Disposable pads and pantyliners attach to the crotch of your underwear with adhesive plastic. A layer of absorbent wood cellulose fibers soaks in blood from your period, while an additional layer of perforated plastic keeps you dry. Pads come in many shapes and sizes that you may select based on your flow. Changing pads and pantyliners every four to six hours (more if needed) will prevent it from smelling and reduce the risk of leaking.
Reusable pads are another option for external protection. Similar to disposable pads, they are attached to your underwear using a liner holder with wings that snap around the crotch. The liner that goes into the holder is typically made of cotton- which is less irritating to skin than plastic. Following use, the cotton liners are machine-washable. While reusable pads are more expensive to purchase initially, they can save you money over time.
A new form of external protection includes reusable, absorbable panties. They may be worn without tampons and absorb light to medium menstrual flows. The crotch contains 4 absorbable layers that lay flat and are stain resistant. After wearing, simply wash the panties and reuse. Reusable panties range from $20-$40 each, depending on the style.
Tampons are the most common form of internal protection. They are inserted into the vagina to absorb menstrual flow and disposed of every 4-8 hours to reduce the risk of toxic shock syndrome. One common concern is the presence of chemicals, however, tampons are regulated and regularly tested by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S. to ensure safety.
Sea sponge tampons are a natural alternative. After being harvested from the ocean floor, they are naturally bleached but are not considered to be sterile. To use, dampen the sponge tampon, squeeze lightly and insert it into your vagina. They work similarly to disposable tampons and must be thoroughly rinsed every 3 hours. While sponge tampons typically last about 6 months, you shouldn’t use it if it’s torn or pulling apart. Since it absorbs blood, sponge tampons also have the risk toxic shock syndrome. When your period ends, the sponge tampon should be cleaned, dried and properly stored for the next month.
Menstrual cups are another option instead of tampons. Made out of rubber or medical grade silicon, menstrual cups are placed over the cervix to collect blood. They come in both reusable and disposable forms. You may wear the menstrual cup for 6-12 hours, dependingon your flow. Since they collect blood instead of absorbing it, there is no risk of toxic shock syndrome.
Speak with your OBGYN if you have questions about the use of any menstrual products.