It’s incredibly important to know what you are putting in your body, especially your vagina. Vaginas are highly sensitive and knowing how to take care of them, clean them, and protect them from Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) are necessary skills. In the US, 70% of women use tampons, and most do so without concern. The common blend of cotton and rayon in most brands of tampons is fine for most women and does not seem to cause any vaginal problems.
A common fear is that chemicals inside the tampons are what cause TSS, but that has been proven wrong by research not only done on TSS, but also on chemicals found within tampons. Harmful chemicals that used to be found in tampons from the production process are no longer a concern. Companies changed their manufacturing processes in the 1990’s, eliminating the use of chlorine in the rayon bleaching process. This has significantly cut down on any dioxins (carcinogenic chemicals) that were present while the chlorine process was still being used. Modern day testing of products shows they contain minute, if any, traces of chemicals that could do any harm.
TSS is actually caused by a bacterium, not chemicals. After a large outbreak of Toxic Shock Syndrome in the 1970’s, women became concerned with the association between TSS and tampons. Some switched brands, some switched to all-cotton tampons, and others began to use menstrual cups. However, studies show that all of these products have been linked to allowing the growth of Staphylococcus aureus, the species of bacteria that causes TSS. This bacterium grows well in the vaginas of menstruating women by using the blood-soaked tampons, sponges, cups, or other inserted menstrual product for its growth. This staph bacterium releases fatal poisons into the bloodstream, causing rashes, high fever, and hypotensive shock.
Gynecologists interviewed about the differences between organic, reusable, and regular period products agree that the specific product usually doesn’t matter, but how it’s used does. Be sure to change your tampons and pads regularly, remove and sanitize your menstrual cup, use the proper absorbance level tampon for your flow, and contact your doctor if anything feels wrong, or you have the symptoms for TSS.
You, of course, can choose to use cotton menstrual products or the menstrual cup for other reasons not related to TSS. Although cotton tampons and menstrual cups are more expensive than the non-organic brands, they are better for the environment. All-natural cotton biodegrades easier and faster than the non-organic blend of cotton and rayon. Lastly, menstrual cups are reusable for multiple periods. Just remember to sanitize your menstrual cup between uses.
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