As seen at BlackDoctor.org.
In 2017 comedian Tiffany Haddish did an interview with The Breakfast Club during which she spoke about suffering from Toxic Shock Syndrome at the age of 13. This interview started a real conversation within the black community about women’s health. Of course, the threat of Toxic Shock Syndrome is nothing new, but not too many of us have experienced it or know anyone who has. Being able to link a face and a story to the condition makes it real. Many of us are also unclear on what exactly causes the condition and how it affects the body.
Toxic Shock Syndrome is directly related to the use of tampons. Although rare, it is a life-threatening infection that is caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus (Staph), which is already present in the vagina. By using tampons, especially those with high absorbency, the vagina becomes the perfect environment for rapid bacteria growth. TSS occurs when the poisons released from the bacteria enter the bloodstream, which can also be related to the use of tampons, as the skin of the vaginal wall is thin and can easily be torn by the tampon applicator or the tampon’s surface itself.
Tampons have been a popular choice for feminine hygiene since the 1970s. Sanitary napkins, or pads, have been around for even longer, the first commercial disposable one being released in 1888. The two are considered to be traditional forms of menstrual protection, both having their pros and cons.
Honestly, tampons seem like the better option when considering the immediate benefits, like feeling dry and seemingly odor-free, thus more confident. Unlike tampons, pads are not directly linked to TSS, but just like tampons, they are toxic to the environment. These products end up in landfills and water treatment facilities. When considering the plastic materials used for tampons, it gets even worse because not only are they difficult to break down, but may also contain BPA and other plastic chemicals.
So convenient and trusted, yet so unhealthy. Luckily, there are more options now than there have ever been! From organic cotton products to menstrual cups, there are plenty of ways to protect ourselves from TSS while being kind to the environment.
Organic/Natural Tampons and Pads
Organic and natural tampons and pads are a better alternative, but they’re not the best. While they reduce environmental waste, they still contribute. The best thing about organic and natural feminine hygiene products is that they don’t contain any pesticides or additional chemicals and they often cost the same as the traditional products. Brands to consider are The Honey Pot Company, LOLA, and Cora, which provide subscription services for those of us who hate going to the store to buy our products.
Reusable Cloth Pads
Another great option for people who don’t like to go out to replenish their supply is reusable pads. The major downside is having to wash and re-wash, but they’re often said to be more comfortable than the traditional pads and still provide the same degree of protection. These reusable cloth pads can be purchased through brands like RootWomanEarthChild, LunaPads and Bamboo Mama Cloths.
The menstrual cup is by far my favorite option! As an active person, it’s important for me to feel dry. The menstrual cup helps to keep you dry and you can also keep it in for up to 12 hours without emptying the cup, depending on the flow. Menstrual cups are reusable and as long as it’s well kept, can be used for years. Some brands to try are DivaCup and Intimina Lily Cup (there’s also a compact option). There are also disposable options, like the Softcup and Softdiscs.
Period panties are a good option because they reduce bulk and increase comfort. Many companies have a ton of options as far as absorbency and style. Brands to check out include PantyProp, Thinx, Knixwear and Tomies (black-owned, more affordable, and comes with heating pads!).
If you’re interested in trying other feminine hygiene products, I highly recommend visiting The Honey Pot Company and Femly for their subscription services and guilt-free products.