Tampons, Pads, Menstrual Cups, and Period Underwear | Finding the Right Menstrual Product for You
October 8 2021 | Written by Rhea Kumar (She/Her)
Consider this: the global market value of the menstrual product industry rose from $35.4 billion in 2016 to $40 billion in 2020. In 2018 alone, individuals in the U.S. bought 5.8 billion tampons, and over the course of a lifetime, a single menstruator will use somewhere between 5,000 to 15,000 pads and tampons.
What does this mean, exactly? Well, for starters, the marketplace is abounding with new brands, new varieties and new approaches to the very basic practice of stopping blood flow from one’s vagina.
But has the rise of modern day menstrual health products actually made life easier for all menstruators? Not exactly. Some users may find themselves on auto-pilot, never questioning what they put into their bodies. In this blog, we'll be exploring tampons, pads, menstrual cups, and period underwear to help you find the ideal product to fit your needs. We'll be exploring a variety of factors such as:
- Your Flow
- Environmental Impact
- Difficulty Inserting Products
So let's get started!
CONSIDERATION #1: Your Flow
Is your period on the heavier side or the lighter side? Is your flow consistent or does it vary a lot? If absorbency is a major consideration for you, this may influence the products you use. If you like to flex your products to your flow - tampons and pads are a great option as they vary in size and absorbency from light to super. However, if you have a consistently heavy flow, for example, something like a menstrual cup may be better as you can wear it for up to 12 hours, in comparison to the 8 hour limit on tampons and pads.
If you have a super heavy flow, super or super plus tampons can be a great option! If you have a lighter flow, light tampons may work better for you. If your flow varies, you can use a combination of light, regular, super, and super plus tampons!
Pads can be a great option if you have a lighter or regular flow. However, if your flow is very heavy, constantly having to change a pad may become a bit tedious, and some dislike the bulkiness of larger pads.
If you have a really heavy flow, these are a great option as you can wear them for up to 12 hours, compared to the 8 hour limit on tampons. And if your flow is light, they work too, although they may be a bit more uncomfortable to insert.
Reusable Pads & Period Underwear
If you have a really heavy flow, having to change these often may be difficult. However, if you have a regular/light flow, these are a great option!
CONSIDERATION #2: Lifestyle
Are you an athlete, do you live an active lifestyle, or are you always on the go? If that’s the case, then at some point in your life, you were probably forced to make the transition from wearing pads throughout the day, to wearing tampons. Having high performance products that you can wear for a long period of time may be important for you.
If you lead a very active lifestyle, tampons may be a great fit for you! They have a slightly higher absorbency than pads, run a lower risk of chafing than pads as they are worn internally, and allow you to comfortably wear a variety of clothing. As well, tampons provide the freedom of being able to swim on your period without worrying about blood spillage.
If you lead a very active lifestyle, pads may be a somewhat limiting product. Not only are they somewhat less absorbent, but they can also cause some discomfort when exercising due to the amount of material. As well, if you’re a swimmer, you won’t be able to swim with pads. Pads are also difficult to wear with thongs if you prefer not to have underwear lines under your clothes.
Menstrual cups have many of the benefits that tampons do if you live an active lifestyle, with the added benefit that they can be worn for up to 12 hours! However, if you are on-the-go often, having to change a cup in public bathrooms may not be everyone’s preference.
Reusable Pads & Period Underwear
These basically have all the same pros and cons as regular pads if you’re leading an active lifestyle!
CONSIDERATION #3: Environmental Impact
It’s important to note that there is no perfect formula to being environmentally conscious, especially when it comes to menstrual products. Also, you don’t have to be perfect at being eco-friendly. If being eco-friendly is something you want to prioritize, there are small steps you can take to do so while balancing your needs from a product.
Don’t worry, no one’s perfect and no product is made perfect.
Tampons are single use products, so you will ultimately be creating waste when you use these. However, if tampons best fit your lifestyle needs, you can look for tampons made by companies that have taken steps to reduce their environmental impact. Look for tampons that are 100% GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified organic cotton, as these are free of chemicals that will enter air or waterways. You can also look at how the product is packaged: certain companies offer compostable or recyclable packaging for their wrappers and boxes! You can use a digit tampon to avoid the waste that comes with an applicator, or you can use a cardboard applicator. If those options are too uncomfortable for you to insert, you can use a tampon with a plant-based plastic applicator which can aid in insertion. While it will still be a plastic material, bio-based plastics are made with renewable sources, such as sugar cane, rather than with fossil fuels. At Marlow, we've taken steps to prioritize the environmental sustainability of our tampons. You can read more about our environmental standards here.
Similar to tampons, pads are single use products, and many have plastic linings that take up to 800 years to decompose in a landfill. If pads are your favourite product to use, you can purchase pads that are made from biodegradable materials! This will significantly minimize their biodegrading time. And, as with tampons, pick products with recyclable or compostable packaging!
Menstrual cups are reusable and can be a great alternative to tampons! However, in order for them to be more eco-friendly, they need to be used long enough without being lost or discarded. The environmental impact of 1 cup is equivalent to approximately 200 tampons. If you use a box of 18 tampons each month, you would have to use the cup for at least 11 months to “break-even” on the environmental impact.
Reusable Pads & Period Underwear
Reusable pads and period underwear are quite similar to cups when trying to be eco-friendly - they’re a great option, as long as you use them for a long enough period of time. However, for reusable pads and underwear, that number still remains unclear.
As you can see, no product is perfect! At the end of the day, using anything to manage your period will create an environmental impact. Really, it’s just about weighing the pros and cons and deciding what is important to you. Is there a certain product that you need to use? Is there a certain product that you can’t afford to use? Whatever the case may be, there’s pros and cons to every product, so just pick what best suits your needs!
CONSIDERATION #4: Difficulty Inserting Products or External Sensitivity
For menstruators who have vaginismus or tense pelvic floor muscles, sometimes a product worn internally may not seem like the best option. Vaginismus is the body’s automatic reaction to the fear of some or all types of vaginal penetration. In such cases, the muscles around the vagina can tense up involuntarily. Vaginal dryness, which can be caused by hormonal imbalances or chemotherapy, can also result in discomfort when using internally worn products.
If you experience any conditions that make inserting products uncomfortable, using tampons may not be an option for you. However, if you just need a bit of assistance when using these products, you can try adding lubricant to the applicator which will aid in the insertion. You can check out our tampon and lubricant products at Marlow. If you experience significant pain when using tampons, please see a medical professional.
If you experience discomfort or pain when using internal products, then menstrual cups may not be the best option for you. They require a bit more of a learning curve to use, and the process of insertion and removal can be difficult or painful for those with pelvic floor conditions.
If you’re searching for a comprehensive guide on the best products and resources to use if you experience pelvic pain conditions, our friends created The Ultimate Vulvodynia + Pelvic Pain Resource Guide. Check it out here!
Pads or Reusable Pads & Period Underwear
If you cannot wear products internally, pads or reusable pads and underwear are a great option!
CONSIDERATION #5: Affordability
Depending on your budget, this may impact which products you decide to choose. We've created a guide to help you evaluate the prices of each product.
Average Product Prices
- Tampons: $5.99 - $13 (18 pack)
- Pads: $9 - $11 (50 pack)
- Menstrual cup: $20-50 investment
- Period underwear and reusable pads: $24-$65 per pair
CONSIDERATION #6: Convenience
- Do you already subscribe to grocery/meal services?
- Are you always on the go? Traveling?
- Do you have limited access to transportation?
- Do you work from home?
- Do you live in a remote area?
- Do you value convenience?
If any of these statements sound like you, then a subscription service to menstrual products might be a great fit! At Marlow, our products are delivered straight to your door so that you never have to worry about running out of product. Check out our convenient subscriptions!
Overall, there is A LOT to consider when picking which product is best for you. Whether its convenience, price, lifestyle, eco-friendliness, performance, or physical ability, each product has its own pros and cons. Experiment and see what works best for you and if you ever want more advice, shoot us a message!