The Modern Day Guide to Managing Your Period
Managing your period should not be messy, painful or stressful. Period. 😉
We’ve come a long way from using ACTUAL towels as sanitary towels. In fact, in the past decade alone, period technology has come so far that managing that time of the month has never been easier.
Here are some of the options available today and their pros and cons.
Sanitary pads or towels are usually made from cotton with adhesive strips on the base to help secure them to your underwear. That means all the absorption happens on the outside of your body.
Look for unscented and, ideally, organic products for maximum care in sensitive areas. You can also get reusable pads, like these, for a gentle and sustainable option.
PROS: Readily available, easy to use, very easy to get to know your flow (how heavy it is, colour, clots etc)
CONS: Not suitable for swimming, can be uncomfortable, you may worry about leakage on heavy flow days
Tampons are made out to be a bit of a rite of passage and for many girls starting their periods, can be super intimidating to use!
Tampons are bullet-shaped, typically made from cotton and inserted inside the vagina where they absorb blood. Some tampons come with applicators, which can be useful if you’re concerned about getting your fingers messy or need some help in positioning the tampon correctly.
Look for unscented, 100% cotton and, if possible, organic brands.
For those concerned about toxic shock syndrome, the risk is not as significant as we’re made to believe from the pamphlets in tampon boxes! However, for proper hygiene that will also prevent TSS, it’s recommended to change tampons at least every 4-6 hours.
PROS: Readily available, discreet, suitable for swimming
CONS: Can take some practice, you may worry about leakages therefore use a backup panty liner, not suitable for sleeping as ideally should be changed at least every 6 hours
My brand recommendations: TOM Organic
3. Menstrual cups
Menstrual cups are in their hey day and becoming more and more available, which is great. They are usually made of flexible silicone and are inserted into the vagina (by folding them – there are lots of different ways to fold them for comfortable insertion) and they then mould to the shape of your vagina. Small holes at the top of the menstrual cup create a suction to keep it in place and prevent leaks. If you’re leaking with a cup, it’s likely it hasn’t been inserted high enough and/or at the correct angle.
Menstrual cups are reusable, so eco-friendly and usually save you money in the long run. They can also be kept in for 12 hours at a time! The easiest way many women find to use them are to empty and insert them morning and night, especially in the shower.
Cups can come in a range of shapes and sizes – some for women who have given birth vaginally, some for high and low cervixes and a regular size for the average woman.
PROS: Eco-friendly, cost-effective, suitable for swimming, suitable for flying/sleeping, no need for frequent emptying unless flow is heavy, available in a range of shapes/sizes to suit your body
CONS: Can take practice to use properly, not as accessible as disposable products, a little messier to use at work/school but offset by the benefit that you likely won’t need to empty your cup as often; can be a little uncomfortable on the lightest day of flow
4. Period underwear
Whenever I’ve told people how much I love period underwear, there’s usually been a look of shock and curiosity!
Period undies look, wear and feel like regular undies (and come in all your usual cuts – bikini, high waisted, boy shorts, g-strings/thongs, cheeky and everything in between). They have a special breathable lining, a bit like an in-built pad, that is highly absorbent. The lining is designed to keep you feeling dry.
The absorbencies are more than standard pads, meaning one pair usually gets you through a day. After use, you just rinse it under running water (easiest way to do this is in the shower) and pop them in the wash.
Period undies come in a range of cuts, colours and absorbencies and are handy on their own, or as “back up” on days where you’re concerned your cup or tampon might leak.
PROS: Comfortable, very easy to use, come in a range of absorbencies, eco-friendly, reusable, great for back-up, great for when you’re not sure if your period is due
CONS: Harder to find but available online; not suitable for swimming although brands like Modibodi have designed a swimsuit range using similar technology; gotta make sure you’re wearing the right absorbency for your flow to avoid leaks
So there you go – options! I’m interested to know what your preference is so let me know by commenting on this post.
Want to know what goes into the perfect period kit for girls who want to be prepared for their first period? Download my Period Preparation Pack checklist for free.
Gemma is Australia's "Real Talk" Nutritionist helping Australians achieve healthier, sustainable modern lifestyles while cutting through the BS we are surrounded by on a daily basis. She has a Bachelor of Health Science (Nutritional Medicine) and a Bachelor of Arts (Communications), so she's more than capable when it comes to health and explaining the geek-speak in your terms. Gemma has naturopathic training, which means she takes into account all of the puzzle pieces that make up our health – our history, diet, lifestyle, emotional health, physical health, vitality. Gemma practises the “non-diet” diet approach, where focus is on whole food nutrition and happy and healthy relationships with food.