If you’re mom to a girl between the ages of 11 – 13, you may be getting ready to have your first mom-daughter period talk! But what if you have questions? Like…
Are tampons safe for teens?
How about menstrual cups?
Should my daughter only use pads until she’s older or sexually active?
There’s no doubt about it: The safest and most efficient female hygiene product to use is a pad. But there’s many times when pads just don’t seem like the best option. For example, imagine that your 12-year-old is competing in professional gymnastics and must wear a tight outfit for her performance. Not only is she suffering from menstrual cramps, but she’s also worrying about blood seeping through her clothes. In this situation, a tampon sounds like the best choice, doesn’t it? After all, tampons are frequently recommended for professional female athletes. But you’re a concerned parent, and you’re wondering: “Are tampons safe for my daughter?” Here’s some tampon and menstrual cup facts, so you can make an informed decision about what product is best.
Are tampons safe? Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) dangers
TSS is a serious health complication and is the cause of death for 1 in 100,000 women in the U.S. each year. In a 2105 study, tampons were actually found to decrease of growth of dangerous S aureus and toxic shock syndrome toxin 1 (TSST-1) production. However, women who had used super-absorbant tampons for more than 8 hours showed a significant increase in S aureus growth, putting them at a greater risk for developing TSS.
The same study also tested menstrual cups. These were found to produce a much larger growth of S aureus than tampons. The first reported incident of TSS due to using a menstrual cup was published in 2015 in the Journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology. TSS is always something to be aware of if you’ll be recommending tampons or menstrual cups to your daughter.
In 2019, Pediatric News reported that most pediatricians do not discuss tampon use and the associated risks with underage patients or their parents. In fact, 36% of pediatricians reported almost never discussing the risks of tampon use with female teens, 32% reported sometimes discussing the risks, and 31% reported very often or almost always having the conversation.
Tampons and virginity
Many moms I meet are concerned about their non-sexually active teens using tampons and menstrual cups. Many times, questions about virginity arise because of religious reasons. It’s important to note that tampons will not cause a loss of virginity. However, when used too often, larger-sized tampons (such as the super-absorbent kind) can stretch and tear the hymen.
How to assist your daughter with first-time tampon use
If you’ve decided that tampons are a good choice for your daughter, it’s important to explain how to use them properly. Here’s a list that you can share with her:
- Choose a tampon with a plastic applicator that is lighter in absorbency and smaller in size.
- Wash your hands.
- Use a small mirror to help identify your vaginal opening.
- If needed, you can use a water-based lubricant for gentle insertion.
- If a tampon is placed correctly, it should not be felt after insertion. If there is discomfort after insertion, it may not have been inserted properly. If this is the case, remove the tampon and try inserting a new one. If you’re unsuccessful after several attempts, stop and use a pad instead.
Moms: If your daughter is unable to insert a tampon, it’s important to schedule a visit with a pediatric and adolescent gynecologist, pediatrician, or family medicine physician for an evaluation. Some girls are born with a very small hymenal opening, which can prevent tampon insertion.
If you are in the New York City area, you can schedule an appointment with me at Boruch Midwifery. Our Manhattan OBGYN office is a 100% teen-friendly environment.
Have questions about tampon or menstrual cup use? Leave them in the comments below!
Dr. Yuliya Boruch
Yuliya Boruch is a graduate of Hunter College Nursing Program and the SUNY Downstate Midwifery Program, where she received both Clinical and Academic Excellence Awards. Mrs. Boruch is nationally accredited by the American Midwifery Certification Board, and is a member of the American College of Nurse Midwives. She is also a certified Obstetrics and Gynecology Nurse Practitioner. Mrs. Boruch has been a Midwife since 2004, and has worked in a private practice settings as well as at Beth Israel Medical Center. Introduced to Midwifery in Brooklyn during her early student clinical Midwifery rotations at Coney Island Hospital, Mrs. Boruch has grown fond of the patient population she serves in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. She lives with her husband in Queens and is raising three wonderful children.
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