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The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Period Product

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Period Product

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It’s weird to be talking about this because until a few years ago, we didn’t really have options in terms of period products. It was either pads, or errr . . . pads. No, wait, it could also be nothing. And a large percentage of our country continues to use absolutely nothing (or rags/leaves/ash—yes, ash!) for managing their periods. But in terms of actual products, we’ve mostly had only pads. Until a few years back, that is.

Now we have a veritable avalanche of ways to manage periods—plastic pads, organic cotton pads, reusable pads, panty liners, tampons, Cannabidiol (CBD)-infused tampons, menstrual cups, menstrual discs, period panties— everything under the sun! Now, this can obviously be quite intimidating for someone who has periods. It’s the opposite of a kid in a candy shop situation. How do you choose the right product? How do you choose what variety of the right product works best for you? Are they safe? Are they doctor recommended? Will they make you infertile? Will they give you infections? There are a lot of questions and a lot of answers, so let’s break it down bit by bit. Let’s go ahead and talk about different period products.


Pads

Pads, also known as sanitary napkins, are one of the most commonly used period products worldwide. They are designed to absorb menstrual blood and are worn externally, similar to diapers. Pads are easily accessible, affordable, and widely available, making them a popular choice for many individuals.


The basic structure of a pad consists of three layers. The bottom layer is typically made of plastic, which helps contain the blood within the pad and prevents leakage onto underwear. The reverse side of this layer contains a light glue and wings, which secure the pad onto the underwear. The core layer, often made of cellulose, acts as the absorbent material and may include a gel core for enhanced absorption. The top layer is perforated, allowing the blood to reach the absorbent core while keeping the skin dry.


Concerns have been raised about the presence of dioxins in pads. Dioxins are chemical compounds formed as by-products of the bleaching process used in cotton and rayon fibers for pads. Dioxins are recognized carcinogens with established cancer-causing properties. However, the amount of dioxin released from sanitary pads is minimal and unlikely to cause harm. In fact, individuals are more likely to be exposed to higher levels of dioxins from the environment and food sources due to pollution. Thus, the risk of absorbing dioxins from pads is relatively low compared to other sources.

It's important to note that certain articles criticizing pads may be biased and written by companies promoting alternative period products. Such articles often end with links to purchase their own products, indicating a potential conflict of interest. It's essential to critically evaluate the information provided and consider multiple perspectives.

 

While pads offer convenience and affordability, they are not without their drawbacks. Some individuals may experience discomfort, such as chafing and fungal infections, particularly in hot and humid environments. The top perforated layer of the pad can cause irritation when it constantly rubs against the delicate skin of the vulva and inner thighs. It's crucial to change pads within eight hours, regardless of whether they are fully soaked, to prevent bacterial growth and maintain hygiene. Additionally, some people find the smell associated with pads unpleasant. However, the smell primarily arises from blood exposure to air, not the pad itself. Fragrances added to pads can cause irritation, allergies, and disrupt the vagina's pH balance, leading to potential infections.

 

Disposal of disposable pads poses an environmental challenge due to their plastic components. However, reusable cotton pads provide an alternative solution. Made of washable cotton cloth, these pads can be reused, significantly reducing waste. They are safe, cost-effective, and can even be made at home by upcycling materials like old clothing. Proper cleaning and sun-drying are essential to maintain cleanliness and eliminate germs.

 

Pads offer a significant advantage for individuals who prefer not to insert anything into their bodies or have concerns about hymen integrity. For those comfortable with vaginal insertion, tampons and menstrual cups are viable options to explore.

 

In conclusion, pads are a widely used and accessible period product that effectively manages menstrual flow. While they have their limitations and potential drawbacks, understanding their proper usage and considering alternative options can help individuals make informed choices based on their preferences and needs.

 

Tampons

Tampons are small, disposable, cylinder-shaped thingies, made of rayon or cotton (or both) that absorb menstrual blood. Think of it like a cotton plug that you would insert into your nose if your nose were bleeding, except you put this inside your vagina. (My elderly millennial audience might remember a really funny scene from She’s the Man . The vagina holds it in place for you securely, while all the blood flowing out of your uterus is absorbed nicely. There is a small string hanging at the end that you can use to pull the tampon out when it’s soaked, or when it’s time to change your tampon.

 

They do a really good job of absorbing menstrual blood and are a pretty cool option if you want to go swimming on your period, or just don’t like pads. Some tampons come with a cardboard or plastic applicator, which can be helpful in insertion, but they’re not necessary (abhi plastic ki burai kari and now you want to get more plastic ?). They come in a large variety of absorbing capability, all the way from light, to medium, to super, to ultra[1]mega-super something (not the actual terminology). And this is where the problem with tampons can come in. The super-mega-ultra tampons, or even super tampons, are linked with a deadly infection called toxic shock syndrome (TSS).

Essentially, because they’re so good at soaking up blood (they’re not called super absorbent for nothing), they also end up absorbing the natural vaginal discharge, which is essential to maintain a healthy vagina. This causes dryness and a change in the environment and pH of the vagina, which can be really bad for all the good bacteria that live inside your vagina and keep it healthy. This can instead encourage some infection-causing bacteria to grow. Additionally, sometimes when taking a tampon out, there can be tiny micro cuts in the walls of the vagina, since all the nice and natural lubrication is gone. While we don’t fully understand exactly how tampons cause TSS, these two things are considered important reasons. Although rare, TSS is a medical emergency that presents with a fever, diarrhoea, and a sudden rash across the body. BE AWARE of this if you are using super absorbent tampons. Or better yet, just get the low-absorbency tampons, wash your hands every time, and remember to change it within six to eight hours, even if it’s not fully soaked. Kaafi simple hai, matlab . We’d also recommend sticking to some other period product when your flow is light, so you avoid causing that vaginal dryness. Wait, here’s the strangest part— tampon use is not the only thing that can cause TSS, it can even happen from something like an infected wound. Yeah, it’s wild. Basically, the whole world is really scary and messed up, so YOLO it. If tampons float your boat, use them, but use them safely.


Phew, that was some scary sounding stuff. The idea is obviously not to scare you, but to help you better understand your body and stay safe. Which brings me to my next option, which is so shrouded in mystery and misunderstanding that many people run away from it (even though it’s a seriously kickass option). Let’s talk about menstrual cups. (Wooohoooo!)


Menstrual Cups

A menstrual cup is a medical-grade silicone device that collects menstrual blood instead of absorbing it like pads and tampons. It is inserted into the vagina and forms a vacuum seal to stay in place. Menstrual cups have several advantages over other period products.


Firstly, menstrual cups can be worn for longer periods of time, up to twelve hours, which provides convenience and eliminates the need for frequent changes. This allows individuals to go about their daily activities without worrying about changing their pad or tampon, even during the night.


Additionally, menstrual cups are durable and can last for a long time, typically around five to ten years. This makes them a cost-effective choice in the long run. Although the initial cost of a cup may seem high compared to a pack of pads, the cumulative expenses of disposable products over time outweigh the cost of a menstrual cup.


The environmental impact of menstrual cups is also significantly lower. Unlike disposable pads and tampons, which contribute to plastic waste, menstrual cups are reusable and generate minimal waste. At the end of their lifespan, cups can be burned or returned to the manufacturer for recycling.

The menstrual cup market offers a wide range of sizes, shapes, and colors to cater to individual preferences and needs. They are suitable for people of all ages, including virgins. Inserting a cup requires relaxation and gentle insertion techniques, such as using water-based lubricants to ease the process. It may take a few cycles to find the right technique, but most people become comfortable with using cups within a few months.


Removal of the cup is simple and involves squatting, relaxing, and gently squeezing the base to release the vacuum seal. While there may be a learning curve and occasional spills initially, it becomes easier with practice.


One common concern is the fear of the cup getting lost inside the vagina. However, the cervix acts as a barrier, preventing anything other than sperm from entering the uterus. The cup cannot pass through the cervix, ensuring it remains safely within reach for removal.


To ensure added protection against leaks, some individuals choose to wear period panties alongside their menstrual cup, especially during heavy flow days.


In conclusion, menstrual cups offer a convenient, cost-effective, and eco-friendly alternative to pads and tampons. With proper insertion and removal techniques, they provide a comfortable and reliable menstrual hygiene solution.


Period Panties


But what are period panties now? Period panties are precisely what they sound like—they are just like regular panties that you can wear on your periods, which have an in-built pad to absorb all your period blood. It’s a great option if you can’t/don’t want to insert anything

vaginally but still want a sustainable period product. Like menstrual cups, these are also fairly expensive as an initial investment (ranging from Rs 1000 to Rs 3000 per underwear) but the cost works out eventually, as you can keep reusing them for a long time. You will probably need more than one panty—you obviously don’t want to wear one pair throughout your period—which drives up the cost, but honestly, they are SO convenient! No sticking anything on your panties or inside yourself, the ease is seriously unreal. When you need to change them, just rinse your panties with cold water until the water runs clear, i.e., you can see no more blood and then hand wash or machine wash them like regular clothes. The ease makes it worth the money, truly. If nothing else, you can just buy one and use it as a backup with your tampon/cup on particularly heavy days—that’s what I do! We’ve come so far with the number of options we have for managing our period blood, and although we still have huge steps to take, I think we are now in a much better place menstrually, aren’t we? So bloody good!

 

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