MANAGING YOUR PERIOD YOUR WAY
There are several different ways to absorb or catch your menstrual blood. The choices available fall into two major types, external protection which absorbs the period blood once it leaves your body and internal protection, which catches or absorbs the blood while it’s in your body.
You might need to try a few different solutions before you find the one that’s right for you. Perhaps a combination of different options will allow you to best manage your period. What feels comfortable, how heavily you’re bleeding and the activities you have planned for the days is likely to influence your choice.
There’s no one size fits all option, we are all different!
Pads, panty liners and period undies are all examples of external protection products. Pads and panty liners attach to the inside of your underwear and are made of soft absorbent material, designed to absorb menstrual blood. These products usually come in a range of different sizes, thickness and eco-friendliness. They offer different levels of absorbency to best help you manage your flow and suit the clothing you are wearing. It’s likely you’ll need to be able to change and dispose of pads and panty liners throughout the day depending on how heavy your bleeding is.
Period undies are just like regular undies but they have been modified to absorb a full day or night of bleeding. You can choose different levels of absorption depending on your flow and if you’re planning to use them during the day or the night. They will need to be washed thoroughly for re-use but shouldn’t need to be changed throughout the day.
Internal Protection - Tampons
Tampons and menstrual cups are internal protection products. A tampon’s absorbent material is pressed tight into a small cylinder shape designed to sit inside your vagina. Some come with applicators to assist the tampon being inserted into the vagina, whilst others come without an applicator. Some people may find tampons more comfortable and convenient to wear as they avoid the feeling of “dripping” and fear of leaks. Tampons need to be changed regularly and disposed of throughout the day. Tampons are easily removed by gently pulling on the string attached to the end of it and are safe to use overnight so long as they aren’t inserted for more than 8 hours.
Internal Protection - Menstrual Cups
A reusable alternative to a tampon is a menstrual cup. This small cup is inserted inside the vagina and is designed to catch your period blood. Menstrual cups are usually made of flexible plastic or silicone and are bell shaped. Unlike pads or tampons, they don’t absorb any blood – instead, you tip the collected blood into the toilet when you remove it, wash, then re-insert as needed. A menstrual cup can be a safer alternative to a tampon especially overnight as they can be inserted for up to 12 hours.
For people who get periods, the amount of time spent managing your bleeding can really add up. If the average person gets their period around age 13 and it lasts (again, on average) until they are 51, that is 38 years and 456 periods. Even if each period lasted only 3 days, that’s over 3 and ½ years of your life spent bleeding. As such, the financial cost of whatever equipment you decide to use to manage your bleeding could be worth considering.
Tampons and pads are often the most accessible, and can seem to be the cheapest, however over time the cost can really add up. A person could spend over a couple of thousand dollars on tampons and pads during their menstruating lifetime. Whereas both period undies and menstrual cups can be a little more expensive to purchase at first but, if looked after, can last for years.
There are lots of options for managing your bleeding, so don’t be afraid to try a few and work out what is best for you and your lifestyle!
TOXIC SHOCK SYNDROME (TSS)
Although very rare, it is important to note the risks of toxic shock syndrome with tampon (and even more rarely with menstrual cup) use. Toxic shock syndrome is when your immune system responds to toxins that are released by certain types of bacteria, which can grow in the menstrual blood. While it is very rare, it can be very serious and potentially life threatening. It is more common in people who use tampons than pads or menstrual cups.
There are a few simple precautions to take to avoid getting toxic shock syndrome:
- Change your tampon at least every 4-6 hours. Don’t leave tampons in overnight.
- Use the lowest absorption tampon you can.
- If using a menstrual cup then cleaning your cup as recommended by the manufacturer, usually with warm water and a mild, fragrance-free, oil-free soap, before insertion
- Always wash your hands before and after inserting or removing a tampon or menstrual cup.