There’s a lot of prep work when you’re a person with a period. The hot water bottle, the extra snacks, the elastic waistband pants. If you’re looking to switch up your period routine (or if it’s only your first few months with your cycle), here are four questions you can ask to figure out which form of period protection – pads, tampons, period underwear or menstrual cup – will work best for you.
What options do I have?
Where to start! Everyone’s flow is different— no two are alike. Your period might be heavier or lighter than your best friend’s, so what works for them in the period protection aisle might not work for you.
Let’s cover the basics of period protection.
Tampons are made from absorbent cotton that absorbs blood from inside the vagina. They look like tiny tubes, and sometimes they’re hidden inside an applicator— a plastic or cardboard tube that helps you insert it. But what if it gets stuck? It won’t! The handy string attached will help you remove it. If you want to see how it’s done, watch our guide below.
Tampon tips: Tampons should be worn only for 4-8 hours at a time— any longer and you’re at risk of an infection called Toxic Shock Syndrome. Tampons come in all different sizes and absorbency levels— but typically people use them on heavier flow days because it’s more comfortable for them. They’re also easier to insert and remove when your flow is a bit heavier. Some tampons contain titanium dioxide, which is known to cause damage to organs like the liver and kidneys and is linked to cancer. Always be sure to check the ingredients list on the package before making a purchase.
Ah, the trusty pad. Sometimes called sanitary pads, sometimes called sanitary napkins— they all work the same way— by sticking onto your underwear to trap your period. Besides absorbency levels, there are also different sizes and shapes. Some even have wings that fold over the edges of your underwear to help keep it in place.
Pad Pointers: Pads should be changed every 3-4 hours, even if you have a light flow (sooner if you have a heavy flow). Swapping out your pad regularly prevents bacteria build up and stops odour. There are two kinds of pads: disposable ones that stick to your undies, and reusable pads that snap on and can be rewashed and re-worn.
Like tampons, menstrual cups are also inserted into the vagina. The difference is instead of absorbing blood— it catches it. You might think the menstrual cup is tricky, or gross, but once you get the hang of it it’s a breeze. Check out our guide here for tips on how to use one.
Cup Cues: One the cup is full, just empty it. After sanitizing properly, cups can be used cycle after cycle. The reusable factor makes it a great option, sustainability-wise.
Period Underwear are undies with extra absorbency that work to trap your period. Think of it as a pad built into your underwear— just not as bulky and much cuter looking! Some people like to use Period Underwear as backup protection in case of leaks, while others use it as the main event. It all depends on what you're comfortable with and how heavy your flow is. Kt offers two different types of Period Underwear: Leakproof, which can absorb up to three regular pads or tampons worth of blood, and Super Leakproof which can absorb up to eight regular pads or tampons worth of blood. The best part is that they’re reusable so you’re not contributing any extra waste to the landfill when you wear Period Underwear.
What’s my flow like?
Are there days where your period is super light? How about really heavy? How many days is your period? In the first year or two of your period, it’s usually all over the map. But it eventually settles into a recognizable flow. So get to know it! Download a period tracking app or Kt’s printable period tracker so you can start to see your body’s pattern month after month.
Knowing your flow will help you pick out the right protection with the proper levels of absorption to do the trick. Check out our full flow guide here to learn more about it.
Are there any activities in your life that need extra period care?
If you’re a dancer, soccer player, gymnast, or swimmer (amongst others)— you’ve probably had to navigate your period while practicing or competing. Think about times when you needed a little extra protection or you needed to swap to something outside your usual period protection. For example, if you’re diving into the water, you may try a tampon or Leakproof Swimwear (stay away from pads while swimming).
Different scenarios call for different backup, so take that into account when trying out menstrual products!
Is this period product safe and accessible?
Period products all have a different list of “ingredients”. And while tampons, pads, tampons, and underwear are all approved and stamped as safe— it doesn’t hurt to do your own research on the side. Check out how period products are made, what they’re made from and where they’re made. And this doesn’t just include the protection itself, but any packaging as well. You can also see how your body reacts to certain products too.
Period products are also expensive. And it doesn’t help that we have to continually keep buying them for about 40 years. A study found that over a lifetime, people typically spend around $6000 on period products. When we talk about “safety”, we also mean accessibility. Are the products you’re choosing in your budget? If not, are there community centers in your area or organizations near you like Period. that helps distribute products? (PS: Have you heard about the great tampon shortage of 2022? If not, click here to read more on it and the effects on period poverty.)
What makes me feel comfortable?
The right period protection is one that makes you feel comfortable— both physically and emotionally. Do they make you feel secure? Do you feel confident when using them? Have you done research about the materials in the products? Are they within your budget?
Experiment with what works best for you! You don’t just have to stick with one kind of protection. Test them out, see how they make you feel, and you’ll know when something is right for you and your period!
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