September 7, 2009 1:11 PM   Subscribe

Is it ok to wear light tampons occasionally when not on your period, to help control vaginal fluids?

I've always seemed to "make" a lot of vaginal fluid, so this isn't a recent thing, but has been bugging me lately. My flow/smell/consistency hasn't changed much, particularly since being on hormonal birth control. I know HBC causes vaginal dryness in some women, but it seems to have caused an increase for me (not alarmingly so, just a little more noticeable).

I don't like panty liners. With the sticky plastic underside, it's uncomfortable and is less biodegradable than some kinds of tampons. I would like to wear light tampons every now and the to help control and "catch" this extra wetness. If I don't wear them constantly, and only on an as-needed basis, how harmful is it if I wear a tampon without being on my period?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm told wearing tampons outside your period is not really a good idea and greatly increases the changes of toxic shock syndrome. That said, I know how you feel. Might I suggest re-usable / washable pantiliners such as Gladrags? You can wash and soak them in the sink after use, then throw them in the laundry (though I sometimes just wash them in the sink a few times after a good soaking, let dry and reuse, but then launder normally after a couple uses). They aren't as uncomfortable in my opinion as disposables.
posted by R343L at 1:15 PM on September 7, 2009 [3 favorites]

I had a friend who wore tampons constantly for that very reason, and it's not so great for your cervix. The vagina is a self-cleaning organ and it's best to let it do its stuff. I think R343L's idea is a good one.
posted by jfwlucy at 1:19 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

After hearing about a friend's experience with toxic shock syndrome, I'm leery of wearing tampons even for their intended purpose. TSS is nothing to mess with; I definitely wouldn't wear a tampon unless absolutely necessary and only during my period.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 1:34 PM on September 7, 2009

This is a bad idea, for reasons other than the potential of irritating your cervix or getting TSS. You also run the risk of absorbing too much moisture from your vaginal tissues, which could lead to irritation.

If you prefer internal protection, why not try a menstrual cup? They're reusable (except for the Instead cups sold in drug stores), environmentally-friendly, and non-absorbent so there's no risk of TSS.
posted by thisjax at 1:41 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

DivaCup, definitely. It's way more comfortable than either tampons or pads, nearly undetectable even when you're naked, and keeps your natural moisture balance pretty close to normal. Because it's reusable and made from medical grade silicone, it's better for the environment and poses no risk of TSS. Plus, aside from the initial cost, it's super cheap.
posted by Madamina at 1:42 PM on September 7, 2009 [4 favorites]

You could also consider using a menstrual sponge, or do what I do--cut pantyliner-sized shapes out of a nice, soft sweatshirt and attach them to your underwear with safety pins. They're reusable and much, much more comfortable than pantyliners.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:45 PM on September 7, 2009

Here's another vote for cloth pads and pantiliners. Lots of people make them, and there's a whole community of women who use them. When you find a style you like, it's so much nicer than a plastic disposable pad. (And if you're just wearing them for daily use, not during your period, you don't have to deal with washing blood out of them...)
posted by LolaGeek at 1:52 PM on September 7, 2009

I don't think it's a good idea--irritation, TSS, overdrying...not good. I also think the DivaCup is overkill for this sort of thing, but I may be biased because I've never found menstrual cups to be comfortable or leakproof.

Cloth pantiliners really seem like the perfect solution here. There are a bunch of different brands/styles and there are also people who make them at home and sell them on etsy and ebay. I don't think you'd need to soak them before washing if you're not using them to absorb menstrual blood.
posted by needs more cowbell at 1:56 PM on September 7, 2009

If you can ignore the MSPaint pubic hair on their illustration, take a look at these interlabial pads.

You could make those at home.
posted by Sallyfur at 2:05 PM on September 7, 2009

I buy cloth pantiliners from this Etsy seller because a) she has a lot of "buy 3 get one free" sales, b) I have bought a lot of these things in my life and these are very, very well made, and c) MONKEYS IN YOUR PANTS!

I just chuck them in the laundry with anything going. They are great.

And for the record, I use proper cloth menstrual pads for, you know, menstruating and I never, ever soak them. I just snap them in on themselves to make tidy little packets and put them in the laundry basket. I put them in the wash after unsnapping them. About 1 in 10 stains but I cannot begin to convey how much I don't care if the cloth I'm going to bleed on has traces of blood. (I've never understood the point of that but that's only me.)
posted by DarlingBri at 2:06 PM on September 7, 2009 [15 favorites]

DarlingBri: looks like your recommendation just cleared out a bunch of her stock. Thanks for the note of the quality -- will keep my eye out for new products there!
posted by barnone at 2:26 PM on September 7, 2009

Seconding the DivaCup, out of personal experience: bought it in the spring and have used it exclusively for the past six months. As a result of my historically less-than-accurate menstrual tracking, at some point in the month I usually remember I'm due for a period "soon." As this could be anywhere from 2-5 days away, I'll usually just start wearing the cup when it seems like a reasonably close time, as my period also has a history of being less-than-exactly like clockwork. So for those days I'm effectively doing what you are seeking to do, and I find the cup to be subtle and low-maintenance that wearing it a few extra days is no bother.

This works fine for me, and I could imagine if I was experiencing a lot of non-period discharge, I'd be fine using the cup over longer periods of time (as always, using proper and diligent sanitation techniques, naturally!). But it I could see how, as needs more cowbell remarked, it could be considered overkill, in light of other options that you may also want to investigate. I personally am one of those women who has never enjoyed any kind of "external" menstrual solutions, as any kind of pantyliner or pad has always ended up bunching, or becoming displaced, or contributing to odor in ways I did not care for. No clue if the reusable cloth liners they're coming out these days are better at those issues, but those would be my concerns.

So, I guess I'm voting Strongly Agree for the DivaCup, and Neither Agree nor Disagree with cloth liners, but interested in hearing people's experiences with them.
posted by hegemone at 2:28 PM on September 7, 2009

I also came here to suggest a menstrual cup, for the same reasons hegemone did.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:41 PM on September 7, 2009

I don't know that a menstrual cup would work for this purpose, given that the Bartholin glands are nearer to the entrance of the vagina. I know that when I fool around with a tampon in, I still get plenty of lubrication escaping. But I guess it depends on what typed of fluid you are talking about... something coming from the uterus/cervix, or mucus from the glands.
posted by kimdog at 3:18 PM on September 7, 2009

Tampons are not terribly great juju, even on your period...I join the consensus in saying that some sort of padding is a preferable option, just from a cervical health and toxic shock standpoint.
posted by dejah420 at 5:32 PM on September 7, 2009

The previous MeFi menstrual cup thread pointed me to the good folks at Party in My Pants, who make some very nice cloth pantiliners.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 5:58 PM on September 7, 2009

How long have you been on the pill? You might want to try changing pills and maybe switching to an extended-cycle one. I take Ocella (generic for Yasmin) on a 12-week cycle and I no longer have ovulation discharge.
posted by radioamy at 8:14 PM on September 7, 2009

How about just wearing more breathable, absorbent panties? For example, microfibre bamboo? They really do make a difference in your perception of wetness, as well as being more healthy than polyester / synthetic etc.
posted by Bergamot at 11:54 PM on September 7, 2009

I am also a huge fan of the DivaCup - I've had mine for over four years. You can order it online. There's different brands of cups available now from various makers (Mooncup, Lunette, etc.) Check out the livejournal community menstrual_cups for any questions you have - everything you can think of will have been answered already.
posted by ghost dance beat at 5:28 AM on September 8, 2009

First, please go to the gynecologist to make sure this increase is not the result of an infection or anything else before trying to stifle it.

If the doctor says your fine, can I point out that this fluid is normal and healthy and unless you're modeling bikini bottom crotches, probably not any kind of problem? That society works really hard to make us think our hoo-has are dirty and gross and should smell like cinnamon and vanilla and never ever leak fluid except during our horrible periods.

Just a thought.
posted by micawber at 10:44 AM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

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