When our periods arrive, we usually grab for one of two things – a pad or a tampon. Over the years, they’ve become our trusty sidekicks and our reliable companions when it comes to taking care of our periods. But, they’re not our only options.
Menstrual cups, period panties and organic tampons… oh my! We’ve come a long way since the 50s when menstruators sanitary belts, which were actual elastic belts that women wore around their waists to hold their pads in place. New and innovative period products are hitting the market, giving us more solutions for managing our menstruation than ever before.
With so many alternatives to choose from, it can be hard to decide which one is best for you. But don’t worry, we’re giving you the rundown on everything you need to know when it comes to period products. So next time your Aunt Flo comes for her weeklong visit, you’ll be ready to embrace her with open arms.
Menstrual cups are small, flexible, bell-shaped containers that are used to catch and collect period blood. They can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and they are usually made of silicone, rubber, latex, or a combination of all three. Menstrual cups are reusable and typically able to hold up to 5 regular size tampons worth of blood.
One of the most compelling perks to using a menstrual cup is that it can save you a lot of money (and emergency trips to the drugstore) in the long run. Since a menstrual cup typically costs between $15 to $25 and it can be reused for up to ten years, it is a highly cost-effective option.
Menstrual cups also hold quite a bit of liquid, meaning you don’t have to empty it as frequently as you would have to change your pad or tampon. Many cup users find that they only need to empty their cup once or twice a day, depending on their flow. According to Healthline, cups can be left in place for up to 12 hours before they need to be emptied, rinsed and reinserted.
Menstrual cups can be a little intimidating at first, especially when it comes to insertion and removal. Since inserting a menstrual cup often requires you to be a little more comfortable with your body than you might be used to, it can be pretty tricky for beginners. Removal can also be a bit messy and awkward to take care of, especially if you’re out in public.
Some menstruators have also experienced difficulty when it comes to finding the right fit. Menstrual cups aren’t a one-size-fits-all product and every body is unique, so you may need to try out a few brands before you come across one that fits you perfectly.
Things to consider before buying:
Most menstrual cups are made with latex-free materials, which makes them a great option for menstruators with latex allergies or sensitivities. But, for some users, there’s still a chance that the silicone or rubber material used in these products can cause an allergic reaction. So if you’re concerned that you might be sensitive to any of these materials, it’s a good idea to consult with a doctor before using a menstrual cup.
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Period panties are undergarments that were created with the intention of replacing disposable pads and tampons. They look and feel just like regular underwear, but they are constructed with extra layers and special fabrics that absorb menstrual blood. That means you can say goodbye to the days of using bulky and uncomfortable products to manage your period.
Period panties are pretty magical when it comes to how much blood they can absorb. They usually hold between two to four regular size tampons worth of menstrual blood (this pair from Knix can hold up to 8!), meaning you can wear them all day depending on your flow.
They’re also designed with your comfortability in mind. Most period panties are constructed with at least three layers – one that absorbs blood, one that wicks away moisture to keep you dry, and one that helps to prevent leaks.
One of the best things about period panties is that they also come in all sorts of different styles and designs, just like normal underwear do. So whether you prefer a bikini, a thong, or a boybrief, you’re sure to find a pair you love- that won’t get destroyed by period blood.
Unless you use pads, you’re probably not used to feeling the flow of your menstruation. Since period panties don’t stop your flow, it might take some time to get used to that sensation. It may be a bit nerve wracking at the beginning, but you need to build trust with your period panties and remember that they’re designed to protect you from any leaks (And hey, they do say that trust is the foundation of every great relationship!)
Clean up is fairly easy when it comes to your period panties. In fact, it’s as simple as tossing them in the washing machine and running a cold-water cycle. But, it can be a bit inconvenient to do laundry multiple times a week in order to always have a fresh pair available. While it comes with an expensive start up cost, you may want to consider purchasing enough pairs to get you through an entire cycle, so that you’re not scrambling to wash them.
Things to consider before buying:
Keep in mind that it might take a little bit of trial and error before you find your perfect pair. Since every menstruator has a different body and a different flow level, product specifications can’t act as a universal ruling about what to expect. What works on a heavy day for someone else may not work on a heavy day for you. For this reason, some menstruators use period panties as backup protection, while others feel comfortable using them on their own. Either way, it’s a good idea to give them a test run at home before taking them for a spin during a night on the town.
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Organic Period Products
Organic period products are definitely having a moment right now. Whether you’ve seen them popping up on the shelves at your local drugstore, or even on your Twitter timeline in the form of a viral tweet, chances are you’ve heard of them. So what’s the difference between organic and traditional period products? Well, organic pads and tampons are pretty similar to their traditional counterparts, but they’re manufactured with organic cotton rather than a blend of multiple absorbent fibers.
One of the biggest pros to using organic products is that you know exactly what’s going in them – and in your vagina. Most organic period product manufacturers are very transparent about what goes in their products. A truly organic tampon or pad will use 100 percent cotton that hasn’t been exposed to pesticides, dyes or chlorine bleaches. Since vaginal tissue is both sensitive and permeable, it’s a good idea to be conscious of what you put in contact with it. Using organic period products can give you that awareness.
Organic period products also offer some environmentally friendly benefits. Most organic period products are biodegradable, while studies show that a traditional pad or tampon can take up to hundreds of years to decompose. For this reason, the use of organic period products can drastically reduce the number of pads and tampons sitting in landfills and clogging up sewers. Organic cotton farmers are also not allowed to use pesticides, so the production of organic period products is ultimately safer for farmers, their farmland and those who live near the farms.
While organic period products offer a more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional period products, they might not be so kind to your wallet. Organic pads and tampons tend to be more expensive than disposable period products and you’re likely to use just as many of them per cycle.
Using organic period products also does not remove the risk of developing Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), a life-threatening complication that is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina. While the odds of developing TSS are very low, it’s still important to change your tampon at least every 4 to 8 hours, even if you opt for organic products!
Things to consider before buying:
Many people insist that organic period products are safer than traditional period products because they’re free of pesticides, chemical additives and fragrances. Despite the popularity of these claims, there is actually no scientific evidence that proves them to be true.
In fact, Dr. Sherry Ross, an Ob/Gyn and the author of “she-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period.”, told USA Today that she doesn’t think organic tampons and pads are generally any safer or even necessary. She further explained that since “the tampon industry is regulated, women are protected from tampons containing excessive amounts of asbestos, dioxin and rayon fibers, which are chemicals that can potentially cause harm if contained in large amounts in tampons”.
Before tampons can be sold, they must go through a test that ensures they are both safe and effective enough to be legally marketed as tampons. This means that regardless of whether or not a tampon is organic, it must be reviewed by this test. The test evaluates tampons based on criteria such as absorbency, strength, integrity and whether or not they enhance the growth of harmful bacteria.
Despite many claims that state otherwise, the absorbent fibers that are used in tampons are also made with a bleaching process that is free from elemental chlorine, which prevents them from having dangerous levels of dioxin, a chemical byproduct of the bleaching process. This means that any tampon that is legally sold is considered to be both safe and effective when used as directed.
The bottom line is that opting for organic period products is more of a personal preference than a health necessity. So you do you, boo!
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Are you a true-to-traditional kind of menstruator or would you be willing to try one of these products for managing your period?
xo, Pretty Little Hangers Team