Should Your Daughter Use Tampons or Pads?

The difference between tampons and pads

Take your tween to the store so she can help pick out tampons or pads.
There are a lot of products to choose from, help your tween choose the right tampon or pad for her. Photo: Ashley Leonard,

For many young girls puberty occurs during the tween years and the transition and development will likely prompt a variety of questions from your child. Your daughter will want to know how to deal with menstrual cramps, how to handle headaches or migraines, and she may also wonder if it's better to use tampons or pads.

If your daughter needs guidance on choosing menstrual hygiene products, here's what you both should know.

Tampons or Pads: It's a Personal Decision

There are a variety of products on the market that will help your daughter deal with her menstrual flow. Most girls start off using menstrual pads, which are disposal pads made of very absorbent material that catches the menstrual flow. Pads are also known as sanitary pads or sanitary napkins. The pads stick to the inside of the underwear, and are easy to remove. Pads come in a variety of sizes, depending on the heaviness of the flow, and are very easy to use, making them an obvious choice for girls who are just getting used to managing their periods. Pads should be removed every 3-4 hours, or more often if your child is experiencing a heavier flow. However, some girls find them uncomfortable, and many also think that they interfere with everyday activities such as sports, swimming or other activities. Pads can also shift, especially during exercise.

For this reason, many girls and women find them inconvenient.

Tampons are the typical alternative to using menstrual pads. Tampons are also made of absorbent materials. Tampons are typically a cylinder shape, with either cardboard or plastic applicators. Like menstrual pads, tampons come in a variety of sizes and absorbencies.

Tampons are inserted into the vagina, and the applicator is removed. A string allows for easy removal, and the tampon is either flushed or wrapped in toilet tissue and placed in a trash can. Like pads, tampons should be replaced frequently, generally every 4-6 hours. Tampons are very convenient for many reasons. Girls can wear them when they swim, and the fact that they are placed in the vagina makes it easier for girls to partake in certain activities, such as sports. However, young girls may be worried about placing them correctly, and parents may worry if their daughter is replacing the tampon often enough.

When a girl first begins her period, it might be wise to start her off using menstrual pads. As she adjusts and gets used to managing her period, she can consider using tampons if you think she's mature enough to use them properly, and change them every 4-6 hours without having to be reminded. Some girls never take to using tampons, either because they're afraid of "losing" them in their vaginas (which can't happen, by the way), they find them uncomfortable, or because they're happy with the results of using menstrual pads. If that's the case, there's no reason to force your daughter to use tampons, just be sure to guide her on their proper use should she change her mind in the future.

Also, keep in mind that there are possible health consequences to girls and women who don't use tampons correctly, if you have questions, be sure to discuss your concerns with your child's pediatrician. 

Note: If your daughter is menstruating, it's a good idea to make a period kit for her, so that she has supplies when she needs them. A small cosmetic bag will hold a tampon and a pad or two, for those unexpected moments. But your daughter should also know where else she can find supplies, if you're not around. Grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores and big box retail stores all offer a selection of tampons and pads. Vending machines may sell tampons or pads, and they can be found in many public restrooms. Also, if your daughter gets her period at school, the school nurse will likely have supplies on hand.

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