Period Products: Information about Tampons and Pads

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feminine products

There are two basic types of period products: external protection and internal protection. External protection such as pads and panty liners attach to the crotch of underpants to absorb your menstrual flow after it leaves the body, while internal protection such as tampons are inserted into the vagina to catch or absorb menstrual flow before it leaves your body. Some people prefer internal protection because they can’t feel it and it is easier to use when playing sports. Tampons are the most common type of internal protection, but there are other choices available, too.

Are internal and external forms of period protection safe?

Both internal and external period products that are approved by the FDA (Federal Food and Drug Administration) are considered safe. There is a risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome with tampons, but the risk is very low. You should read the directions on the tampon package and change your tampon frequently (every few hours or more often if needed) and use intermittently, for example, tampons in the daytime and pads at night. Avoid super absorbent tampons. Make your decision about which type of period product to use based on whatever you feel most comfortable using! Talk about the different types of period products with an adult you trust. This will help you make your decision about which kind you will want to use.

How do I insert my first tampon?

Using a tampon or other form of internal protection can be scary the first time, but after that it gets much easier! It’s a good idea to read the instructions and to talk to your mom, older sister, or another adult that you trust about how to use tampons. You can also watch our video about using your first tampon [Link].

Will tampons change my hymen or affect my virginity?

No. Some people worry that internal protection will change their hymen (a thin piece of tissue that partially blocks the entrance to the vagina), but this isn’t true.  Most teens can easily insert the tampon through the opening in hymen into the vagina. If you cannot get the tampon into your vagina, you may be stressed and not putting it in at the correct angle or you may have been born with a very small opening into the vagina, called a “microperforate hymen.”  So, if insertion of a tampon is impossible after several attempts, make an appointment with your health care provider (HCP).

Even though using tampons does not change your hymen or your “virginity,” some cultures, religions, and families have different definitions of “virginity” and don’t approve of the use of tampons in women until they are married.

Can I swim and do normal activities when I have my period?

Yes. People used to think that you shouldn’t swim, play sports, or do other normal activities when you had your period. Now people know that this is not true. If you have the right type of menstrual protection, you can do anything! In fact, swimming and playing sports may make you feel better. Other girls prefer to be less active when they have a heavy flow or cramps. You will probably be most comfortable if you use a tampon rather than a pad when you swim or play sports.

Alternative and Environmentally Friendly Menstrual Products: If you’re concerned about the chemicals and synthetic materials used to make regular pads and tampons, or you’re looking for a more cost-effective way to deal with your periods, you may want to consider using alternative products that are available in most pharmacies and grocery stores. You can learn about Eco-Friendly Period Products here.