What You Need to Know About Period Products 

On average, a woman spends over $6,000 on menstrual products1a-b across her reproductive lifetime. Have you ever wondered what the feminine products you purchase and use every month are made with? Or if they’re safe to use? Whitey Sharp, DO, OB-GYN with Kettering Health Network, answers some common questions about period products and shares information all women should know.

  1. When it comes to tampons, is higher absorbency better? 

Many women opt for higher absorbency tampons because they need to be changed less frequently, offering greater convenience. However, the most convenient choice isn’t always the safest choice. Dr. Sharp recommends using lower absorbency tampons whenever possible. “Using lower absorbency tampons helps ensure you change your tampon every 4-8 hours, which reduces your risk of tampon induced toxic shock syndrome (TSS),” says Dr. Sharp.

  1. Are tampons that contain rayon safe to use? 

Rayon is a soft, moisture-absorbent fiber that is made from cotton or wood pulp. Many tampons are made with rayon. While the origins of tampon materials have recently gained the spotlight and caused concern for some women, the FDA says tampons containing rayon are safe to use2. “It is important to remember every woman’s body is different,” says Dr. Sharp. “Certain materials, fibers, or chemicals in tampons can cause irritation for some women. If you are experiencing irritation with your current tampons, there are organic alternatives that may be a better option for you.” 

  1. Are menstrual cups a safe alternative to pads and tampons? 

Menstrual cups are safe, reusable, and cheaper alternatives to pads and tampons. The associated risks with menstrual cups are much lower than tampons. When making a switch from tampons to menstrual cups, there is a trial-and-error period. “Irritation is possible for a number of reasons, yet with practice, this irritation is avoidable,” says Dr. Sharp. “Finding the right size, using hygienic insertion and removal practices, and maintaining cup aftercare are all important for the safe and comfortable use of menstrual cups.” It is also important to note that menstrual cups are made out of silicon or other similar rubbers. If you have a latex sensitivity, you should talk with your doctor before switching to this alternative.

  1. Is douching good for vaginal health? 

In short, no. Although it is commonly believed that washing out the vagina with water or other liquids—known as douching—can help clean your vagina and regulate smell, it actually does more harm than good. “Using douching products can disrupt the natural pH of your vagina,” says Dr. Sharp. Douching can lead to many health complications, including vaginal infections, sexually transmitted infections, and even problems getting pregnant3.

  1. Are scented soaps safe to use on your vulva and vagina? 

Scented soaps can cause your vagina more harm than good. “Using scented soaps can also disrupt the pH of the vagina which can lead to irritation and put you at greater risk for infections,” says Dr. Sharp. Unpleasant vaginal odor can be prevented by keeping up with good hygiene practices, frequently washing with unscented soaps, using unscented wipes, and ensuring to always wipe from the front to back after using the restroom.

Period products ultimately come down to comfort and personal preference. There are safe products available that allow you to continue to participate in your typical activities, like swimming or exercising, even when you’re menstruating. To learn more about period products and your vaginal health, schedule an appointment with an OB-GYN.


  1. a. https://www.swnsdigital.com/2019/11/new-research-reveals-how-much-the-average-woman-spends-per-month-on-menstrual-products/#:~:text=Results%20revealed%20the%20average%20woman,the%20money%20they’d%20save%3F
    b. https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/02/27/809990550/scotland-poised-to-become-1st-country-to-make-period-products-free

2. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/facts-tampons-and-how-use-them-safely

3. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/douching


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