Believe it or not, disposable pads and tampons aren't the only options out there for girls and women to protect against menstruation anymore. In fact, there are lots of eco-friendly and cost-effective period products on the market these days.
If you're the kind of woman who likes all the information before she buys, then you'll love this list of all the available period products you can choose from.
5 Traditional Pads & Tampons
Most of us over the age of 16 are fairly familiar with pads and tampons. After all, they are the most frequently used and most accessible period products on the market.
Pads are essentially disposable liners for your underwear that contain adhesive material on one side and absorbent material on the other. They collect menstrual blood as it exits the body and must be changed out every 3 to 4 hours.
Tampons, on the other hand, are small tubes of absorbent material that you insert into your vaginal to collect menstrual blood. Tampons also have a small string that remains outside of your body, and you use this to remove the tampon every 4 to 6 hours so that you can insert a new one.
While pads and tampons are fairly convenient period products that are widely available at most retail locations, there are a few significant drawbacks. First and foremost, both of these products require frequent changing. They also both come with the possibility of bacteria build up or other harmful side effects if not used properly. And, of course, since both are disposable but made of many non-biodegradable materials, they negatively impact the environment.
4 Menstrual Cups
For women who want an alternative to pads and tampons, menstrual cups make a great choice. In fact, menstrual cups have really gained popularity in recent years, largely because they are reusable and you can leave them in for much longer than pads or tampons.
If you're not familiar with menstrual cups, they're basically medical-grade silicone "cups" that collect your menstrual blood after you insert them into your vagina. These cups create a seal between your vaginal canal and the rim of the cup, which means that you need to pinch the cup and insert it into your vaginal canal. Once inserted, a menstrual cup can remain in your vaginal canal for up to 12 hours, and you just wash it with soap and water before reinserting.
Furthermore, menstrual cups are one of the most cost-effective period products out there. In fact, the most recent article on cups from The New York Times lists several options for under $35, and these cups last for up to 10 years if properly cared for.
While menstrual cups sound like a no-brainer for someone who is fed up with pads or tampons, there are a few drawbacks. Menstrual cups can be messy when you empty them, and you may spend a little more time in the bathroom as you wash it out and re-insert. Also, many women say that menstrual cups can be hard to insert at first, so you'll need to practice a bit before wearing one to work all day.
3 Period Underwear
Like menstrual cups, period underwear is another reusable alternative to pads and tampons that has gained a large following in recent years. Period panties have also become a great option for tweens and teens since they are easy to wear and can provide all-day protection for light to medium flow.
Period underwear are made of layers of microfiber polyester that wicks moisture away from the skin and prevents leakage on your clothing. The outer layer of these panties are usually made of a combination of nylon and lycra, then they get topped with a liquid-repelling film to help prevent anything from escaping.
Period underwear require an upfront investment since they range from $25-50 per pair and you'll need at least a few pairs to make it through a normal cycle. They also can feel a bit unnerving to people who aren't used to feeling their flow in such a way each month. However, most reviews claim that these underwear work well and they will last several years if properly cared for.
2 Reusable Pads
Just like cloth diapers, reusable menstrual pads do indeed exist. And while they largely work in a similar way to disposable pads, there are a few differences.
Since reusable pads can be washed, they don't just use an adhesive to stick to your panties. Instead, they either come as two parts (panties and the liner) or they come as snapping fabric that inserts into your underwear.
And, just like period panties, you can wash your reusable pads with a load of laundry or hand wash them with soap and water. If you're worried about stains, you can also pretreat them before you throw them into your laundry.
The major complaints of reusable pads involve the bulkiness since they aren't as thin as disposable pads. Furthermore, you'll need to make sure you are well-stocked before your cycle since reusable pads aren't as readily available at local stores.
1 Menstrual Discs
According to doctors at the University of Texas at Austin, menstrual disks are one of the most recent period products to make their debut. Although many women still don't even know they exist, the ones who do absolutely love them.
Menstrual discs are disposable disks that are made of a medical-grade polymer that molds itself to fit your shape once you insert it. These disks rest at the base of your cervix, in your vaginal fornix. To insert a menstrual disk, you simply fold it in half and push it into your vaginal canal. Then you simply leave the disk inside while it collects your flow into a soft, malleable bag.
Menstrual disks work well for women who live a very active lifestyle because they only need to be changed every 12 hours and there's a relatively low risk of it slipping out of place. Furthermore, menstrual disks are one of the only period products that you can leave in during sexual intercourse, which make them an obvious choice for sexually active women who don't want Aunt Flo to slow their roll.
However, menstrual disks are one of the most expensive forms of disposable period products. A package of 8 to 12 disks can cost around $20, and most women use an entire pack for one cycle.
Although many companies are creating new gadgets to help women track their cycles and reduce menstrual cramps, these products are the main options out there for period protection. Each one comes with its own benefits and downfalls, so it's mostly a matter of preference. But by all means, try them all out — you never know which product may be the best option for you!