Let’s be real, no one enjoys having periods. So if there’s anything out there that can make them lighter, shorter, less painful or practically non-existent, we’re all for it.
But a tweet claiming that organic pads and tampons shortened a young woman’s period by about three days and changed her flow ignited a debate over whether or not this was even possible.
“Organic tampons and pads shortened my periods from 7-8 days to 4 days!!!!!” wrote the woman who goes by “young hilary banks” on Twitter. “Ladies please switch to organic and stop putting dangerous products full of cancer causing chemicals in your body!!!!!”
Responses ranged from women confirming they had their cycles shortened by switching to organic feminine hygiene products to those who criticized her for spewing false information.
Although organic feminine hygiene products have only recently appeared on the market, the interest for them is high . Lola, an organic subscription-based tampon and pad company, raised $24 million in funds and even has celebrities like Serena Williams and Lena Dunham investing. Procter & Gamble, which owns Always and Tampax, just acquired This is L, another organic feminine hygiene brand, in February.
According to experts, organic feminine hygiene products don’t have any affect on a woman’s menstrual cycle.
Dr. Daniel M. Breitkopf, an Ob/Gyn at the Mayo Clinic, doesn’t think organic pads can alter the flow of a period or shorten a cycle, but there could be an explanation for organic tampons doing so.
More: ‘Menstrual equality’: House passes measure allowing women to buy tampons, pads with health spending accounts
“The device is going into the body so that could change things, but there’s no scientific evidence that’s the case,” Breitkopf tells USA TODAY.
The Mayo Clinic doctor also cited recall bias to explain why some women seemed to think organic products made their cycles shorter.
“Menstruation can change naturally from month to month,” he says. “Stress affects menses and that’s probably the biggest thing from a month-to-month or year-to-year basis, but menses also changes closer to menopause.”
Until there’s more quantifiable research on the use of organic pads and tampons, Breitkopf says we just don’t know how it affects menstrual cycles.
So when it comes to choosing organic feminine hygiene products over regular products, it comes down to personal preference.
More: Women get their periods every month — and it’s incredibly expensive
In fact, Dr. Sherry Ross, an Ob/Gyn and author of “she-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period.,” says that she doesn’t think organic tampons pads are generally any “safer” or even necessary. She believes that media and internet hype over organic products have influenced our perspective on traditionally manufactured tampons and pads.
“‘Is organic better when it comes to using tampons?’ is a common question asked by many of my patients as a result of this hype and unproven claims about the dangers of every day purchased tampons used by half the population,” Ross says. “Organic tampons are available as an alternative for women who prefer to go this route. Similar to choosing organic vegetables, it’s an alternative and not necessarily better or safer for women.”
When it comes to the safety of traditional feminine hygiene products, there doesn’t seem to be any “epidemics of diseases that are associated with tampons at this point,” according to Breitkopf. He adds that it doesn’t mean there aren’t any, but it hasn’t come up yet or been identified.
Although tampons along with and other everyday products contain trace amounts of contaminants, Ross says the risk of developing cancer is minimal and there is no scientific evidence to prove that it poses a threat to a woman’s health.
“The fact is the tampon industry is regulated,” she says. “Women are protected from tampons containing excessive amounts of asbestos, dioxin and rayon fibers, which are chemicals that can potentially cause harm if contained in large amounts in tampons.”
She adds that the most important thing to remember with tampons, whether organic or traditional, is to change them every four to eight hours so you don’t increase your risk for toxic shock syndrome.
Toxic shock syndrome is a potentially fatal bacterial infection associated with tampon use.