Menstrual products are items designed to soak or catch menstrual blood during your period. Sometimes, retailers advertise these as “feminine hygiene products”. But anyone who menstruates can use them, regardless of gender! If you use menstrual products but don’t identify as feminine, that’s okay.
There are lots of different types of menstrual products. You can choose from:
- Pads (disposable and reusable)
- Menstrual cup
- Menstrual discs
- Period underwear
In this article, we’ll go over what these are and how they work.
Why are there so many different types of menstrual products?
People who menstruate often need something to soak up or catch their menstrual blood during their period. But everyone is different! What’s comfortable for some people might not be comfortable for others. Fortunately, with a wide range of product to choose from, you can try different types and see what feels best for you!
Pads, sometimes also called sanitary pads or napkins, are one of the most common period products. People have been using pads as menstrual products for over a century!
Pads attach to the inside of the user’s underwear, and work by absorbing menstrual blood through layers of absorbent material. Usually this is a mixture of rayon, cotton and plastic. There are a wide range of pads available. You can find pads for heavier or lighter blood flow, and for overnight use.
There are two types of pads: disposable and reusable. You can find disposable pads at most pharmacies. Reusable pads are usually made of cloth. You can buy them from specialty stores and sites online. Sometimes reusable pads are also called menstrual cloths.
A tampon is a small cylinder made of something absorbant, usually cotton or rayon, with a string attached at one end for easy removal. Sometimes they come with disposable applicators, but not always!
Tampons are designed to be inserted into the vagina or front hole and absorb blood as it leaves the body. They’re always disposable. Like pads, tampons are easy to find at most pharmacies.
A menstrual cup is a reusable small, flexible cup that is usually made out of silicone or latex and is hypoallergenic. It goes inside the vagina or front hole and sits in the lower half, pointing towards the tailbone. Instead of absorbing your blood, it catches and stores it.
Menstrual cups are reusable. You can empty them out, wash them, and use them again. Many people use them as a more environmentally friendly alternative to disposable internal menstrual products like tampons or menstrual discs.
A menstrual disc works similarly to a menstrual cup, but with a few key differences. Many menstrual discs are disposable, though they can be worn a few times before being thrown out. They’re made up of a flexible ring of rubber, silicone, or plastic, with a flexible cup made of a thin waterproof plastic material.
Like a menstrual cup, they catch and store menstrual blood instead of absorbing it. But unlike a menstrual cup, you can wear a menstrual disc during sex! They won’t prevent pregnancy or STIs, though. So it’s not recommended to use them instead of condoms or a diaphragm.
Period underwear, also called period panties, are reusable cloth underpants made to be worn when the wearer is on their period. These can look and feel like regular underwear, but they’re lined with layers of absorbent fabric, with a waterproof layer to keep any blood from leaking onto your clothes. Lots of people use period underwear as an environmentally friendly alternative to pads. Like pads, they catch and absorb blood outside of the body. Unlike pads, they can be washed and reused.
How do I decide which menstrual products to use?
There are lots of factors to consider when choosing a menstrual product! And, you don’t have to choose just one. You can use multiple types throughout your cycle, and try new ones anytime you want. Some things you may want to consider when deciding which menstrual product to use include:
- environmental impact
- where you’re going to be (and for how long)
- how heavy or light your menstrual flow is
- time of day (day or night coverage)
- physical comfort
Reusable menstrual products may seem expensive when purchasing compared to disposable products. But they can save money in the long run by being reusable. A menstrual cup costs between 25$-40$ and period underwear cost $15-50. Since people can use it for 10 years, it saves a lot of money in the long run!
But some may not feel comfortable using reusable menstrual products that require emptying or washing like a menstrual cup or period underwear, especially in places like public washrooms. If that’s the case, they might find disposable menstrual products more convenient.
Which menstrual products someone uses depends on their personal preferences. Whatever your reasons, the important thing is that you find menstrual hygiene options that are right for you!