My advice is simple: use a menstrual cup. Not to be associated with any evil multinationals or anything, but just do it! You will be saving yourself, the environment, your time and your money. And if I happen to be wrong you'll get your money back. If I had a daughter or granddaughter I would give her one for her 12th (or however pathetically young it is these days) birthday.
I've had my Keeper (a menstrual cup) since June 1997. I found out about it on the web. I had been using 100% unbleached cotton tampons but I was still concerned about a possible Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) risk and the environmental waste. They were also expensive and not overly convenient.
The Keeper websites listed below have good information about why their product is superior to tampons and disposable pads. Briefly, I will say just stop and think about it. Let's say you use nine tampons a cycle, have 13 cycles a year and this goes on for 38 years. That's roughly 4,500 tampons (not to mention the little wrappers, cardboard boxes, and possibly, applicators). And that's not just landfill space (or ocean waste!), it's all of the resources that went into making these things and growing the cotton (or trees that made rayon). All of this is even worse if you consider the alternative: over your lifetime you could have used four Keepers made from rubber that was taken without even chopping the trees down. (Another alternative, of course, is reusable cotton pads, but they require more maintenance than The Keeper and who wants to wear a pad?)
That's fascinating, but does it work? YES! It does not leak and it is totally comfortable. It does, however, require technique. I believe that women who found it to leak or be painful did not experiment enough in properly inserting it. It is possible to insert it incorrectly and create painful suction, but done properly, it does not occur. (Hint: try squatting.) It is particularly nice for very light days since it's not all dry and dangerous like a tampon and not a pain like a pantyliner. It is also nice not to have to worry at all about TSS or having to think about how many hours you've had it in. I generally empty it 3 times a day, and never in public since I don't have to.
If there is something more specific you'd like to know, feel free to ask.
While I can't endorse using 100% unbleached cotton tampons, if you decide right now to at least move away from corporate tampons let me say a few things. First, look for organically grown cotton. And second, don't use Tampax Naturals. Tampax is owned by Procter & Gamble (yeah, as in gamble with your life with the Rely tampon!) who still engages in inexcusable animal testing.
First, read about what's wrong with most tampons.
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