The Pros and Cons of Feminine Protection

tampon

The risks of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) are very serious, but most women don’t personally know someone who has had it. This makes the warnings on tampon boxes seem like a myth, but TSS is very real.

Today’s society is increasingly conscious of the health and environmental risks associated with different products. One alternative to tampons that has grown in popularity is the menstrual cup.

Skepticism of the ingredients and health risk of tampons is rising, but there are also questions surrounding the menstrual cup. One of the biggest is: just exactly how hygienic is it?

Looking at feminine hygiene products, there are benefits and risks to using both tampons and menstrual cups. 

Tampons

TSS can be caused by either staphylococcus aureus or streptococcus pyogenes: bacteria already found in the body. TSS is not only linked to tampon use and can occur in women of all ages, men and children.

Some of the first documented cases of TSS in women using highly absorbent tampons were in the 1970s, and following cases were reported throughout the 80s. While the manufacturing of tampons has improved in quality since then, TSS can still occur and be fatal in extreme cases. Tampon-related TSS is usally staphylococcus, while children and elderly people most commonly contract streptococcus TSS. 

Symptoms of staphylococcal TSS can resemble symptoms of other infections. Common symptoms, according to Healthline include: 

  • Fever
  • Low blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Confusion
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Rash
  • Redness of eyes, mouth and throat
  • Seizures

TSS can be the result of incorrectly using a tampon, however there are other contributors: surgical wounds, infections in the skin or deep tissue, diaphragm or contraceptive sponge use, or recent childbirth, miscarriage or abortion.

The best ways to practice safe tampon use includes: only using tampons while menstruating, only leaving it in for the recommended time period and using the lowest absorbency necessary.

Manufacturing of tampons has changed and improved over the years, reducing the number of cases of TSS since the tampon's introduction to the U.S. marketplace. However, there is a risk of vaginal infection with continued tampon use.

Menstrual Cups

These products are what they sound like: a silicone or rubber flexible device that is placed inside the vagina and rather than absorb menstrual fluid, the device collects it. Reusable ones can be emptied, washed and reused. 

These cups can take a little getting used to, in terms of figuring out the best way to clean and insert it, but there are advantages to this product. 

Women who have had TSS before or currently have an IUD (intrauterine device) for birth control should consult with their gynecologist before using a menstrual cup. Women who have latex allergies should be careful and select a cup made entirely of silicone. 

Also read: Immunization for HPV especially important for young children

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