Saturday, March 5, 2011

Risky Business - A Female Health Bulletin


This may not be a popular subject with the male population, but it's important I express my worry in a public way. So if you are a male and reading this, be cautioned - you may want to desist in further reading (even though it could benefit someone you know).

I have been doing some reading lately. Reading on Tampons.
For a while I have wondered if they were safe for regular use.

All material suggests they are and all doctors will probably tell you the same. They are a widely used feminine product and the preferred method for most.

They are cleaner, more comfortable, and more portable than pads. And let's be honest, who likes the feeling of pads? Not I.

I have religiously used tampons since I can remember. I started using them young and although the idea was strange at first, I quickly got in line as someone who wanted to use them exclusively.

Pop a super plus tampon in and change it out after 8 hours. Done. (Of course adjusting the absorbency size according to flow).

* I told you men...this post will be TMI.

What I didn't start to wonder until recently, is whether any real testing has been done about the safety of tampon usage. Especially long term.

There has been little to none, FYI. This made me a little nervous.

I had always been warned against Toxic Shock Syndrome. I KNEW about TSS. It happened to women who left a tampon in too long, due to toxins in their systems. I was sort-of careful to remember this fact. Often not being as cautious as I probably should have.

As I looked into what tampons were made of, I started to get concerned.

Most women think they are simply cotton that absorbs their monthly flow. This is much too general an assumption and sometimes completely wrong.

Tampons are sometimes Cotton (if natural), but are most often made with Rayon, a man-made artificial fiber made up of wood pulp and Chlorine. This then gets bleached.

Should bleach be introduced willingly into our bodies?

Also of alarming nature, is the knowledge that Rayon includes harmful chemicals like Dioxin.

I got some information about Dioxin from the World Health Organization website.

"Dioxins are environmental pollutants. They have the dubious distinction of belonging to the “dirty dozen” - a group of dangerous chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants. Dioxins are of concern because of their highly toxic potential. Experiments have shown they affect a number of organs and systems. Once dioxins have entered the body, they endure a long time because of their chemical stability and their ability to be absorbed by fat tissue, where they are then stored in the body. Dioxins are highly toxic and can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer."


Granted that your levels of exposure to Dioxin my be less than what you are exposed to in the food you eat, but it's worrisome that as women, we are continuosly putting harmful chemicals into our bodies.

It's also known that tampons can cause minor tears in the vagina walls and cervix when inserting and extracting 'dry' tampons. I am referring to the days during your period where there is little flow and not much to soak the tampon. Usually these tears don't effect us much and heal quickly, but if we have a chemical laden tamon pressed snug against these lesions, couldn't this cause harmful exposure?

Come to think of it, why would we think it's safe to have anything thought to be toxic, up our valuable lady bits? Something to ponder....

On a whole separate level is the possibility that tampons can cause infertility.

Of the articles I have read - many suggest that tampons could be contributing to or even causing Endometriosis.

Endometriosis is one of the three main causes of infertility and effects millions, many of which don't know they have it. Simply put, Endo occurs when the uterine lining (the part that's shed during your period) begins growing on nearby organs such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes and bladder. Endo appears differently in each person and can cause zero pain to excruciating pain. When this lining sheds, as it all sheds during your period, the material has no where to go but your pelvic cavity. This causes scarring and fibroids to coat your organs.

When a case of Endometriosis is found (usually after you complain to your ob/gyn of discomfort), the only real treatment is surgery. Most often times the Endometrium is 'burnt' off, which leaves room for it to grow back. There is also a lesser performed excision surgery, where the doctor will attempt to cut it out. This has shown to slow the 'grow back' time and possibly eradicate it. Worst case scenario is that the scarring has taken over your reproductive organs and a hysterectomy is necessary.

This is the equivalent to castration in men.

For a woman to have to go through that at possibly an early age, before she's been able to have children, would be unimginable. And because the average age of diagnosis is 27 (prime reproductive age), many women are left without the abililty to have children. You can imagine a scarred uterus is not the best environment to attempt growing a fragile fetus.

There is still very little understood about Endometriosis and very little research being done to search for a concrete cause. As is the problem with other major infertililty diagnosis.

When you consider what tampons were made to do, it makes a reasonable case for infertility.

Tampons are blocking our exit. They are plugging up what is supposed to be leaving our bodies completely. Yes, they absorb some of that fluid, but probably not all of it. Some of the tissue, cells, and fluid gets backed up inside of our bodies.

So whether you believe Endo is caused by the chemicals in the tampon or by the tampon itself (or both), you have to at least aknowledge it isn't a natural practice.

This is not meant to scare you. Just to inform.

I wanted to bring this topic out in the open as it is officially Endometriosis Awareness Month and I have known women with this terrible and unspoken health issue.

The Endometriosis Foundation of America has some great information about Endo if you would like to read more.

What is the moral of the story you ask?

Think hard about what you are putting into your body. Whether it be supplements, food, or tampons. Do some research and find out what you are exposing yourself to.

I know one can't be afraid of everything in life, and I won't tell you that I am abandoning tampons myself, but I am doing my homework.

I am looking to invest in all natural, organic cotton tampons (minus bleach and Dioxin) and possibly pads too. I may switch to pads at night when I can't change tampons as often. In all honesty, I don't know what all I will do.

I do know that I have to consider the possibilities. And I have to at least push awareness in others, as someone else has done for me.

In no way am I saying that I know all of this to be facts. Endo could have many causes, including heredity. Tumors, hormone imbalances and infertility could be caused by many varying factors. There is still uncertainty about the long term effects of birth control.

All I know is that it's worth looking in to. It's something that perhaps won't be too difficult a change. I hope you are at least thinking seriously about the implications of continuous tampon use.

If you are, my job here is done.

Thanks for listening, if you've made it this far. And if you are a male...well done!


  1. I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said. I, too, am a tampon user, but I also have Endo. Severe Endo at that.

    Whatever it was that caused me to not conceive naturally (I took fertility pills) could have been anything, but reading what you've posted, I never once thought about it being tampons. I will now rethink my decisions and start researching, but you've brought up great points. So thanks for that!

  2. Thanks so much for posting this. As someone with endo, it's something I definitely want to think about.

  3. Thank you for posting about this! My mom had Endo after I was born, and it naturally got better over time...but who knows why exactly? I personally, have ALWAYS used pads. Why you ask? Because of most of the reasons you just posted! I have NEVER thought it natural, and frankly down-right disgusting, to leave all the crud in your body. It was meant to flushed and exited for a reason! So in my mind, let it be so!
    Thanks for the was VERY informative!

  4. Very interesting! I've never really thought about it before, but I definitely am now. I think I will check into some of those all natural products.

  5. Back in college I took a Woman's Studies Course and was blown away by how the prof kept pushing natural products on us, seriously I thought she was reacting. Flash forward nine years and I totally understand (damn you freshman thinking mind). Thanks for brining this subject up, I am going to do more research too.

  6. Wow, I didn't know they could contribute endometriosis! Tampons give me headaches, no matter how short of a time I leave them in. I swtiched to the cup about 6 months ago and haven't looked back. It's strange to get used to but I always said I would be a cloth diaper user so why should this be any different?

    And oddly enough...headaches gone!

  7. Nikki - isn't it interesting that Tampons cause such strange side effects. Every once in a while, my cramps get worse when I use tampons. Then when I take it out, it lessens.
    Makes you wonder...maybe my body is telling me it doesn't like them.


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