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Menstrual hygiene: Pads, tampons and menstrual cups

Readers Lounge - By Esther Muchene
The choice of menstrual products depend on each individual (Photo: Shutterstock)

Tampons and pads are the most commonly used menstrual hygiene products in the market. Whenever you go for shopping, you’ll almost always come across these two products on the shelves. It’s true that most people aren’t comfortable with menstrual cups yet so they’re yet to pick up and this is partly because of assumptions about them.

To demystify these feminine products, we shall touch base with some of the commonly used ones.

Wide range of products

Regardless of which one you prefer, everyone has a particular brand that they like. Personally, I like the brands that provide a wide range of products to choose from because this isn’t really a one-size-fits all kind of thing. Tampons and pads come in different sizes and so do menstrual cups.


The products I avoid like a plague are those that are scented because they can cause a number of problems. They may trigger allergic reactions like swelling and itching. You can even get bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections. The vagina is very sensitive and any unusual change should be reported to the doctor at once. None of them should be perfumed.

Ease of use

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Pads are the easiest to use particularly for first timers who are still learning to manage their flow. At no point will you need to insert anything anywhere and it’s easy to know when you should change into a new one.

Tampons and cups can be challenging to use especially when you’re trying them out for the first time. The key is to find the right size and follow the instructions so that the process is seamless.

Of all the menstrual products, the most complicated one is the cup. There is a certain procedure to follow when putting it in and when you’re taking it out. You’ll definitely need to watch a tutorial for this one.

Menstrual cups have a huge advantage when it comes to changing or emptying. You can wear the cup the whole day without needing a change or emitting any smells.

Tampons and pads however, need to be changed every couple of hours. They can leak and start to smell when they’re full and that’s the last thing you want to deal with.

Most washrooms have sanitary bins for ease of disposal. Ensure that your used pads and tampons are wrapped well before disposal.

Menstrual cups are becoming increasingly popular (Photo: Shutterstock)

Active lifestyle

If you have an active lifestyle where you swim often or go to the gym, the best option would probably be the tampon or the cup. Pads move around when you’re doing vigorous activities which can make you uncomfortable since you don’t want any embarrassing moments.

It’s totally okay to swim with a cup in because it’s secure enough to handle it. Tampons too are great for swimming just as long as you keep the string in place.

Nighttime use

When it comes to your nighttime, most women prefer to use pads (you can get thicker pads for the overnight use). WebMD explains that tampons can be used for between four to eight hours and thus will need to be changed in the middle of the night depending on the heaviness of your period. However, since you can use a menstrual cup for longer, you can use them overnight as well.

Proper hygiene

Since these products are ‘foreign objects’ that you’re introducing to your body, you need to practice proper hygiene to prevent any infections. Start by washing your hands thoroughly before and after you handle these sanitary products.

Change them often. Avoid staying with a pad or tampon for too long even if it isn’t “full”. According to WebMD, toxic shock syndrome (TSS) mostly affects women who use tampons. This is because when a tampon is saturated in blood it provides the right environment for the bacteria that causes TSS to thrive. This bacteria then releases toxins into the bloodstream making you ill.

WebMD also says that TSS can also affect women who use menstrual cups.

Choosing the product to use is all up to you though. It depends on what you’re comfortable with and what makes you feel well-protected. Menstrual cups, tampons and pads all have advantages and disadvantages but they're generally safe to use when handled in the right way.


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