When it comes to choosing our period products, most of us default to the one we were recommended as a teen.
But the reality is, there are other options available – lots of them, for that matter! And with issues like period pollution and period poverty becoming more and more pressing, there’s never been a better time to take a moment to consider what’s out there and what might work best for you.
From menstrual cups to period pants, we’ve got together a list of period product options out there and the pros and cons of each one:
Sanitary pads are strips of padding that have a sticky side you attach to your underwear to hold them in place. One side of the pad is made of an absorbent material that absorbs the blood.
Many people use pads when they first start their period because they’re easy to use. They come in many sizes and absorbencies, so you can change them depending on how heavy or light your period is. Pantyliners are a smaller and thinner type of pad that can be used on days when your period is very light.
Reusable period pads are also available which you can wash and reuse instead of throwing away, making a more environmentally friendly option.
PROS: No risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome, easy to use, and one pad can last up to 6 hours.
CONS Can feel bulky to wear and aren’t very leak-proof, plus most are not environmentally friendly.
Tampons are small tubes of cotton wool that you insert internally to absorb the blood before it comes out of your body, and are the most popular sanitary product in the UK. Some come with applicators and other types you can put in yourself, and there’s a string at one end which you pull to remove. They come in different sizes and absorbances depending on how heavy your flow is.
As an internal period product, they do present a small risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), so it’s recommended you change your tampon regularly, never leaving the same one in for more than 6 hours.
PROS: Undetectable feel, non-bulky and convenient, especially for activities like swimming.
CONS: They present a risk of TSS, and they are not environmentally friendly as they aren’t biodegradable.
Menstrual cups are made from medical-grade silicone, and are around 2 inches in size. You insert the cup internally and it collects the blood rather than absorbing it, being changed every few hours or as necessary.
Unlike periods pads and tampons which you throw away after use, menstrual cups can be washed and used again. Lots of people choose to use them because they’re reusable, making it the cheaper and more environmentally-friendly option.
PROS: They’re cheap, zero-waste and reusable, and can be worn for up to 8 hours.
CONS: They can be quite awkward to insert at first, and can be inconvenient to change if you’re not at home.
Similar to a menstrual cup but newer on the scene, a menstrual disk is inserted internally to collect blood, though they sit higher up closer to the cervix and can be worn all day for up to 12 hours. Depending on the brand, menstrual discs hold the equivalent of around 5 regular or 3 super tampons.
One unique feature about the menstrual disc is that it can be worn during penetrative sex while menstrual cups must be removed before sex.
PROS: Comfortable and undetectable, can be worn for up to 12 hours and can be worn during intercourse.
CONS: Most menstrual discs are disposable, so they’re not environmentally friendly. They can also be a bit tricky to insert and remove.
Period pants are designed to be worn during your period like everyday underwear. They absorb menstrual blood like a built-in pad. There are different absorbencies depending on how heavy your bleeding is. Some people use them as their only period product, while others use them with other period products to help feel more confident, for example if they have heavy bleeding, or on lower flow days. Like other period products, they can take a bit of getting used to and they need to be changed about every 4 to 6 hours, depending on your period.
They’re environmentally friendly as they can be washed and used again. You’ll need to have quite a few pairs so that you’ve got enough to get you through your period.
PROS: They’re comfortable, reusable and environmentally friendly – good for lighter flow days.
CONS: Many brands are quite pricey, and you need to invest in a few pairs. Not very leak-proof.