Each year, women of menstruating age will bleed for approximately 65 days. And within their lifetime, an average woman uses 10,000-12,000 disposable menstrual products.
Quite often I get asked what the best option is.
This really is a personal choice and there is a lot of things to take into consideration when deciding what is going to work best for you…
Tampons are made primarily from cotton which is what makes them absorbent and are inserted in to the vagina to absorb menstrual blood.
Some brands may also contain rayon, polyester, polyethylene, polypropylene, and fibre. There are organic options available, the tampons are made from organic cotton.
Tampons come in different absorbency levels, including thin, regular and super. It is important to choose the right level for your flow and you may need to swap absorbency levels during your cycle.
Tampons contain a string which is used to remove them. Some also come with an applicator which helps you get the tampon into the right position. Tampons need to be changed regularly – every 4-8 hours.
Tampons are disposable and while they are biodegradable in landfills, tampons can damage septic systems.
Pads are made of absorbent material and they attach to the inside of underwear to catch menstrual blood.
Like tampons, pads also come in different absorbencies including light, regular and super. There are also overnight and maternity pads available too.
Some pads have ‘wings’ that help keep them in place and assist with preventing leakage.
Depending on flow, pads need to be changed every 3-4 hours.
Pads are disposable.
There are many companies now making cloth pads. They are very similar in style to winged pads, and snap together to hold your pad in place. Cloth pads are usually made of natural fibres like cotton, hemp and bamboo and come in varying absorbancies.
Reusable pads have a waterproof layer as well as the core, which is the main layer of absorbency and then there is the topper which is the layer that is in contact with your skin.
The pads are changed every 3-4 hours.
Once you have used a pad, you simply put them into a bucket and soak them in cold water. If you are out and about you can take a wet bag with you. A wetbag is a waterproof bag with a zip that keeps everything contained and you empty it into the bucket to soak when you get home.
Once soaked for at least 24 hours they go into a cold water machine wash.
While there is a bit more cost upfront in comparison to standard pads, there are longer-term savings as well as environmental impacts by putting less in to landfill.
Period pants are similar to reusable pads and made from natural fabrics including bamboo, merino and microfibre, which makes them breathable.
There are different absorbency levels available from super light through to heavy/overnight.
Depending on your flow you may need to change your pants during the day. They simply go into the wash, as with the reusable pads to be used again when you need them.
As they are reusable the make a better environmental choice. You can read more about period underwear here.
The menstrual cup is a reusable device for collecting menstrual fluid. Most are bell-shaped and designed to sit low in the vagina.
The cups can be made out of a few different materials… TPE, latex, non-medical grade silicone, and medical-grade silicone. They can hold 10–38ml of fluid.
Depending on the heaviness of menstrual flow and the cup itself, menstrual cups need to be emptied every 4-12 hours.
Cups usually come in 2 sizes – the small is generally most suited to women under 30 who have not given birth vaginally. The large is for women over the age of 30 who has given birth vaginally.
Menstrual cups can take some time to get used to, I recommend 2-3 cycles to really get the hang using them. Cups are rinsed in between changes and sterilised after the end of your cycle.
As they are reusable and one cup can be used for up to ten years they are a better environmental choice
There is some great information on selecting cups and cup comparison here
As you can see there are many options and things to consider. What I do recommend is that if you are thinking of changing you will need to give things time. Especially if you are thinking about the reusable pads or a cup. Be kind on yourself and allow 2-3 cycles to get used to using something new.
If you have any concerns about your cycle you can read more here