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Demystifying Menstrual Products

Tampons-and-pads
By , 15, Staff Writer Originally Published: May 25, 2021 Revised: May 25, 2021

Roughly half of the world’s population menstruates during their lives. Unlike in years past, it’s exciting to have more options when it comes to period products because everyone has different needs and preferences. We all deserve a variety of choices, including a range in cost. With so many people dealing with period poverty, or the lack of access to or ability to afford menstrual products, it’s important to keep this in mind.

It’s exciting to have more options when it comes to period products because everyone has different needs and preferences.

As an AFAB (assigned female at birth), nonbinary person, I never quite felt comfortable with some period products, so I’ve tried as many as I could. I’ve tested out pads, tampons, the menstrual cup and period underwear. Read on for my impressions; maybe this can help you find the right period product for you!

Pads

Many people who menstruate start with pads, and they are often what I think of when I hear “period products.” Pads are easy to use: Simply remove the paper over the adhesive strip, and then place the sticky side down in your underwear. There are different sizes and, to some, pads may be a less daunting option than putting something inside your body.

There are a couple of downsides though. They can get expensive since the price typically ranges from $3 to $10 a box (depending on the brand, where you buy them and the amount of pads per box). Additionally, most pads produce a lot of waste. They are not biodegradable and often have plastic wrappers. As an alternative to disposable pads, there are now reusable pads. Cotton reusable pads can easily be washed and are a more eco-friendly option. Lastly, pads can feel bulky, and getting adhesive stuck on your pubic hair is never a great experience!

Tampons

Tampons are another common option. There are different sizes for different flows. While it may take a little bit to get the hang of inserting them, they are fairly easy to use. I think they’re also better than pads comfort-wise, if you prefer to forget about your period. On the other hand, tampons are not as eco-friendly as other options, especially the ones with plastic applicators. The cost can also add up month to month. Finally, make sure to change your tampon every four to eight hours, since an infection could develop if a tampon is left inside for too long, giving bacteria a chance to grow.

Menstrual Cups

While menstrual cups are not a new concept, they have been gaining popularity recently, so of course I had to try one! It is a small cup made of medical grade silicone that goes inside the vagina. Menstrual cups are pretty easy to use and more eco-friendly than some of the other options. To use one, you have to be comfortable removing the cup and emptying it of period blood. There are different sizes based on age and whether you have given birth. Check out different brands to see what they recommend. I paid close to $40 for my Diva Cup but other brands, like the June Cup, can be found for as low as $6! Also, when taken care of properly, a cup can last for years, so if you can spare the one-time cost, it will pay off.

To clean a menstrual cup after each use, you just need to wash it gently with unscented soap and water. After each menstrual cycle, you should soak the cup in boiling water for five to ten minutes. Simple!

Period Underwear

Period underwear are lined with an absorbent fabric to soak up your period. They’re easy to use, fairly comfortable and range in price. I’ve found some priced as low as $15, but other types can cost up to $40. There are different sizes and styles, so you can choose what is most comfortable for you. The underwear can also be worn as extra support with the help of another period product, which I do when my flow is especially heavy. If you are uncomfortable with menstruating into your underwear all day, though, this is not the product for you.

Whether you opt for pads, tampons, menstrual cups or period underwear, I hope you’ve gained more insight into the range of products out there to meet your menstrual needs!

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