When it comes to women’s health advice, there is but one inalienable guideline: You can’t put just anything up there.
There’s a potentially dangerous new trend on the rise: homemade tampons. And while it may seem like a more affordable and eco-friendly option for feminine hygiene, doctors warn that shoppers should beware of these quaint crafts, which could lead to deadly infection.
On the craft haven Etsy, shoppers can buy myriad makeshift menstrual products, including rolled felt attached to string, or cotton cloth pads made with colorful fabrics. There’s even some crochet-knitted tampons, though somewhat confusingly, they’re marketed as toys.
Many claim to be safe alternatives to store-bought period products. But as Dr. Adeeti Gupta puts it, “Save the wool for your sweater!”
Dr. Gupta, the founder and CEO of NY-based Walk in GYN Care, is calling the fringe hygiene trend risky.
“Theoretically all of these make sense, but we don’t really know the long-term effects,” she tells The Post. “It’s true that these materials are ‘natural,’ but we don’t know how they behave for a period of time in the internal vaginal environment.”
She reminds us that the female reproductive organ is not “a receptacle.” It’s home to a host of bacteria and other enzymes, secreted by the vaginal walls.
“How all of these interact with a foreign body is key and we don’t have enough data to see what kind of byproducts or chemicals are generated” by using unvetted vaginal handiwork.
The female genitalia is “delicate” with a unique pH balance that, when unbalanced, can lead to yeast and other bacterial infections. The “chemical environment” of the body can also be harsh, according to Gupta, which may cause insertable products, such as tampons made of yarn or sea sponge, to become “partially disintegrated,” leaving fibers behind after the tampon is removed.
“These could cause vaginal infections and possibly toxic shock syndrome (TSS),” she says, which can lead to rash, high fever, vomiting or diarrhea, muscle aches, seizure, renal failure and death. Moreover, there remains no expert guidance on how to properly clean and care for reusable tampons, pads and panty liners to prevent bacteria buildup, which may also lead to TSS and other illnesses.
Many of the online retailers The Post reached out to didn’t respond to questions about the products’ safety or intended use — save one seller of tampon crochet patterns, referred to as a “toy.” When pressed further on the crocheted objects intended use, the vendor reiterated: “This is a crochet pattern to make a toy (or brooch) in .pdf format. Not real tampons for menstruation.”
Even FDA-approved and store-bought pads and tampons, which often contain chemicals, synthetic materials and fragrances or odor neutralizers, can have a harmful impact on women. Chlorine bleach, for example, which is used to treat cotton fibers for sanitary pads and tampons, is linked to the production of a toxin called dioxin, which may cause cellular damage.
The “ideal material” for a tampon or pad is “inert,” Gupta says, meaning it won’t react with chemicals of the body. When shopping, she suggests women look beyond the front of the box and scrutinize the ingredients. Look out for 100 percent “pure cotton,” she adds, with no perfumes, dyes, chlorine, pesticide residues and other additives.
While Gupta praises efforts to create conscientious female care products, she concludes, “We still do not know how these natural products behave” in the body. Of the quest for the perfect reusable tampon, she says, “I think we are yet to find that product.”