Blush: TSS and menstrual cups

I am a huge supporter of the use of menstrual cups. I have used a Diva Cup since 2008, and cannot imagine switching away from it. I talk about my foray into postnatal products here, as it is not safe to use insertable menstrual products after delivery, no matter the method of delivery.

The other day, one of my friends tagged me in a link to an article describing how cups are linked to increased bacteria. At first, I just brushed it off. ONE article does not concern me. But as I was thinking about what to write this week, I realized that I was biased. I should actually sit down and do the damn research myself.

And do you know what I found? Not much.

Not only is there next to no research done on the prevalence of bacteria found on cups, there doesn’t seem to be any plans of doing any research on this. Get on this, scientists!

Moving on…

Let’s examine what Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) actually is. If you’re like me about an hour ago, you would say, “oh, TSS has something to do with leaving tampons in for a long time.”

You’d be partially right, but mostly wrong.

Yeah, I was surprised too.

TSS is actually caused by bacteria (specifically Staph and Strep) getting into the bloodstream and releasing harmful toxins.

This is a Giant Microbe of Staph. You can buy them here.

This means something super important: Toxic Shock Syndrome is NOT limited to tampon users.

What???

That was my reaction. Anybody can get TSS. Jim Henson died from TSS, and as far as I know, he did not use tampons.

Tampons are a pretty good breeding ground for bacteria, and in the 70’s, there was a chemical compound in the “super absorbent” tampons that really increased this. Once that compound was eliminated, the number of TSS cases reported dropped drastically. Removing tampons when directed helps, too.

Also, using a higher absorbency tampon than required can cause micro-abrasions inside the vagina, leading to a higher likelihood of the bad bacteria finding a way inside the bloodstream.

Okay. Now that we’ve cleared that up, what about bacteria on cups causing TSS?

According to my research (thanks Dorothy Ann), there has been one reported case of a person getting TSS while using a cup. It was in 2015, and it was reported that there was an abrasion inside the vagina at the time of use of the cup.

We already have Staph and Strep bacteria all over our bodies at all times. They’re mostly harmless. If they are allowed to grow as a colony, breed, and then slip into our bloodstream, there is STILL a pretty high likelihood that our white blood cells will fend them off. It’s once the bacteria release the poisonous toxins that there’s a problem, and scientists still don’t know what causes that!

Without any real hard scientific evidence to prove one way or another, we can’t say that Cups are better or worse than tampons at breeding bacteria. If you look at the original article I mention again, there’s a diagram showing the amount of bacteria found on tampons and cups, with the control being just a regular vagina. Look at how much Staph they found in a regular vagina, and compare it to the rest. There is almost as much or more Staph bacteria in a regular vagina as there is on a cup or tampon! Remember, this is NORMAL. The decreased amount of bacteria on the tampon is probably due to the change in pH of a vagina from the substances on the tampon. This is not necessarily a good thing. The pH of a vagina should be balanced. You WANT to find bacteria in there! (The good kind, obviously.)

This diagram is one of the reasons why I wanted to dismiss the article immediately. It doesn’t really show anything important.

But I’m glad I did the research, if only to realize how little research has actually been done. I’m surprised, even though vaginas are apparently a dirty word in research.

I will keep using my cup, washing it thoroughly with soap after every use. But honestly, I’m not too worried.


References

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Toxic-shock-syndrome/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4556184/

https://www.popsci.com/toxic-shock-syndrome


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Blush: Swimming and Periods

Before I get started on the post, I’d like to share a piece of good news I got yesterday from my publisher. The Blush cards have been completed, and the printer has shipped them! They should be arriving at the publisher’s on Monday! I am ridiculously excited about this, as it is earlier than anticipated. Whee!!

Pre-Order your copy!

Fu Yuanhui is a Chinese swimmer in the Rio Olypmics. Image from www.shockmansion.com
Fu Yuanhui is a Chinese swimmer in the Rio Olypmics. Image from www.shockmansion.com

This Chinese swimmer got her period during the Olympics. The day before her race. And apparently she gets debilitating cramps while on her period. Ouch. As someone who (usually) bleeds every month, it surprised me that it hadn’t occurred to me before this point what athletes did about the cramping that (might) come with their periods while during a meet.

Apparently it hadn’t occurred to me because it’s a taboo to discuss it in the sports world. Really? Ok then. Not my place at all to judge. But it certainly surprised me to hear that. But what surprised me even more was what was said as I continued to read the article; only 2% of Chinese people who get their periods use tampons. (In the US, 42% of menstruating people use tampons, for comparisons sake.)

I am a swimmer. Not competitively, but I was a lifeguard. I taught swimming lessons. I love the water. I used tampons from age 14-23. Not always successfully… but that’s a story for another time. Now (when needed) I use a menstrual cup called a Diva Cup.

So to hear that only 2%, TWO PER CENT, use tampons… it boggles my mind. How do they swim? Or do they just forgo swimming one week every month?

Not only do they not use tampons, but a lot of people aren’t even aware that they exist. Or weren’t, until Fu Yuanhui talked about swimming on her period on national television. Apparently someone even accused her of lying about being on her period, because how could she swim?

Hopefully this opens up a healthy discussion about menstruation and the variety of products available, and more menstruating people can have the opportunities that were so long denied to them.

P.S. If you go and read the article, there is more content, including whether menstruation affects sports performance, and whether using a tampon stops the person from being a virgin. The former would be an incredibly long post involving a lot of research that has yet to be done conclusively, and the latter is another post entirely – about what virginity means. I’ve been avoiding talking about this subject because I’m afraid of including too much of my opinions, but I think it’s time for that discussion…in two weeks.

P.P.S. If you are interested in doing a guest post about a topic that would fall under Blush, please let me know! This can be done with credit given, or anonymously. Please contact us at jenericdesigns@gmail.com

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