Tampons vs. Pads: What Suits You the Best

While navigating through the world of feminine hygiene products, pads and tampons stand out as the most commonly used menstrual products. All the females of reproductive age experience periods that typically last for a week, necessitating the use of menstrual hygiene products that offer both comfort and convenience. The majority of women tend to prefer pads or tampons while there are other options available, such as menstrual cups, panty liners, sponges, and reusable cloth napkins. Each of these products has its own unique feature and drawback.

In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of pads and tampons, providing you with valuable insights to help you choose the most suitable option for managing your periods.


What are tampons?

Tampons are tubes or small cylinders made of absorbent material that are used to absorb menstrual blood. They are inserted into the vagina to prevent blood from leaking out. They have a string attached to their free end to remove the tampon from the body.

Tampons are available in various absorbency levels to handle different flow intensities, with options ranging from light absorbency for lighter periods to high absorbency for heavy periods. Tampons are typically made from materials such as cotton, rayon, or a combination of cotton and rayon.

How to use tampons?

Some tampons have an applicator with them, which is a tube used to hold the tampon and allow its insertion into the vaginal canal. The applicator guides the tampon into the correct position inside the vagina. Applicator has two parts: an inner tube that holds the tampon and an outer tube that is pushed up toward the vagina using the fingers.

On the other hand, there are tampons that do not have applicators and are inserted digitally (with fingers).

To remove a tampon, pull out the thread of the tampon gently and dispose it off, properly.

Pros of tampons

  • Size and portability: Tampons are best in terms of size. They are so small that they can be easily carried anywhere. Just put them in a pocket or pouch and go anywhere you want.
  • Invisibility: Since tampons are not used externally, they are invisible, making them suitable for wearing tight-fitting clothes. Since they are smaller and more streamlined than bulky pads, they blend in with the body’s natural contours.
  • Range of movement: Once placed inside the vagina, tampons do not move out of place. Hence, they do not create hindrances during exercise or any other activity.
  • Suitability for Swimming: Tampons are designed to be worn internally, making them suitable for swimming. Additionally, tampons are made of water-resistant material, providing excellent absorbency during swimming.
  • Reduced risk of leakage: Tampons are intended to directly absorb menstrual flow at the source. When properly inserted, they can effectively prevent leaks, especially when using higher absorbency options on days with heavy flow.
  • Versatility: Tampons are available in a variety of sizes and absorbencies, allowing females to select the best option for their flow. This adaptability allows for customized menstruation care, which can reduce discomfort and irritation.
  • Odor control: Tampons help minimize menstrual odor. By absorbing the flow directly at its source, they prevent the blood from being exposed to air, which can help reduce any potential odor.

Cons of tampons

  • Difficulty in inserting tampons: It can be challenging for most females to use tampons. It takes time and experience to become proficient in their insertion and use.
  • Dryness and irritation: Tampons absorb moisture along with blood, which can cause dryness in the vagina and that can lead to irritation. Therefore, it is important to change tampons regularly and avoid using tampons with absorbency greater than required. Dryness causes itching and may pose a risk of urinary tract infections.
  • Discomfort: Some females are not comfortable inserting tampons into their bodies, which can create a sense of unease for them.
  • Infection: Tampons made of rayon are actually bundles of plastic strands.  While pulling out, it can cause lacerations in the wall of the vagina and lead to infections.
  • Pooling of blood: According to some gynecologists, when tampons are used in the vagina or at the mouth of the cervix for a longer time period, they may slow down the flow of blood out of the uterus, resulting in the pooling of blood in the uterus.
  • Cost: Tampons can be more expensive than other menstrual products, such as pads or menstrual cups. Some individuals may find the cost of tampons to be a factor to consider when choosing menstrual products.

Please note that these points highlight potential concerns associated with tampon use, but they may not be experienced by everyone.

Risk of toxic shock syndrome

If tampons are left inside for more than 8 hours, it increases the risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS). When tampons are not changed frequently, they create a favorable environment for bacteria to grow. These bacteria release toxins or poisons into the blood, which can affect various organs. Symptoms of TSS include a sudden high fever, diarrhea, low blood pressure, shivering, rashes, and muscle aches. TSS is a medical emergency. Reduce the risk of TSS by

  • Changing tampons before 8 hours
  • Avoid wearing a single tampon all night
  • Use the least absorbent tampons.

Can tampons get lost in the body?

Tampon is inserted in the vaginal canal. The vagina ends up in the cervix which separates the vagina from the uterus. The cervix is too narrow for a tampon to pass through it. So there is no way the tampon can go beyond the vagina. It will remain in the vagina.


What are pads?

Pads, also known as sanitary napkins, are external absorbent materials used to manage menstrual flow. The materials used for making pads consist of rayon, polymer, or cotton. Adhesives are used on the underside to stick the pad to underwear or panties. Most pads come with wings on their sides. The stickers on the wings are peeled off, and they are curled along the sides of the panty to limit the movement of the pad and provide a more secure application.

Types of pads

There are two types of pads available: reusable and disposable pads. Reusable pads are meant to be washed after use and can be used repeatedly. They are environmentally friendly but can be a bit costly and may not be as convenient to use.

Disposable pads, on the other hand, are becoming the most commonly used menstrual product. Once used, they are properly discarded by wrapping them in a disposal bag and then throwing them into a dustbin.

Pros of pads

  • Best for beginners: Girls who have their first periods and are new to this era of periods should have pads as their first option. Pads are easy to use, providing a feeling of comfort, and assessing the menstrual flow so they are the top priority for young girls.
  • Convenience: Pads are widely available in most markets and pharmacies, making them easily accessible for females who need them.
  • Super easy to use: Pads are so easy to use. All you need to do is peel off the adhesive tape from the underside of the pad and stick it to the underwear. Similarly, wings are also attached to the sides of the panty.
  • More absorbency options: Pads come in a great variety. There are pads with different absorbency capacities, ranging from light to heavy bleeding. They also come in different sizes, multiple layers, and varying thicknesses to prevent leakage and provide moisture-free comfort.
  • Know when to change: When pads are full, you can easily see that it’s time to change them. This is not the case with other products like tampons or cups, where you can only make predictions without being able to check if they need to be changed or not.
  • Can be worn overnight: Pads can be used throughout the night for good sleep. They do not carry the risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS) compared to tampons and cups. Additionally, there are special varieties of pads designed specifically for overnight use.
  • Comfort: The majority of women find menstrual pads comfortable. They are often made with delicate, cotton-like fabric that is soft against the skin and less likely to irritate or cause inflammation.
  • Better option for heavy bleeding: During the first two days of periods, when there is heavy bleeding, pads are a great option. They offer maximum absorbency, providing a stain-free experience.
  • No risk of TSS: With using pads, the risk of getting toxic shock syndrome is minimal and rare. So, they can be used without the fear of getting TSS.
  • Non-invasive: Unlike tampons that require inserting an external object into the body, pads are worn externally. This reduces the risk of infections associated with internal products.
  • Hassle-free application: Pads are applied with the utmost convenience, requiring no special skills. They can be changed in the bathroom anywhere.

Cons of pads

  • Bulkiness: Pads can feel like an extra item worn on the body, which can cause discomfort for females, especially if the pads are thick and ill-fitting.
  • Less secure: Pads can shift out of their normal position during movement or while sleeping, leading to leakage and mess. In such cases, pads with wings are a better option as they provide more security.
  • Not suitable for activities: Engaging in exercises or playing sports while wearing pads may not be ideal. Pads can easily shift from their position, causing discomfort and uneasiness.
  • Not suitable for swimming: Going swimming with pads is not advisable. Pads can become soaked in water, disintegrate, and lead to embarrassment. They also lose their ability to absorb blood in the water.
  • Odor: When pads are not changed after 6 to 7 hours, blood can start to produce an unpleasant odor.
  • Allergic reactions: While uncommon, women with sensitive skin can experience rashes or inflammatory reactions due to certain substances used in pads, especially the adhesives and fragrances.

Comparing pads with tampons

Up until now, we have discussed all the descriptive details about pads and tampons. The best choice between the two depends on personal preferences, flow rate, and skin sensitivity. Each woman’s choice may vary, so in this section, we will compare pads and tampons to help you select the best option for yourself.


  • Tampons are worn internally, making them invisible and unfelt if properly inserted.
  • Pads, on the other hand, are worn with underwear. They have noticeable size and thickness, making them less discreet.


  • Tampons offer great comfort as they are barely noticeable when inserted correctly. They also provide ease and eliminate the risk of rashes.
  • Pads are also comfortable for those who are conscious about leakage and desire a sense of security. They are preferred by females who are not comfortable with the internal insertion of tampons.


  • Tampons are excellent for all types of activities, including exercise and swimming.
  • Pads tend to shift during movement, increasing the risk of staining and causing hindrance to movements.


  • Tampons do not produce any odor as they absorb blood internally.
  • Pads, when not changed for 5 to 6 hours, can produce an unpleasant odor due to the absorbed blood.


  • Tampons increase the risk of toxic shock syndrome if not changed frequently. Mishandling tampons can also cause vaginal infections.
  • Pads can cause rashes in women with sensitive skin. The presence of absorbed blood and excess moisture can also lead to infections.


  • Tampons may be difficult for beginners and require some practice for proper insertion. They are not as easy to use as pads.
  • Pads are super easy to use and suitable for both beginners and experienced users. Simply attach them to underwear and wear them.

Overnight use

  • Tampons are not advised for overnight use if planning to sleep for more than 8 hours. If used, they should be changed just before going to bed.
  • Pads are suitable for overnight use, and there are special varieties designed specifically for overnight with optimal absorbency.

Know when to change

  • Tampons are not visible from the outside, making it difficult to determine when to change them.
  • With pads, you can easily check and determine the right time to change them.


  • Tampons can be more expensive in the long run, especially if purchased frequently.
  • Pads are generally considered a cost-effective menstrual product option.
Invisible as worn internallyNoticeable size and thickness
Suitable for all types, including exercise and swimmingMay shift during movement
No odor as blood is absorbed internallyCan produce an unpleasant odor if not changed for a while
Increased risk of toxic shock syndrome if not changed frequentlyMay cause rashes and infections in sensitive skin
Requires practice for proper insertionEasy to use and suitable for beginners
Not advised for more than 8 hours of sleepSuitable for overnight use with special varieties
Difficult to determine when to changeEasy to check and determine when to change
Can be more expensive in the long runGenerally considered cost-effective

Selecting the best option for oneself among pads and tampons depends on individual situations and preferences. Both pads and tampons have their own advantages and risks. However, if used with great caution and ensuring proper hygiene, there is no need to worry about their risks.

Choose tampons if you:
  • Engage in physical activities and need a menstrual product that stays in place during movement.
  • Plan to go to the beach or a pool party, as tampons can be worn while swimming.
  • Desire a discreet and portable option that can be easily carried in your pocket or purse.
Choose pads if you:
  • Prefer waking up to fresh and clean bed sheets.
  • Experience difficulty or discomfort when inserting tampons.
  • Currently use tampons but desire additional protection against leakage.

Frequently asked questions

Do pads hold more blood than tampons?

Both pads and tampons have different sizes and absorbencies, but generally, pads hold more blood than tampons because they have a greater surface area and are worn externally. Tampons are smaller in size and require more frequent changes.

Can pads and tampons be used interchangeably?

Yes, pads and tampons can be used interchangeably. It is advised to alternate between pads and tampons during light bleeding days to avoid any risk of toxic shock syndrome.

Which is best for exercise, pads or tampons?

Tampons are the best option for use during exercise as pads can shift out of place and increased sweating with movement can cause chafing and rashes. Tampons, on the other hand, will remain in their place.

Do tampons cause more dryness compared to pads?

Tampons can cause dryness if left inserted for too long or if a higher absorbency level is used than needed. Pads, on the other hand, do not cause dryness as they absorb blood externally.

Are pads more easily available compared to tampons?

Pads and tampons are both widely available in most markets and pharmacies, making them easily accessible options for menstruating individuals.

Last medically reviewed on August 5, 2023.