Disposable sanitary napkins and tampons have been the go-to products since Kotex first introduced them to the mainstream market during the 1930s and 1940s (an era product experts refer to as “the Kotex era.” “).
While many women in the Western world continued to use washable and reusable “rags” as sanitary napkins, due to their affordability, most switched entirely to disposable options in the 1950s and 1960s if budgets allowed.
However, these days, tampons and disposable pads are increasingly being phased out due to new menstrual product options. Some of the reasons these new 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.
● Environmental friendly. Repurposing newer options for vintage products, combined with consciously sourced materials, means these products are better for the planet.
● Better for your body. Tampons have a risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome, which does not exist with any of the products recommended below. And some people also like that the unbleached and more chemical-free materials mean you don’t have to worry about toxins inside your vagina.
● Easier to use. Products such as period underwear do not require special instructions or techniques. You wear them like your normal underwear, and you’re good to go. Once you get used to others like the vintage cup or disc, 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 pad and tampon.
1. Vintage underwear
We hear almost nothing but good things from our patients choosing period underwear. Just like it sounds, 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 sanitary napkin if higher flow underwear isn’t enough or requires too many changes to make sense. Some of our heavy flow patients appreciate wearing period underwear as a back-up for their tampons and cups, preventing them from using sanitary pads.
Some of the most popular underwear brands are:
Period underwear isn’t as affordable as any of these other options, but its convenience makes it worth it for wearers.
Remember that period underwear only gives the “affordable” benefit if you know what size you are wearing and don’t have to keep increasing your size regularly. And, most women have to change their underwear every eight to 12 hours, sometimes more depending on their flow. So while they’re a great starter option for tweens and teens starting their period, parents may want to wait until daughters are fully grown before investing in a full set, using another option instead.
2. Washable and reusable cloth pads
Most of us start using sanitary pads because they’re less intimidating when you’ve just started your period and you may not feel ready to insert a tampon. Some women never like tampons and make sanitary napkins their basic period solution.
Still, those who are new to their period or don’t like tampons should turn their eyes to a fresh take on an old product: washable, reusable pads. However, today’s reusable cloth pads are not like the old ones. Instead, they are made from highly absorbent materials and cut to comfortably follow the contours of your inner thighs and panty line.
You can find them in stores, online, and in stores that focus on green products. Some of our favorites are:
● Cheerful Rags
● Organic Rael
● Delphi pad
● Smartliners (for lighter flow days)
● And don’t forget the handmade reusable sanitary napkins by Etsy vendors.
Reusable sanitary napkins come in many different shapes and sizes, as well as flow rates and overnight options. There is a reusable sanitary napkin for every woman.
3. Menstrual cups or discs
Of all the available options, cups and discs have the most significant learning curve. However, women who take time to get used to them tend to prefer cups/discs to all other options. The cups are made of soft, pliable materials (typically medical grade silicone) and are sized for your age and reproductive history.
Unless you have an abnormally heavy flow, most women rarely need to change their cup/disc more than three times a day. Both are high-volume performers, can be worn while swimming or in the water, and last for years when properly cared for.
4. Vintage swimsuits
Since summer is just around the corner (and hot tub season is year-round as far as we’re concerned), we also want to mention vintage bathing suits. These work on the same principle as vintage underwear, but are integrated into the bottom of bathing suits. 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 knowing.
Women’s Health Associates is here to answer your period questions
Have questions about your period, period products, or anything else related to women’s health? Then contact Women’s Health Associates to schedule an in-person or telehealth appointment. We are here to make your life as comfortable, enjoyable and healthy as possible during your reproductive years and beyond.