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How do you manage your flow? A breakdown of pads, tampons, period underwear, menstrual cups and disc


The world is full of new and exciting period products. While some of these 'newer' products have actually been around for a long time, some are just becoming mainstream now, and I love trying them out.


I genuinely enjoy trying new period products to see if they could become a staple in my period toolkit. After trying pads, tampons, period underwear, menstrual cups, and discs I am here to give you a full review of each product in hopes that you find this helpful and have an easier time deciding on which product you want to use if you’re in the market to try something new


If you're an expert pad and tampon user and are here to understand the newer products, scroll down to the middle of this post where I start reviewing period underwear, cups, and discs.


THE PAD

Sanitary napkin/ napkin

A pad is a rectangle shape absorbing cloth that lies in the base of your underwear to collect and absorb menstrual blood. It says to put by having a sticky side on the back of the pad that you place onto your underwear (the sticky side is the side that touches your underwear). Some pads also have wings that attach to the bottom of your underwear to help it stick better.


I think most people are familiar with this product, for a lot of us it's what we were given when we got our first period. However, I do know people who were given a tampon right away, and... wow you're amazing, and are you ok? I still wear pads! They get a bad rep sometimes, but I think they're a great product


Pros about pads

  • They're relatively easy to use.

Depending on your ability, putting them on your underwear is simple and fast. It's all external, so there is nothing going up and into your vaginal canal, which can be amazing. I have also heard that pads are a great way for caregivers to manage their loved ones or patients period, as it is simple for someone else to place a pad onto a pair of underwear.

  • You can almost always buy them anywhere that sells period products

Even if you don't wear pads, you can always count on them to be at your local drug store (if they carry period products) to buy and use. Unlike other period products, these are more available.

  • There are single-use and reusable pads

This is great because you have options. There are tons of places that sell reusable pads which are sanitary with proper care, but you can also use disposable pads as well which come in handy. While reusable products are amazing, sometimes sadly you do need a disposable option. If you're out and about, or don't have access to the sanitary resources you need like running water, soap, a washing machine, and drying time, having a pad to change with can be extremely helpful.


Cons about pads

  • They don't always stay put

Ever been wearing a pad and it starts to shift and you just think... oh, this is gonna be messy. That is one of the annoying things about them. If you wear them at night and toss and turn a lot you can wake up with the pad sticking to your back, all the way up in the front of your underwear, or completely off.

  • They can feel bulky, diaper-like, and restrictive

Pads can sometimes feel like you're wearing a diaper, which isn't fun. Also if the pad isn't absorbing well, it can feel like you're sitting in a pool of your own blood. Again, not the most fun. I also don't like the feeling of my vulva and labia rubbing against the pad material if I am walking and moving around a lot. If I had a high movement day, I would try not to use a pad.


Pro tips when using pads

  • If possible, buy pads with wings to help it secure to your underwear

  • If possible, buy fragrance, dioxins & furans free pads (I know its a lot of avoiding stuff, but it's worth it)


THE TAMPON

A tampon is a menstrual product that is a wad of cotton with a string attached to it that goes inside the vaginal canal and acts like a plug to absorb menstrual blood. Most tampons have an applicator that you use to push the tampon out and into your vaginal canal.


Pros about tampons:

  • relatively easy once you get the hang of it

Although it can take a few trial runs, putting in a tampon gets much easier after the first few times, if you have the ability to put it in your vaginal canal. The applicator makes it pretty slick.

  • You can almost always buy them anywhere that sells period products

Similar to pads, if a store is selling period products there is a high likelihood that they will have tampons.

  • Can feel like you're wearing nothing

If you can get the tampon inside correctly, it can feel like there is nothing inside of you which is super nice. The last thing you want is to feel the product... which can also be a con that we will get to soon.

  • Can do multiple activities without feeling constricted

Unlike a pad, there is no friction happening against your vulva/labia and the tampon, so if you have a high movement day, a tampon can be a great option for you. Also if you're someone who swims on their period, a tampon is your friend as it's inside of you and won't absorb water - whereas the pad is external and can absorb water.


Cons about tampons

  • They can get uncomfortable

If your flow is too light, too heavy, if the tampon isn't placed correctly if the tampon is too small or large for your vaginal canal... It can feel uncomfortable

  • You have to change it a lot

Toxic shock (acute septicemia in women, is typically caused by bacterial infection from a retained tampon or IUD) is a real thing, and it's important to change it frequently.


Pro tips when using tampons

  • If possible, buy tampons with applicators to help you push it in

  • If possible, buy fragrance, dioxins & furans free tampons (I know its a lot of avoiding stuff, but it's worth it)

  • Make sure you've taken it out before you put a new one in, or you have sex or go to bed. There are tons of (funny) stories out there where people didn't realize they had a tampon in already and put another one in there, or go to have sex and realize it's still there. Make sure to set up a reminder system if you tend to forget - we've all had the thought "did I change my tampon already???"


PERIOD UNDERWEAR

Period underwear is underwear that has a high absorbing pad directly in the underwear. They "use some type of absorbent material like microfiber polyester that traps your blood flow. Period underwear typically has a moisture barrier to keep you feeling dry and a layer to help prevent leaking" - Cleveland Clinic.


Pros about period underwear

  • Relatively easy to wear

Dare I say easier than the pad? Depending on your abilities of course. Period underwear is as simple as putting on a pair of underwear and walking away. There is no placing or inserting needed. This can also be helpful for caregivers of loved ones or patients who menstruate to use, though the cleanup can be challenging, we'll get to that in the cons.

  • You can wear it all day depending on your flow

Period underwear is kind of a dream for me. Because the new technology makes it absorb menstrual blood much better than any pads I've ever worn, you can wear it pretty much all day (depending on the specific pair's absorption capability) and not feel like you're sitting in a pool of blood.

  • It's reusable.

To be honest, I see it as a pro and cons. Pro for sustainability and that you don't have to keep buying more products. Con because you invest a lot of money for something you might hate, and sometimes you do need a disposable product if you don't have the ability or access to manage it and need to change it.


The cons of period underwear

  • Most brands are pretty expensive

I have period underwear from Thinx, Knix, and Amazon. The Thinx and Knix pairs cost me around $40-50 each, which is a lot. If you're wanting to switch over completely to period underwear you'll either have to ball out or acquire many pairs over a long period of time. Be sure to read the reviews if you're looking at a cheaper option, like amazon, to see if they absorb well, or have bad chemicals that can harm you.


  • They aren't sold everywhere

Unlike pads and tampons, you won't find these in every store that sells period products. Most you have to buy online.


  • Post-use cleaning and maintenance can be a lot

After you wear your period underwear you need to rinse it out to get all the blood out. This can look like wringing it out in the bathroom sink over running water or stomping on it in the shower. Then you need to wash them in a washing machine, or hand wash them, and then hang them to dry. If you don't have the time, water, or ability, or you're taking care of someone else’s period for them, this can be a lot. It's why I don't bring period underwear with me to travel unless I know I will have access to all of these things.



THE MENSTRUAL CUP

"A menstrual cup is a menstrual hygiene device that is inserted into the vagina during menstruation. Its purpose is to collect menstrual fluid. Menstrual cups are usually made of flexible medical-grade silicone, latex, or a thermoplastic isomer. They are shaped like a bell with a stem or a ring" - Wikipedia


The cup stays put but suctioning onto the base of your cervix. To pull it out, you must first break the seal of the suction by inserting a finger over the seal, then pulling it out.


Pros about the cup

  • It can hold a lot of blood

If you go through many tampons in one day, this is a great option for you, as most cups can hold many tampons worth of blood. Great for if you're out and about all day and don't want to or can't make frequent trips to the bathroom to change.

  • If it's in properly it's secure and leakproof

This is one of the things I hear most about the cup is that if it's properly placed, you can count on a leak-free day. Incredible, right? And, like the tampon, it's internal, so you don't feel any friction and can even swim with it.

  • It's reusable.

To be honest, I see it as a pro and cons. Pro for sustainability and that you don't have to keep buying more products. Con because you invest a lot of money for something you might hate (cough, cough, me), and sometimes you do need a disposable product if you don't have the ability or access to manage it and need to change it.


Cons about the cup

  • Post-care management can be tough when you have to change it

After you take your cup out you need to clean it with soap and water, or a cleaning solution, before inserting it back in. This can be hard if you're in a public or shared bathroom. Between periods you also need to boil it in water to cleanse it thoroughly. Be warned - if you forget you're boiling it, it will make a huge mess and smell. I once received a facetime of my friend's kitchen mess with a melted menstrual disc... don't worry, we laughed.

  • I personally find it near impossible to insert and take out

I wanted to love the cup, but sadly I hate it. I find it so hard to put in... like I am pretty much-doing gymnastics in the bathroom with my leg on the toilet, squatting, or bending over in a weird way to get it in. Then, taking it out is almost just as hard. I don't have long fingers, so reaching the base of it was hard to break the seal, and I felt like I was just tugging on my cervix the whole time, which made me think I was going to give myself prolapse...


Fun story - I once was so panicked about not being able to get it out that I stress texted 3 of my friends who I knew wear them, and because my friends are angels, they all called me right away and gave me play-by-play instructions on how to take it out and calmed me down. Needless to say, I don't wear cups anymore.

  • They aren't sold everywhere

Unlike pads and tampons, you won't find these in every store that sells period products. They're also expensive, but the point is you don't buy other products, so in the long run, you most likely save money.


MENSTRUAL DISCS

Discs are similar to cups in that they're an alternative that sits inside the vaginal canal, but they don't suction to your cervix. Instead, they sit more inside the canal and are tucked behind the pelvic bone.


You insert the disc similar to a cup or tampon, as it slides into the canal, and removing the disc is just done by grasping the base of the disc with the tip of your finger and pulling it out. It's helpful if you 'bear down' (clench like you're popping), and the disc will slide right out. Careful, tho - as with the cup, there is the blood that can spill out.


Pros about the disc

  • There is no suction

No suction is needed for this! Yay! No fear of prolapse here.

  • It can hold a lot of blood

Similar to a cup, it can hold a lot of blood. And, it empties itself when you pee. If you see a toilet full of blood, but nothing when you wipe, it's in there properly.

  • I find it easier to insert than a cup

Let's just say I wasn't close to tears while trying to insert a disc. While I did find it hard to get the hang of, similar to a tampon, it took a little bit of getting used to, and then I had it.

  • There are single-use reusable options available

I of course appreciate the reusable option, but a single-use option is great if you just want to try it out, or are traveling and don't have the means to take care of it post-use.



Cons about the disc

  • Post-care management can be a lot for the reusable option

After you take your reusable disc out you need to clean it with soap and water, or a cleaning solution, before inserting it back in. This can be hard if you're in a public or shared bathroom. Between periods you also need to boil it in water to cleanse it thoroughly.

  • I haven't experienced a leak-free period with it

This is a pretty big con. However, I don't really care. I tend to get a little blood on my underwear - nothing that can't be washed out, but I would wear a tampon if I had to make sure I couldn't leak at all for some reason.

  • It can be hard to get the hang of

Like the cup, though I find this much easier, it can be tough to get the hang of at first. It takes a few trial runs to make sure you know where it's going and how it's staying in place.

  • They aren't sold everywhere

Unlike pads and tampons, you won't find these in every store that sells period products. They're also expensive, but the point is you don't buy other products, so in the long run, you most likely save money.


MENSTRUAL EQUITY

Menstrual equity refers to the advocacy work many great organizations are doing to ensure that every girl, woman, and menstruator has access to safe period products. Period products are not always accessible or affordable and many people have to go without them.


"Access to menstrual products is a dignity and equity issue, but everyday people across the United States are unable to access the menstrual products they need. Local, state, and federal government policies cause or exacerbate inequitable access by imposing sales taxes on menstrual products, refusing to provide products in prisons and jails, exempting menstrual products from public health benefits programs, and not making products uniformly available in public schools and homeless shelters." - the ACLU


Get Involved

Period.org - this is a national organization, but most states have their own period equity groups

Consider creating a period product station at your workplace

Create period product bags with pads and tampons to hand out to homeless women and menstruators

Donate extra supplies to period equity groups near you / women's shelters




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