs pads vs menstrual cups.

Before we jump upon the comparison, let us understand what each of these products is in its function.

Tampons, Pads or Menstrual Cups

Definition

It is evident that people who menstruate (mostly, women) use all these products to manage the loss of blood during their menstrual cycle every month. However, these products differ in their use, comfort, cost, storage, discard and more.

Here is an analysis of their definitions:

Tampons

Tampons are one of the oldest and most prominent menstrual products, especially in the western world. By definition, tampons are small cylindrical plugs made up of cotton (or similar material) that fit into the vaginal cavity and absorb menstrual blood. These plugs have a small string attached at one end that hangs out of the vagina and makes it possible to pull out the soaked tampon after use.

Pads

Sanitary pads are rectangular-shaped napkins that are placed externally, that is, outside the vagina and on the underpants to absorb menstrual blood. Most pads are made up of synthetic material like rayon or SAPs (Super Absorbent Polymers). Sanitary pads are vastly popular and in great use in India.

Menstrual Cups

Menstrual cups are a more modern choice. They are small flexible cups in a bell-like shape made of silicon or rubber material that fit inside the vaginal cavity to collect menstrual blood.

Differences

Now that you know what these products are, let us grasp an understanding of the differences among them and what makes one a better choice over the other.

Below, we will compare the various advantages and risks among the three.

1. Convenience 

Remember in school days, how we had to carry a pad secretly to the bathroom. The whole process was filled with embarrassment and seemed as if a criminal smuggle was taking place. Though we do not have to attach the embarrassment with menstruation anymore, the convenience of carrying a menstrual product is one to be considered.

Tampons are highly convenient. They are very small and can easily fit in your fist. So you can carry them around properly without worrying about anybody finding out about your period (not that it matters).

Sanitary pads, on the other hand, are not as easy to carry. They are often packed in lengthier rectangular shaped or sometimes, square-shaped packets. Due to their comparatively large size, they have often considered an inconvenience to carry around and transport.

Menstrual cups are also small and easily handheld. They are little funnel sized products that are convenient in keeping, carrying and using.

2. Comfort 

Period leaves are not a widely accepted concept. In fact, it is deemed far too progressive in their substantial idea. But leave or no leave, a menstruating person cannot biologically skip their periods. So you have to walk, talk, work, eat, commute and do almost everything else that you do only on your regular days. Let us remind you that all your everyday activities are cover under the distress of menstrual cramps, cravings, pain and more.

The need for a comfortable menstrual product is, thus, utmost.

Comfort

Tampons are the topmost ranking products in terms to comfort. When put properly, they are not even feel to be present most of the times. It is easy to move around and even swim in tampons without worrying about leakage.

Sanitary pads are not very comfortable as compared to tampons or cups. They have a sticky tape that helps them stay in place, however, when a person moves or runs, the pads tend to displace from their intended position.

Menstrual cups are very comfortable once you know how to use them. You can easily do aggressive physical activities without leaking with the help of menstrual cups.

3. Discarding 

One of the most important and anxiety-inducing parts of deciding on a menstrual product is deciding how you will get rid of it. Our society has a long way to come in terms of openly talking about periods and accepting the various unpleasant ways it turns out to be. For instance, nearly nobody is interested in discussing the discarding of a used, dirty period product.

But it does not exempt from the fact that discarding these products are an essential part of the cycle. More than 335 million people in India menstruate every month. They collectively produce roughly 44,125 million kilos of menstrual waste.

So when you are choosing a menstrual product, you should also consider how sustainable it is.  

Tampons are not highly sustainable. They are pretty small and absorb lots of blood very quickly so you need to replace them with a newer one more frequently. This ends up producing more and more waste.

Sanitary pads also have a similar frequency. They are also difficult to get rid of. The reason for this is that they have to be folded and covered in proper packaging before dumping and increasing the wastage.

Menstrual cups win the sustainability debate. One cup lasts up to 10 years. They are washable and reusable products.

4. Safety 

Your menstrual health should be among the foremost criteria in deciding your ideal product. Using a menstrual product comes with its own pros and cons. You should take into regard how the collection of menstrual blood in your product affect your reproductive and overall health.

safety

Tampons are not consider completely safe and hygiene. They carry an increased risk for bacterial infections.

Sanitary pads do not pose a health risk but they can cause an increased risk for leakage.

Menstrual cups add the dangers of bacterial infection and vaginal irritation. They can also increase your possibility of getting toxic shock syndrome (TSS).

5. Cost 

A popular opinion doing rounds on the internet clearly states that having periods is no luxury. Question any person who menstruates and they will probably have a long list of discomfort and inconveniences they go through on a monthly basis. One of those inconveniences is the monetary aspect of these products.

Every month, a menstruating person has to invest in their menstrual hygiene and care.

The starting price of a tampon box on a credible site in India is around INR 200.

The price of a packet of sanitary pads containing nearly 8 pads is far less, priced at nearly INR 80. Smaller packets are price much cheaper.

A menstrual cup, on the other hand, is price at around INR 300 if buy from a well-trusted website.

While considering the costing of these products, you should note the frequency of their usage. A menstruating person needs about 4 pads per day for every day they menstruate while the number of tampons per day is around 2. Please also note that one regular menstrual cycle lasts about 5-7 days (on average). So while you would need multiple packets of tampons or pads, one menstrual cup can get you through many years of menstrual cups making it a one-time investment.

So now you are able to choose right product for yourself.

Tampons, pads or cups

Comparison

Briefly put, the differences in tampons, pads or menstrual cups can be summarize as:

TamponsPadsMenstrual Cups
Slightly painful insertionNo insertionPainful insertion
Convenient & full of easeNeed adjustments time & againVery convenient
Big environmental impactGenerates loads of wasteHighly eco-friendly
Risk of vaginal infection, irritation & itchingNo risk of infectionsRisk of bacterial infection
One time useOne time useCan be use for up to 10 years
Starts at Rs 200/-Starts at Rs 45/-Price at Rs 300/-

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Aashi
Aashi Dahiya is a 24-year-old wellness enthusiast and mental health advocate. A budding content creator, she has gained experience in the world of health-oriented writing and media. She has previously worked as a journalist and continues to rally for socio-political issues in her real life. She is passionate about the idea of self and compassionate care through journaling and meditation. Time and again, she shares her views and opinions here. She can be reached on Instagram @aashiwho.

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