From the time you (or someone you know) started their period, you’ve probably been aware of tampons and pads as common methods for managing a menstrual cycle. With evolving technology and people’s willingness to explore other alternative options, there are many ways someone can manage their period if tampons or pads don’t feel right for them.
Here are six different ways to manage your period.
Also known as sanitary napkins or menstrual pads, this is the tried and true method for managing a period.
Pros: Pads have been around since 1888 when they were first made from wood pulp bandages, so it’s a safe bet that they work well. You can buy different pads for different absorbency needs, and you don’t have to worry about changing it after a certain number of hours. You can just stay in tune with your body and change it as needed. Pads are also very easy to use; you just stick it in your underwear and go. Averaging about $4.99-$8.99 per box, pads are a cheaper option than some other methods.
Cons: Some high absorbency pads might feel a little uncomfortable for some wearers, and they might make the seat of your pants not look very seamless. They are also disposable, which is convenient, but not the best for our environment. Additionally, pads can sometimes shift during wear, which can lead to period accidents.
Pros: The modern day tampon with an applicator was invented in 1929, but people had used wool and other materials before then to manage their periods. A lot of people like tampons because they feel cleaner than pads because the tampon is inside you absorbing your blood. Tampons are great for people with active lifestyles, as they won’t shift as you are wearing them.
Cons: The biggest con of tampons is toxic shock syndrome. When wearing a tampon you have to make sure you don’t wear it for too long, otherwise serious health complications are possible. Additionally, wearers can experience leaks when wearing tampons if it isn’t inserted correctly or if it collects too much blood before it’s changed. A con for some wearers also might be the fact that it feels a little invasive having to insert something into your body. They are a bit pricier than pads, and they also are not the best for the environment due to the plastic applicator that often comes with tampons.
3. Applicator free tampons:
These tampons are the same as traditional tampons, but there is no plastic applicator and the wearer must use their fingers to insert the cotton tampon.
Pros: These tampons are very compact, often have less packaging, and are better for the environment than tampons with plastic applicators. A lot of applicator-free tampons are also organic and sure to be free of any harmful ingredients. Wearers also have a bit more control of where the tampon sits inside them since they are using their figures to insert it rather than the applicator.
Cons: Some wearers might not feel comfortable using their fingers to insert the tampon, or they might even have trouble inserting it somewhere that feels comfortable for them. The most popular applicator-free tampon I found in my research, Cora is a little pricier than tampons you’d find in the store, coming in at $9 for a month-long supply.
4. Menstrual Cup:
A menstrual cup is a reusable, flexible cup made of rubber or silicone that is placed inside the vagina and collects menstrual blood. When the cup is full, wearers dump out the blood, clean the cup, and reinsert. At the end of each cycle, the cup can be cleaned with warm soap and water or by boiling it in hot water.
Pros: The most popular brand, Diva Cup, costs about $32, but is reusable and lasts a long time. Since menstrual cups collect blood rather than absorb it, there will be fewer period messes when inserted correctly. Diva Cup also boasts that you can wear it for 12 hours without any mess. Because it is reusable, menstrual cups are a great option for environmentally conscious wearers.
Cons: Inserting a menstrual cup for the first time might be a bit challenging. When inserting you have to squeeze the mouth of the cup and get very up close and personal with your body as to get the cup in place correctly. Because the cup is larger than a tampon, it might be uncomfortable for some wearers trying to get it in place. Taking the cup out might also be a bit difficult at first. Wearers often cite having to “bear down” to really get the cup out. Additionally, if you need to empty your cup while you are at work or in a public place, doing so discretely might be a challenge.
5. Period Sea Sponge:
A period sea sponge is exactly what it sounds like! These are sponges that are washed, trimmed, and inspected to be suitable to be worn inside the body to absorb period blood.
Pros: Period sponges are reusable and can be used for up to six months at a time. Because it is a sponge, it is very flexible and easier to insert than a menstrual cup. There are a variety of sizes available depending on the heaviness of your flow, and they need to be cleaned once daily. Sponges can cost about $21 for a pack of two or three sponges but are reusable so the price is worth it in the end.
Cons: Since it is a sponge, it can feel a little uncomfortable or scratchy when first inserted before it starts collecting blood. Additionally, removing the sponge will likely be messy. Since sponges expel liquid when squeezed, taking the sponge out of your body can squeeze some of the blood out. Wearers who aren’t comfortable touching their own period blood might shy away from this product.
6. Period underwear:
Period underwear is underwear designed to fit and feel like regular undergarments, but have a built-in blood collecting layer. The most popular period underwear brand is Thinx.
Pros: The biggest pro of period proof undies is comfort. Thinx offers a wide range of cuts for their underwear, and they also offer a variety of absorbency levels. They can be washed like regular underwear and reworn over and over again. Because they are reusable, they are better for the environment than pads and tampons. If your period makes you feel bloated or less confident, period proof underwear would be a good option to still feel stylish and comfortable while on your period.
Cons: The Thinx website says their underwear holds up to two tampons worth of blood, so if you have a heavier cycle, this product might not work best for you. These underwear are also a bit pricey. The “cheeky” cut for lighter days is $30, while the “high waist” cut for heavy days are $38. Since they are reusable, they might be worth the investment, but unless you want to wash your underwear at the end of every day while you’re on your period, you’d likely have to invest in several pairs to get started.
Managing your period can be a different experience for everyone. Thankfully more options are becoming available so you can better customize what’s most important for you in managing your period; convenience, comfort, price, and more. The most important thing in managing your period is never feeling ashamed. Your period is a sign your body is working healthily, and you should never be embarrassed by that.