Which hygienic protections are the safest?

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Between tampons, sanitary napkins and cups, each woman has her preferences. The trend is organic and natural. Are these new protections safer? Which products limit the risk of toxic shock?

Which hygienic protections are the safest?

© Adobe Stock / nixki

Women want to know what they wear for protect yourself during the menses. Efficiency and discretion have always been criteria of choice. But today, the composition of tampons, towels, panties and menstrual cups, is also relevant. The presence of chemical substances like pesticides, dioxins or perfumes has been repeatedly underlined. In a report published in July 2018, the National Health Security Agency confirms the presence of endocrine disruptors and 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, some of which come from bleaching processes.

What is the toxic shock syndrome?

Another concern is the toxic shock syndrome (TBS) linked to a misuse of these periodic protections. The story of this young American model, amputated a leg after a lightning infection, has made an impression. Professor Gérard Lina, a doctor at the National Reference Center for Staphylococci, estimates the number of cases at “a hundred a year in France. In 2018, two young women, who used menstrual cups, were hospitalized for a TBS. Everytime, hygiene is involved. “You have to have good reflexes to prevent this type of infection and know the rules of use,” insists Professor Lina.

Is the risk of toxic shock the same depending on the protection?

Only tampons and the cuts expose to the risk of toxic shock. They block the blood inside the vagina, allowing the toxins to grow at body temperature. No cases of TSS were recorded with towels and panties. However, there is no question of banning internal protections. Just change them regularly.

At the least malaise (headache, fever …) with a pad or cup, remove it immediately and opt for external protection. If the discomfort worsens, we consult a doctor without delay.

The buffers enriched with probiotics do not protect 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, it seems insufficient against the SCT. I have the testimony of a patient who used this type of tampon, “says Prof. Lina.

What advice to give regardless of protection?

The toxic shock syndrome is due to toxins secreted by some golden staphylococci, bacteria naturally present in the body. Menstrual blood is a good growing medium for these bacteria that produce these toxins. However, 10% of women lack the necessary antibodies to protect themselves. The choice of intimate protection belongs to each woman. But hygiene advice is valid for all. It’s never too late to revise fundamentals:

  • Wash your hands when handling.
  • Whatever the intimate protection, the change maximum every 6 hours during the day (even if the records indicate longer durations). Beware of very absorbent pads that we tend to keep too long!
  • For the night, prefer towels and panties to tampons and cuts.

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,” says Professor Lina. To clean the cut, it is not enough to rinse with water.


“You have to sterilize by following the process indicated on the boxes and having several cuts to change easily, “recalls Professor Lina.

Are tampons and napkins less toxic?

Brands launch new ranges of tampons, towels and panties made with organic cotton, so grown without pesticides. In return, 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 as much as possible potentially toxic substances. 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.

To learn more about the safety of hygienic protection, discover the video tips of a gynecologist: