When I was 12, a week before my Bat Mitzvah, when I officially became a woman, I became a woman. I got my period.
It was miserable.
My mom explained everything, handed me a pad and told me I could start using tampons when I was ready. I didn't like using pads. they kind of grossed me out, So, the next month, I was ready and I've been using tampons ever since.
I always operated under the assumption that everyone, at least everyone I knew, had a similar story. Turns out I was wrong.
In the United States, it is estimated that the majority of women use pads over tampons. According to fivethirtyeight, 62 percent of women use pads while 42 percent use tampons (and—given the percentages don't add up—that is likely not exclusively).
Putting aside my shock (not of the toxic variety) at finding out I'm in the menstrual minority, I started to wonder why it is women are sticking with pads.
Sarah Shake, the co-founder of organic tampon company Kali, tells Well and Good, “At Kali, one of the most frequent requests we've received since we have launched is for organic pads. We do see a correlation with women using organic feminine hygiene products also wanting to use a pad instead of a tampon since they feel they are truly detoxing their body through their menstrual cycle when they aren’t inserting a foreign object in their body to absorb menstrual blood."
The co-founder and co-CEO of Lola, another organic tampon company, Alex Friedman, agrees, telling Well and Good, “Since launching, we’ve had thousands of conversations with women in our community to find out what they really want in a natural format. We hear over and over that they want organic cotton pads and liners.”
In a piece for The Conversation, Dr Lauren Rosewarne tries to work out why so many women are avoiding the tampon.
"Dramatically overstated fears of TSS still sees some women disinclined to use tampons," Rosewarne writes. "While it’s a medical malady easily avoided – by not treating a tampon as a permanent resident, for example – the Death From Tampon spectre still haunts."
Then there's the urban legend that tampons contain asbestos, which in turn makes you bleed more, and therefore need more tampons. "Despite asbestos not being an ingredient in any tampons we’d buy in countries such as Australia or the US, such myths won’t die," Rosewarne explains.
Then there's the biggie, and what I feel is the most logical reason why women are forgoing the tampon for the sanitary napkin. Some women just don't like getting that close to their own blood.
"Tampon usage also retains an ick factor," write Rosewarne. "Just as Americans are often horrified to arrive in Australia and discover that we mostly go applicatorless, for many women—even those who have read the Female Eunuch—there just isn’t a desire to get closer to one’s uterus lining. It’s for this reason that other internal, having-to-touch-the-blood methods like cups and sponges haven’t yet gone mainstream."
Whether you choose pads, tampons, menstrual cups, underwear, or any other method, it's nice to know we have options...with wings.