Women want to know what they’re wearing for protect yourself during your period. Efficiency and discretion have always been the criteria of choice. But today the composition of tampons, pads, panties and menstrual cups, also comes into play. The presence of chemical substances such as pesticides, dioxins or perfumes has been stressed several times. In a report published in July 2018, the National Health Security Agency confirms the presence of endocrine disruptorsand sensitizing substances, but at very low concentrations and, a priori, without risk to health. As a precaution, the Agency recommends that manufacturers limit these molecules which, for some, come from bleaching processes.
What is toxic shock syndrome due to?
Another cause for concern: the toxic shock syndrome (TSS) linked to misuse of these periodic protections. The story of this young American model, with a leg amputated after a devastating infection, has marked the spirits. Professor Gérard Lina, doctor at the National Reference Center for Staphylococci, estimates the number of cases at “around a hundred per year in France. In 2018, two young women, who used menstrual cups, were hospitalized for TSS. Everytime, hygiene is involved. “You have to have the right reflexes to prevent this type of infection and know the rules for use,” insists Professor Lina.
Is the risk of toxic shock the same depending on the protection?
Only the tampons and the cuts expose to the risk of toxic shock. They block the blood inside the vagina, allowing toxins to build up there at body temperature. No cases of TBS were recorded with the towels and panties. However, there is no question of banning internal protections. You just need to change them regularly.
At the least malaise (headache, fever …) with a tampon or cup, it should be removed immediately and opted for external protection. If the discomfort worsens, a doctor is consulted immediately.
Thetampons enriched with probioticsdo not protect from toxic shock syndrome. They can improve the vaginal flora and strengthen its defenses against vaginosis, provided they are worn 7 to 8 days a month during menstruation. “Alas, that seems insufficient against TBS. I have the testimony of a patient who used this type of tampon, ”explains Prof. Lina.
What advice should be given regardless of the protection?
The toxic shock syndrome is due to toxins secreted by certain Staphylococcus aureus, bacteria that occur naturally in the body. Menstrual blood is a good culture medium for these bacteria which then produce these toxins. However, 10% of women do not have the necessary antibodies to protect themselves from it. The choice of intimate protection is up to every woman. But the hygiene advice is valid for all. It’s never too late to review the fundamentals:
- Wash hands when handling.
- Whatever the intimate protection, the change at most every 6 hours during the day (even if the notices indicate longer durations). Beware of very absorbent tampons that we tend to keep too long!
- For the night, prefer towels and panties to tampons and cups.
Is the menstrual cup more hygienic than a tampon?
The cups are made of silicone or elastomer. “These are plastics on which bacteria stick easily”, observes Professor Lina. To clean your cup, it is not enough to rinse it with water.
“We have to sterilize by carefully following the procedure indicated on the boxes and having several cuts to easily change them, ”recalls Professor Lina.
Are organic tampons and napkins less toxic?
Brands launch new ranges of tampons, pads and panties made from organic cotton, therefore cultivated pesticide free. In return, the prices are higher. This trend is in line with the recommendations of the National Health Security Agency. In its report, ANSES recommends that manufacturers limit potentially toxic substances as much as possible. But the fiber bleaching processes, based on chlorine, remain problematic. On this point, ANSES recommends alternative solutions such as the use of dioxygen or hydrogen peroxide.