There are many factors to consider when identifying the right product for your body and lifestyle:
- Physical Activity
- Ease of use
- Time efficiency – How long can you wear the product before it needs to be replaced or cleaned?
Tampons and Pads
Pads, followed closely by tampons, are the most frequently chosen period product for maintaining menstrual hygiene. Pads and tampons are made with a combination of absorbent fibers, both natural and synthetic, including cotton and rayon. No matter the volume of your flow, you should change pads at least every 3 to 4 hours to avoid odor from bacteria growth.
Unlike pads, tampons rest inside the vaginal canal, so they don’t discriminate when it comes to the fluids they absorb. In addition to your flow, tampons absorb the vagina’s natural lubricant and bacteria. Because of this, consider opting for lower absorbency tampons and change your tampon at least every 4 to 6 hours. Your flow may change throughout your cycle, so it’s common to use various sizes of products like super, regular or lite.
**Although Toxic Shock Syndrome is rare, tampon users should be aware of the risk. TSS is a life-threatening complication that results from an overgrowth of bacteria that naturally exists in many vaginas. Be on the lookout for symptoms including high fever, vomiting, diarrhea, severe aching, feeling weak or dizzy, and rashes.
Period-proof underwear are made with multiple layers of microfiber polyester designed to wick moisture away from the skin and prevent leakage. These products may be more expensive and need to be cared for properly for them to last, similar to the menstrual cup!
FYI: It may take time getting used to feeling your flow, especially if you are a tampon or menstrual cup user. You should be able to wear a single pair of period-proof underwear for 12-18 hours.
Menstrual cups are made from medical-grade silicone, so they do not dry out the vagina’s natural moisture. You will tightly fold the menstrual cup and insert, rim side up, into your vagina like you would a tampon. You can leave a menstrual cup in for up to 12 hours.
They are a sustainable product, lasting 2-10 years with proper care, and are very cost effective. Many say their cramps are more manageable when using the cup because of the flexible material.
Reusable Cloth Pads
Reusable cloth pads work like disposable pads and liners, but are a wallet and eco-friendly option that you can wash and use again. These reusable cloth pads may be less bulky than disposable pads making them more flexible, breathable, and less visible through clothing. Similar to the disposable option, you will need to change them every 3 to 4 hours to prevent odor and bacteria growth.
Menstrual discs are round, flexible rings that sit at the base of your cervix and collect blood in a soft bag. You insert the disc with your fingers and it will mold to your shape. This is a single-use period product that can be worn for up to 12 hours. These discs are great for high-impact exercise and you can have penetrative sexual intercourse while wearing one.
Period sponges are an alternative to tampons, worn inside the vaginal canal to absorb menstrual flow. Natural sea sponges and some synthetic sponge options can be reused for 3-6 months when properly cleaned. You should change your sponge every 8 hours, or sooner if you have a heavy flow.