Disposable pads and tampons have been the go-to period products since Kotex first introduced them into the mainstream market during the 1930s and 40s (an era product experts refer to as “the Kotex Age”).
While many women in the Western world continued to use washable and reusable “rags” as pads, due to their affordability, most completely switched to disposable options by the 1950s and 60s if budgets allowed.
However, these days, disposable tampons and pads are increasingly phased out by newer options for period products. Some of the reasons these newer options are popular are:
● Affordability. Reusable options mean they pay for themselves and then some, making them more affordable than the ongoing costs associated with disposable options.
● Environmentally-friendly. The reusability of newer options for period products, combined with conscientiously-sourced materials, means these products are better for the planet.
● Better for your body. Tampons have a risk of causing toxic shock syndrome, which doesn’t exist with any of the products recommended below. And some people also like that non-bleached and more chemical-free materials mean you don’t have to worry about toxins inside your vagina.
● Easier to use. Products like period underwear do not require any special instructions or techniques. You wear them like your regular underwear, and you’re good to go. Once you get the hang of others, like the period cup or disk, their versatility and lack of waste make them easy to use on the road, while camping, backpacking, etc.
So, let’s explore four of our favorite period products that go beyond the disposable pad and tampon.
1. Period Underwear
We hear almost nothing but good things from our patients who choose period underwear. As they sound, period underwear has more absorbent materials built into the crotch lining, so it’s like wearing panties with a built-in pad.
They are best for women with light to regular menstrual flow – with a heavier day or two. If you tend to have a heavy flow, we recommend using a menstrual cup or reusable pad if the highest-flow underwear isn’t enough or requires too many changes to make sense. Some of our patients with heaver flows appreciate using period underwear as a backup for their tampons and cups, preventing them from wearing pads.
Some of the most popular period underwear brands are:
Period underwear isn’t as affordable as any of these other options, but their convenience makes them worth it for those who use them.
Remember that period underwear only grants the “cost-effective” benefit if you know what size you wear and don’t have to continue upsizing regularly. And, most women have to change their underwear every eight to 12 hours – sometimes more – depending on your flow. So, while they’re an excellent starter option for tweens and teens who start their period, parents may want to wait until daughters are full-grown before investing in a complete set, using another option instead.
2. Washable and reusable cloth pads
Most of us started using pads as they’re the least intimidating when you’ve just started your period and may not feel ready to insert a tampon. Some women never like tampons and make pads their staple period solution.
Regardless, those new to periods or who don’t like tampons should turn their sights to a fresh take on an ancient product: washable, reusable cloths. However, today’s reusable cloth pads are not like the old ones. Instead, they are made from highly-absorbant materials and cut to comfortably follow the contours of your inner thighs and underwear line.
You can find them in stores, online, and in stores that focus on eco-friendly products. Some of our favorites are:
● Glad Rags
● Rael Organic
● Delphi Pad
● Smartliners (for lighter flow days)
● And don’t forget the handmade reusable period pads by Etsy vendors
Reusable pads come in all different shapes and sizes, as well as flow levels and nighttime options. There’s a reusable pad out there for every woman.
3. Period cups or disks
Of all the options available, cups and discs have the most significant learning curve. However, women who spend time getting used to them tend to prefer cups/disks over all other options. Cups are made from soft, malleable materials (typically medical-grade silicone) and are sized according to your age and reproductive history.
Unless you have an unusually heavy flow, most women rarely need to change their cup/disc more than three times per day. Both have a high-volume yield, can be worn while swimming or in water, and last for years when well-taken care of.
4. Period swimsuits
Since summer is right around the corner (and hot tubbing season is year-round as far as we’re concerned), we also want to mention period swimsuits. These operate under the same principle as period underwear but are built into swimsuit bottoms. So you have both one-piece and two-piece options, and period swimsuits take all the stress out of wondering what to do when you’re on your period but want to spend time in the water without anyone being the wiser.
Women’s Health Associates Is Here to Answer Your Period Questions
Do you have questions about your period, period products, or anything else concerning women’s health? Then, contact Women’s Health Associates to schedule an in-person or telehealth appointment. We’re here to make your life as comfortable, enjoyable, and healthy as possible throughout your reproductive years and beyond.