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PERIOD PRODUCTS: WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS?

Most women between the ages of 13 and 50 who have a uterus will have a period once a month – the 3–7 day window during which blood from the uterus is released through the vagina. With approximately 450 periods in a lifetime, it is always a good idea to consider the products used to manage your periods.

This is especially true nowadays, given that the landscape of period products has changed dramatically in recent years, and sustainability concerns are (rightfully) on the rise. Your period should not interfere with your daily life. There are a variety of products available to keep you comfortable and dry; the one you choose is entirely up to you. There are several factors to consider that can help you narrow down your options, such as the activity you will be doing, the cost of the product, the ease of use, and the product’s environmental impact. We’ve outlined the pros and cons below to help you make your decision.

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1. Sanitary pads

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The sanitary pad or napkin has been around for over a century and is probably the most commonly used period product. They are worn inside the user’s underwear and absorb menstrual blood through layers of absorbent material – typically rayon, cotton, and plastic. Pad design has evolved over the decades to become much more absorbent and comfortable, with a wide range available to suit different flows.

However, because they are disposable, they are not the most environmentally friendly option because they must be changed every four hours to prevent bacteria growth and odour. This can also mean that the monthly cost of a pack or two of pads quickly adds up. The good news is that washable sanitary pads are now available in many countries. These can be reused several times, making them both environmentally friendly and cost-effective.

2. Tampons

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Tampons are second only to sanitary pads in terms of popularity. They are similar in terms of materials, but they differ in that a tampon is used internally by inserting it into the vaginal canal. This can take some practice, and they are not for everyone.

Tampons absorb menstrual blood internally (though leaks are common, so an additional pantiliner may be required) and can be left in for about four hours before being removed by gently pulling on the string.

Tampons are popular among users because they are more discreet than pads, both in terms of packaging and while being used (i.e. they are not visible on the underwear). Furthermore, they can be more comfortable than sitting on a pad, which can become messy if left on for too long. Tampons, like most pads, are not the most environmentally friendly or cost-effective option because they are disposable and non-biodegradable.

Toxic Shock Syndrome is another factor to consider (TSS). Tampons can absorb not only menstrual blood but also the vagina’s natural lubricant and bacteria, increasing the risk of TSS, a rare but potentially fatal condition. To reduce the risk, use the lowest absorbency rating appropriate for your menstrual flow.

3. Menstrual Cups 

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Many women have abandoned the more traditional options of tampons and pads in favour of the menstrual cup in recent years. This small silicone or latex cup collects blood by being folded and inserted internally so that it rests on the vaginal wall. It takes some practise to get the positioning right, but once you’ve mastered the technique, leaks should be minimal and usually very comfortable.

The cups can be left in for up to 12 hours before being removed, emptied, rinsed, and re-used as needed. They should be sterilised in hot water at the end of the menstrual cycle before being used for the next period. They can be used for up to a decade (yes, a decade), making them one of the most environmentally and financially friendly options. It should be noted that, like tampons, menstrual cups pose a minor risk of TSS.

4. Menstruation Disc

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The menstrual disc, which is made of silicone and is inserted into the vagina, also rests on the base of the cervix. It, too, can stay in for up to 12 hours and works by collecting blood in the disc – and, like the cup, it can take some time to figure out how to use it properly.

When the user is finished with it, it is removed and its contents are flushed down the toilet. However, unlike the cup, most menstrual discs are not reusable, making them less environmentally and economically friendly. The best part about this product is it’s leak proof but it can get a little messy on removal. 

One significant advantage of menstrual discs is that they can be worn while having sex (unlike tampons and cups), and some people have reported having less painful periods while using them.

5. Underwear

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Period underwear is the most recent addition to the period scene. They resemble regular underwear except for a special absorbent layer that prevents leaks onto clothing, and because they are washable, they are one of the most environmentally friendly options available. A good pair will keep odours at bay while also being comfortable to wear.

They are not the cheapest option, but they certainly pay for themselves when compared to years of disposable pad or tampon spending. Some people have leaks on particularly high flow days, so they sometimes combine them with another period product. However, this innovative item is rapidly evolving, with more absorbent iterations hitting the market all the time.

Remember that finding the right period product for you is a trial and error process. What works for you now might not work in ten years as your needs change. During each period, you may discover a winning combination of multiple products to adjust for your activity level and unique flow. Whatever you choose, know that with proper care and usage, all period products are created equal and are considered safe by doctors. You’ll be ready for Aunt Flow the next time she comes around! 


Reading is one thing and watching a live Masterclass  with experts is another, it will give you a deeper knowledge on various subjects pertaining to menstrual hygiene, various product options, and so many exciting things that you did not know about menstruation. So hurry up! Join Pankhuri’s free Masterclass on menstrual hygiene care and product options. 

 Click on the image to register yourself for the masterclass. 

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Shweta Modi

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