Putting in my first tampon was honestly an awful experience. I was, quite frankly, pretty ill-informed on all things related to menstruation, so when the time came to insert a mysterious piece of cotton into my vagina, I shoved it up there so crookedly and painfully that I wound up opting for pads for years after the fact — and yes, I’m still a little scarred by the whole thing to this day. Of course, my experience is just one of many tampon-insertion-gone-wrong stories, and perhaps that’s because there are a whole lot of myths about tampons floating around out there. With that said, I think it’s about time to set things straight, people.
Before I dive into some of those myths, though, it’s important to note that tampons aren’t, of course, the only options in terms of feminine hygiene. According to data from the United Nations and the Simmons National Consumer Survey, about 39 million women in the U.S. used tampons in 2018, while roughly 61 million women in the U.S. used sanitary pads and napkins. And even though there don’t appear to be statistics that detail the use of other feminine hygiene products, such as menstrual cups, a Canadian study published in the medical journal Canadian Family Physician found that, out of of 47 women who said they usually use tampons during their period, 91 percent of the participants, who all tried menstrual cups as part of the research, said they would continue to use the cup and recommend it to others, even after the study was over.
Like I said, there are so many options to choose from during your time of the month, and it all comes down to what you personally are comfortable with. But, if you do opt for tampons, Maria Markina and Allie Griswold, co-founders of the tampon subscription service Athena Club, are here to bust some of the myths you may have heard about these products.
Sleeping With A Tampon In Is Really Bad For You
Here’s the thing: If you’re sleeping more than eight hours a night, then you probably shouldn’t have a tampon in while you’re asleep, according to Markina and Griswold. However, if you’re snoozing less than that each night, then the experts say you’re likely in the clear.
"It is widely known that leaving a tampon inside for more than eight hours is dangerous," Markina and Griswold tell Elite Daily over email. "While we don’t all have the luck of sleeping for the full eight hours a night (if only), you should always keep in mind that eight hours is the high end of the recommended range, and you should change your tampon every few hours to be safe."
This is super important because it’ll help to prevent bacteria buildup, Markina and Griswold explain, as well as dangerous conditions like toxic shock syndrome. So, always keep the eight hour rule in mind, and consider opting for pads at night if you’re #blessed enough to be clocking in more than eight hours of rest per night.
The Size Of Your Tampon Doesn’t Really Matter
Does anyone else ever feel like they’re blindly reaching into a grab bag whenever they pick up a box in the pharmacy’s tampon aisle? Like, does size really matter? "It absolutely does," Markina and Griswold tell me. "Though it may seem harmless to use a higher absorbency just in case, it’s more dangerous than you think."
The co-founders explain that a tampon that is too absorbent for your flow can dry out your vagina and cause small tears in the vaginal wall. So, as much as you may want to "play it safe" with a bigger size/higher absorbency, or even use up whatever tampons you have left in the house, Markina and Griswold say you should always stick with the right size for your flow.
Figuring out your tampon size might take a little trial and error, but ultimately, you should tune into your body and how your flow feels that day (and it never hurts to ask your gyno for a bit of advice, too, if you’re feeling confused).
Tampons Never Expire
Spoiler alert: Your tampons totally do expire, according to Markina and Griswold. "When not stored properly, tampons can become exposed to bacteria and mold that can be dangerous to your health," the experts tell Elite Daily.
And BTW, by "not stored properly," Markina and Griswold mean that one random tampon you’ve had floating around at the bottom of your backpack since, like, 2011. Seriously, just get rid of that thing, girl.
"If you have your tampon rolling around your handbag (and, let’s be honest, most of us probably do), your tampon should be thrown away after a couple of weeks," Griswold and Markina explain. Otherwise, according to Healthline, tampons should be good to use up to five years after you buy them, "provided they’re left in the package undisturbed and not exposed to excessive moisture," the outlet explains.
You Can’t Swim On Your Period, Even With A Tampon In
"You are all clear to swim, lounge, and scuba ‘til you drop, even when your period rolls around," Markina and Griswold tell Elite Daily.
It’s perfectly safe to use a tampon while swimming — in a pool, in the ocean, wherever — both for you and for other swimmers, according to the Athena Club co-founders. "On top of that, low-intensity exercise like swimming can actually help relieve menstrual cramps," Markina and Griswold explain. Uh, yas.
It Doesn’t Matter What Brand You Buy
More people are beginning to question what a typical tampon is actually made of, but TBH, even the experts don’t always have a clear answer. This is because "tampons, unlike makeup, are not required to carry a list of ingredients," Markina and Griswold tell Elite Daily. "However, some common (and frightening) ingredients that can be found in your average tampon include acetone, chlorine bleach, and other cancer-causing chemicals."
Athena Club’s co-founders tell me this is a topic they feel very strongly about, which is why their subscription service is committed to creating products with no harsh chemicals or harmful dyes. If this is important to you, too, during your next period, consider trying one of Athena Club’s organic tampons.
Organic Tampons Are Better For You
"Organic is certainly a big trend right now, but it isn’t universally better than a high-quality rayon option," Markina and Griswold tell Elite Daily. "For some people, organic tampons can really help women who have skin or food sensitivities, while for others, a more absorbent material like rayon may be better."
Rayon is actually a natural fiber from trees, according to the co-founders, and if it’s properly processed with no harsh chemicals or toxins (like Athena Club’s premium tampons), the experts say it’s perfectly safe to use.
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