Pads and tampons are two of the most popular ways to deal with period blood — if not the most popular ways - and for good reason: They work, and they work really well. Easy…right? Sort of. Deciding which one you should use can be complicated, because the right choice is different for everyone, varies according to the protection you need, and depends on what makes you feel most comfortable. Your choice is definitely not one-size-fits-all here. Going to the beach? Grab a tampon. Just had a baby? Maybe use a pad. Here, we lay out all the different factors that should go into your decision of choosing between tampons vs pads.
What Is a Tampon?
A tampon is a small, cylindrical bundle that is made of cotton, rayon or a blend of cotton and rayon. It’s inserted inside your vagina with an applicator or digitally (fancy way of saying fingers), where it absorbs menstrual blood before blood has a chance to come out of your body. It’s fully inside your body with the exception of a small string (which is there to help you pull out the tampon). It’s invisible protection and virtually unnoticeable - and if you’ve inserted it properly, you won’t feel that it’s there, which is pretty much the best-case scenario when you have your period and want to be comfortable. Just remember that you shouldn’t wear a tampon for more than 8 hours.
Tampons come in different sizes because your flow changes every day; you should tweak your tampon absorbency to match your flow. Tampax offers a range of 5 absorbencies, from light to ultra, to give you smooth removal for your lightest days and the ultimate protection on your heavy days. Another major perk? Tampons are pretty small, so you can easily stash a few in your bag or purse for on-the-go protection - you know, in case your period sneaks up on you or if you want to be a hero and share with a friend in the bathroom. Checkout Tampax Pocket Pearl and Pocket Radiant tampons, which offer full-size protection that fits in your pocket.
What Is a Pad?
A pad is made of absorbent material that sticks to your underwear and you can wear them day or night. Like tampons, pads come in a variety of sizes to meet your flow needs. Using pads is really easy, but, they aren’t for everybody. Since they are worn outside your body, you may experience a wet feelin and the stress of constantly checking for leaks. Some pads are thinner and shorter, while others are thicker and longer, it all depends on personal preference and protection needs. Always Infinity Pads even have FlexFoam technology to give you up to zero feel, zero leaks, zero bunching and zero bulk - hopefully no more diaper-like sensation.
What are the Safety Risks?
There aren’t many safety risks that come with the use of pads or tampons. Tampons, are associated with an increased risk of menstrual toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a rare life-threatening medical condition that occurs when normal bacteria in your system release toxins. Anyone can get TSS - men, women and children - but half the reported cases of TSS are associated with women using tampons. It is serious stuff; its possible symptoms include a high fever that comes on suddenly, low blood pressure, a sunburn-like rash, vomiting or diarrhea, confusion, muscle aches, headaches and seizures. So if you’ve been wearing a tampon and feel any of these symptoms, get to the hospital ASAP and make sure you tell the doctor you were wearing a tampon. Make sure you are always wearing the lowest absorbency for your flow and remember to wear your tampon for no longer than 8 hours.
What’s Better for Your Flow?
Really, it depends on a few factors - and your personal preference, obviously. If you’re torn, check this chart to compare different benefits. Also, don’t forget: You can even wear a pad and tampon at the same time if you want. It’s all your call.
How to use
Pads are external, so all you have to do is stick it onto your underwear. Done!
Tampons need to be inserted inside the body. (Here’s a handy how-to.) Once that’s done, they’re invisible.
Usage & Comfort
Pads are worn externally. Just put them in your underwear. Some women say that’s great since they feel it – so they’re reassured they’re protected. Other women don’t like that feeling and think it’s like wearing a diaper.
Tampons are worn internally. That means you need to be comfortable inserting, wearing, and removing a tampon from your vagina. Many women say this gives them an invisible experience since they don’t feel them. Other women just aren’t comfortable doing that.
Pads can be worn for almost any activity. Really, it’s all about what’s most comfortable for you. If you’re going swimming, or self-conscious about a pad not being yoga pant-approved, consider a tampon instead.
Tampons can be worn for almost any activity or with any outfit, since they’re worn internally. It’s all about what’s most comfortable for you. They’re a great option to use when you want to swim on your period.
Light Flow to Heavy Flow
Pads come in a range of sizes for your unique shape and flow. Pick the size best for you based on panty size and when you’re wearing it – day or night. Don’t know your size, use the Always MyFit Quiz to find out
Tampons come in five sizes to help give you great protection on your heaviest days and comfort on your lightest. Your flow changes every day, so your tampon can, too. Pick the lowest absorbency that matches your flow each day.
Knowing When to Change
Simply check your pad to see if it is full or not. Psst: Did you know 60% of women wear the wrong size pad and can experience leaks? If that’s happened to you, try the next size up to get up to 20% better coverage day or night.
This can be a bit tricky since they’re worn internally. It takes practice to get a good feel for your flow. Tampon leaks in just a few hours? Go up a size; Tampon uncomfortable to change? Go down a size. We recommend changing your tampon every 4-6 hours; use up 8 hours maximum.
There are pads designed for overnight use, so if you want to sleep in, turn off your alarm and do your thing.
Day or night, tampons can be worn for up to 8 hours. They can stay in place no matter how you toss or turn.
There are no known health risks associated with using them. Just make sure you change them regularly as wearing a wet pad for long periods of time can cause mild skin irritation. You can still get TSS when you’re using a pad, but the risk is the same as not using any feminine hygiene protection.
Tampons can absolutely be used safely. Just remember that they can increase your risk of TSS, so know the symptoms and what to do if you think you have it.