Sanitary pads vs tampons vs diva cup

The title is descriptive, so if you’re not interested in the practical going-ons of bleeding down there, it’s a good idea to press the back button. Otherwise it’s a journey of TMI all the way.

1. Sanitary pad

Like most Singaporean (Asian?) girls, I started off using the pad. It’s very beginner-friendly — just paste it on your underwear. No instructions needed. That’s its only advantage over the other two products.

First, the dripping sensation is extremely uncomfortable, which distracts you from normal life. It makes you feel perpetually dirty down there. Whenever you go to the toilet, you spend a significant amount of time wiping whatever blood you see. If your flow is heavy, your pad won’t be able to absorb it fast enough, which makes you feel like you’ve peed yourself, and insecure that you’ve already leaked.

The leaking! That’s the dumbest part of it. You can be having an okay flow, but spend a couple of hours sitting down and the blood’s going to drip right down your butt, which presumably is not where your normal-length pad covers. You might as well be wearing a diaper when you go to sleep. God forbid you move around in bed.

On less significant issues, some people seem to think that the sanitary bin has a magical surface that repels the sticky side of the sanitary pad. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, it doesn’t, which means that everyone else is greeted with three soiled pads when they open the lid of the bin, because the pads are all stuck to the flap. Science.

For the less informed, this is what a bin looks like. There’s a flap that, if used properly, means that other sanitary pads are hidden from your sight and smell.

Sadly, it would be almost a decade before I started experimenting with other products. And I never looked back.

2. Tampons

When I was using the pads, I felt rather fearful of the other product, namely, tampons. It’s not exactly something I can see being demonstrated, and it’s rather different seeing anatomical diagrams on how to insert it, and gazing from above at your crotch.

Yes, this is what I see when I look at myself.

I had the good fortune to be given three samples of the tampons with plastic applicators, Tampax Pearl. In my opinion, it’s the best product to start with as a beginner. The applicators act like an injector, so all you have to do is find the correct hole down there, and shoot it in. (That’s what she said.) The plastic material makes the applicator slide more easily into that channel. Then you pull the applicator out and dispose of it.

I had a bit of difficulty figuring out what worked for me at the start, so I wasted a tampon before I succeeded. The diagrams don’t help much with that process, because when it comes down to it, you can only feel around to see which way your tube goes. For those who played my period game, yeah the second scene was how I felt.

(My period game:

So, slight learning curve. After that it changes your life. Say goodbye to drippy feeling, say goodbye to sanitary bins (you should switch to the cardboard applicators, which are more environmentally friendly and can be flushed down the toilet), say goodbye to wiping furiously. It’s great! You can even forget that you’re having a period!

Except don’t, because tampons come with this huge warning on every instruction sheet: TOXIC SHOCK SYNDROME. Namely, don’t leave it inside for more than 8 hours, otherwise you might die suddenly.

Yeah.

Damn! You might think. That sounds like way too much risk! For periods?? And you’ll be right. But hey, just don’t lie in on a saturday morning, don’t use super absorbent tampons when your flow is light, and you get to reap the benefits of this glorious product without dying!

But how do I tell when I need to change my tampon? You might be wondering. You can’t really tell with confidence, at least in my experience. If you feel like it’s heavy, or if you see stains on the tampon string, those are good signs to go by. Nevertheless, if you’re worried, it’s a good idea to just line your underwear with a pantyliner.

If your flow is super heavy, it’s more reason to use a tampon! You can use a pad on top of (or should i say below) the tampon, and it’s highly unlikely you’ll leak.

You never have to worry about how you’re sitting or sleeping!

Um, can you lose your tampon inside your vag? I’ve to say this is highly unlikely. It has a very long string.

And no, it doesn’t hurt.

3. Diva cup

After gaining confidence from successfully trying the tampons, I set my sights on the cup for a good few months.

I was in the states by then, and they were charging $30 at the time, which made it an investment of sorts for something that might not work in the end. Of course $30 is not that high a price to try something out, given that you pay that amount for a restaurant meal, but everything is relative and I was thinking about how a box of tampons was only 1/5 the price… ANYWAY, eventually I got around to seeing the value of this investment — no more worrying about whether I had tampons with me! No more spending money on tampons! ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY TO THE MAX! So that’s how I ended up buying it.

Even then, I only used it sporadically until a couple months later.

The learning curve of this is steep, baby. They have so many youtube tutorials advising you on the various ways of folding it when you insert it, and then letting it pop out after that, and it’s still hard. It hurt when I didn’t do it properly (eg, it prematurely pops out, or you pinch your insides), it hurts when it’s not deep inside enough… but once you’re past that, boy is it the best product.

It (so far) doesn’t run the risk of TSS. Laze all you want on Saturdays!

No monthly installments to sanitary product companies (and the government, if you’re in a country that calls your tampons a luxury item.)

Fantastic at dealing with heavy flows — it holds about 25 ml. Apparently a regular sanitary pad holds 5ml? If you don’t leak at some random spot.

Because it can hold so much, you can wait till you’re back home to take it out and wash it. If your flow is too heavy even for that, wiping it with toilet paper in a public toilet is a good temporary solution.

Bad part: you have to deal with cleaning it. Duh. Emptying the cup is actually quite interesting (a sort of satisfaction?), but it can be quite messy when you remove the cup, because blood is gooey. It’s ok once you get past the initial aversion. Just part and parcel of being a woman. Babies are grosser.

Conclusion

I’m using the diva cup now, so clearly I prefer it to the other two. I worry the least about leaking with it, and I don’t need to keep an eye out on my supply of pads/tampons. I also feel good about its environmental impact.

Here’s a handy table summarising the pros and cons of each product:

Sanitary Pads Tampons Diva Cup
 Learning Curve  Low  Mid  High
 Sensation  Worst: drippy feeling all day  Great: normal life proceeds! Great: normal life proceeds!
 Frequency of changing  High  High  Low
 Hygiene/smell  Worst  Best: pull it out and replace it. Don’t even have to look at the tampon.  Great when you’re just doing your normal toilet business. Emptying it brings you face to face with the menstruating demon, but that’s just two minutes of staring into the devil’s eyes. It doesn’t smell either.
 Risk of leaking
High  Mid: no need to worry about body posture, but you won’t know for sure when to change it. If you add a liner/pad, you’re pretty much invincible.  Low: can hold so much blood you probably don’t have to change it.
Health risk Probably none  Significant if you can’t remember to change your tampon  Low
Long term cost
Mid-high: cheaper than tampons in SG, at least when I was still using tampons two years ago High Low: you can use the same cup for years. I’m not even sure if there’s an end-date. Just factor in the cost of the soap used to wash it.
Environmental Impact
High High Low

That’s all, kids. Sanitary Products 101.

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