Tampons and I have a tumultuous relationship. It’s a relationship built on toxicity and discomfort. Struggling with uncomfortable dryness during my period. And, battling recurrent vaginal infections after my period. They would boast about how economical they were. Yet, they littered my trash can. And stole money from my purse. When I would push for a deeper level of commitment there were always excuses about why they couldn’t stick around. Tampons claimed to offer security and freedom but I always felt shackled and hidden. As a result, I battled insecurity and shame. Thus, causing me to disassociate from my body’s most natural process. But, two months ago I finally got the courage to break up with tampons once and for all. Today I want to share with you why I made this decision and how it’s impacted me.
Tampons were a toxic part of my life. No, I’m not being dramatic either. I always found that I struggled with vaginal health issues related to my tampon usage. Every month I struggled with recurrent pH imbalances of some sort and vaginal dryness. These issues would mostly manifest as extreme vaginal odor. But in rare cases, it would develop into a yeast infection or bacterial infection. Regardless of how diligently I followed the directions. Meaning I would change my tampon every 4-8 hours. And, I would use the smallest absorbancy to fit my flow requirements. BUT, I still struggled with vaginal infections and dryness.
Tampons Are Not Economical
Gone are the days where I believed that tampons were the only budget-friendly sanitary option available for my period. Let’s crunch those numbers, shall we? The Huffington Post reports that the average woman menstruates from the age of 13-51. Which equals 456 periods in 38 years. If you’re a tampon user you’re probably paying $7 for a box of 36 tampons. And, if you change your tampon every 6 hours you’ll use a total of 4 tampons per day. Consequently, if you have a 5-day period you’ll use a total of 20 tampons each cycle. If you multiply that by the 456 periods you’ll experience in your life that equates to you using 9,120 tampons. Which translates to you needing an estimated 253.3 boxes of 36 count tampons. This equals you spending an average of $1,773.33 on tampons. Additionally, I’m pretty sure these statics are based on a woman with an AVERAGE flow. Meaning if you have a moderate to heavy flow it’s going to be even more expensive. Ok, so I don’t know about you but I feel broke just writing this.
Tampons Are Not Eco-Friendly
This is where tampons get tricky and confusing. Because tampons do break down it just takes about 6 months for them to do so. But, there are three factors missing from this equation. First, this doesn’t take into consideration that many tampon users use the plastic bag or wrapping to dispose of their tampons. Thus interfering with its ability to degrade and break down. Second, conventional tampons contain plastic byproducts. So, while they are capable of breaking down into smaller fragments they aren’t capable of being absorbed back into the earth. Instead, they form small microplastics that are hazardous to wildlife. Third, many tampon users opt to use the ones with plastic applicators. These applicators can break down but it takes upwards of 500-800 years for them to do so. And, this is only under perfect conditions meaning it’s getting enough light and air. Which isn’t always possible if they’re within a landfill.
Additionally, organic cotton tampons are advertised and promoted as being compostable. In reality, they really aren’t. Many composters will advise against composting tampons because they take so freaking long to decompose. This, in turn, means the conventional method of tampon disposal is the only option. Other issues with tampon disposal include the fact that many users flush tampons down the toilet. Which causes problems with sewers and septic tanks. Lastly, tampons aren’t viable for the recycle/upcycle process because they’re considered human waste. Meaning they aren’t qualified to be recycled or upcycled.
Tampons Increase Period Shame
This is totally my opinion and you might disagree with me on it. But, I believe tampons increase shame and stigma surrounding periods. I say this because of my personal experiences using tampons. I always felt disconnected from my body and my menstrual flow. Like it was something to “hide” and “do away with”. I was embarrassed if someone saw my tampon. And, I would assume they thought I was nasty or disgusting. Furthermore, tampons served as a constant reminder of how dirty and shameful my period was.
Now, I can’t place all the blame on my complicated issues with my period on tampons. Having endometriosis and struggling with painful periods was another huge factor. BUT, tampons didn’t really help. The only way I was truly able to reconcile my self-hatred towards my uterus and my monthly bleed was to learn about my menstrual cycle and learn about my body. Getting comfortable with my bodily fluids such as my cervical mucus and even (gasp) my menstrual flow. Truly, this transformed my relationship with my body. Taking the time to learn how to chart my fertility, and using a menstrual cup got me up close and personal with my period blood. I discovered that it wasn’t gross or disgusting. It’s a normal bodily excretion just like snot, urine or poop. Instead of being grossed out by my body and my period I felt empowered. I learned how to take ownership of my health holistically. This included owning my menstrual and reproductive health. Periods aren’t shameful they’re part of a natural process. And, I respect it.
Goodbye Tampons, Hello Cups
I had planned on transitioning slowly to cups but after that first use, I knew it was over. While I’m happy with cups I’m not going to lie and romanticize them. It was definitely an awkward process and a learning curve is involved. Furthermore, you need to understand your body intimately. Knowing your cervix height, and the size of your vagina are all helpful as it relates to finding an appropriate sized cup. Also, realizing you’re not going to be 100% perfect and will have occasions where you will mess up and not insert or remove it correctly. So, plan on using a back-up method until you’re totally confident.
BUT, I’ve enjoyed the process. Consequently, I haven’t had issues with pH imbalances, vaginal infections or feminine odor. Despite having to make an initial investment when purchasing my cups (the Saalt cup was $33 and the Flex cup was $40), it’s half the price I would be paying for tampons this year. Plus, I won’t need to purchase a cup again for the next 5-10 years. Thus, making it a super economical choice. I’ve reduced my period waste and made some huge steps towards a zero-waste period. I haven’t transitioned from using pads and pantiliners but plan to do so very soon. And, most importantly I’ve connected with my period in a way that I’ve never been able to.
I Want to Know
So, obviously, I’m #teammenstrualcup. But, I get that it’s not a viable option for everyone. What I do want to know is where you stand in regard to reusable menstrual products and period care? Are you seeking to make your period more sustainable and economical? Or, do you swear by conventional menstrual products?
About the Author
Hi, my name is Kathleen but you can call me Kat. I’m a health and wellness professional turned freelance writer and content creator. You can find me on YouTube and Instagram. If you take the opportunity to visit me on my other platforms don’t hesitate to leave a message, I would love to hear from you!
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- Huffington Post: Here’s How Much A Woman’s Period Will Cost Her Over Her Lifetime written by Jessica Kane updated December 6, 2017
- A Study Into Public Awareness of the Environmental Impact of Menstrual Products and Product Choice by Elizabeth Peberdy, Aled Jones, and Danielle Green Published January 17, 2019