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There are lots of different options for collecting period blood, with different pros and cons. Find out about the various methods of managing your period to see which sounds right for you.
There are lots of different options for collecting period blood, with different pros and cons – it can take a few tries to find a type of period product (and within that type of product, a particular brand!) that works for you. Often, people mix and match different methods depending on where they are in their cycle and what their needs are during the day.
Quick guide to tampons
Tampons are small tubes of pressed cotton which are inserted into the vagina using an applicator or your fingers.
Quick, easy and low cost in the short term.
Discreet and can’t be felt once inserted into the vagina.
Can be difficult and/or uncomfortable to use.
Disposable, meaning they are costly long term and aren’t the most environmentally friendly option.
Tampons are easy to access in most shops and pharmacies.
Tampons are small tubes of soft cotton which has been pressed together. They are inserted into your vagina, using either the applicator, or your fingers.
They have a string attached to one end so you can pull them out after use. They can either come with an applicator (a plastic or cardboard tube used to help put them in), or without an applicator – make sure to check the box to see which kind it is.
Once the tampon is full of blood, or 8 hours have passed (whichever happens first), the tampon is removed and thrown away.
When choosing tampons, make sure to go for unscented versions, as the fragrances can upset the pH balance of your vagina and irritate the delicate skin of the vagina and vulva.
Never flush away tampons, as they can block pipes and cause water pollution. Always throw used tampons and applicators in the bin. Lots of toilets have special sanitary disposal bins, or you can wrap the tampon in toilet paper and then put into the nearest bin available. You can also buy small bags to put used tampons in as a discrete disposal option.
It can be tricky to learn how to use tampons at first, but it gets easier with practice! They can be kept in for up to eight hours at a time and come in different sizes, from light to heavy flow, for different times during your period.
Lil-lets has some great guides on how to use tampons:
To cut down on the amount of tampon applicators that you throw away, you can buy reusable applicators. To use these, you can put the tampon into the applicator, insert as normal, and then clean the applicator with soap and water in between uses.
Quick guide to sanitary pads and liners
Pads (sanitary towels) are liners for your pants that are made of materials which soak up blood as it flows out of the vagina.
Quick and easy to use as they don’t need to be inserted.
Relatively low cost in the short term.
Can feel bulky, messy and/or uncomfortable to wear.
Disposable, meaning they can be costly in the long term and aren’t the most environmentally friendly option.
Sanitary pads are easy to access in most shops and pharmacies.
Pads (sanitary towels) are liners made of materials which soak up liquids, which you can use to line your pants and ‘catch’ blood as it flows out.
Like tampons, they come in a variety of different absorbencies – some of them are designed for use when your period is really heavy, and some for when it’s lighter, like at the end of your period.
With pads, make sure to go for unscented versions, as perfumes can irritate the sensitive skin of your vulva.
Never flush away pads, as they can block pipes and cause water pollution. Always throw used pads in the bin. Lots of toilets have special sanitary disposal bins, or you can wrap the pad in the wrapper it came with, or in toilet paper, and then put into the nearest bin available. You can also buy small bags to put used pads in as a discrete disposal option.
Pads can be simpler to use than tampons, as there’s no need to put anything into your vagina. To use them, you stick them to the inside of your pants, sometimes with sticky-backed ‘wings’ that wrap around the gusset to fasten the pad in place. But sometimes they can leak if your flow is really heavy, so make sure to change them regularly.
You can also buy reusable pads! These are an environmentally friendly alternative to disposable pads with many of the same benefits. Also, similarly to period pants, they are designed to feel dry and comfortable so you barely even notice you’re on your period while wearing them!You do need to wash them between each use, which means you need to have a few of them to rotate during your period, and a way of storing used ones if you are out and about.
Quick guide to menstrual cups
Menstrual cups are flexible cups that are inserted into the vagina, where they collect period blood.
Quick and easy to use (with practice), and comfortable once inserted.
Reusable, making them an environmentally option that is cheap in the long term.
Can be difficult to use at first.
Upfront cost is more expensive than disposable options.
Menstrual cups can be bought online and in some shops and pharmacies.
Menstrual cups are small containers made of a flexible material like rubber or silicone, which – like a tampon – are inserted into the vagina to catch blood and stop it flowing out.
They work by creating a seal within the vagina which holds them in place. When they are full, you pinch the base of the cup to break the seal, pour the collected blood into the toilet, wash and then re-insert the cup.
They can be a bit tricky to get the hang of at first, but with practice they can be an easy, comfortable and waste free method of managing your period.
Unlike tampons, they are reusable – they can last up to 5 years, making them a very envrionmentally friendly option.
Menstrual cups can be a bit tricky to get the hang of at first, so it’ s a good idea to try using the menstrual cup at home the first few times, so you have lots of time, space and privacy to practice. You may also need to trim down the stem to make the cup fit your vagina, so this will be easier if you are somewhere familiar and not in a rush.
There are lots of guides available to help you practice and work out how to use them, such as this guide to using a menstrual cup from Clue. The basic steps to inserting a menstrual cup are:
Any pain or discomfort?
You shouldn’t be able to feel your menstrual cup once it’s in; like a tampon, it’s designed to sit far enough into the vagina that you can’t feel anything. If you feel any discomfort or pressure, you might have it in too low, so you should remove it and reinsert it. Similarly, if you can feel the stem at the opening of your vagina, then it might be too long, so try trimming it gradually until it is long enough for you to reach, but short enough that it sits just within your vaginal opening.
To take out your menstrual cup:
Quick guide to period pants
Period pants are underwear or swimwear with a built-in absorbent layer. They can be washed and reused.
An easy and comfortable option as they don’t need to be inserted.
Reusable, meaning they have a lower environmental impact than other products.
Need to be cleaned between uses.
Upfront cost is more expensive than disposable products.
Online from various providers. Some high street shops.
Period underwear consist of an absorbent material that holds one to two tampons’ worth of flow, a moisture barrier to keep you comfortable, and a layer designed to prevent any leaks or staining.
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