Pads vs. Tampons vs. Discs...oh my!

You know that there are plenty of products available to contain your monthly flow — but more options doesn’t mean happiness (if anything, it means the opposite).

Choosing between Tampons, Pads, and Discs 

With so many options and your day-to-day well being at stake, it’s important to understand why you would choose each menstrual product. When choosing the best product (or combination of products) for your period, you want to consider:

  • Your comfort level with your body
  • Your lifestyle needs
  • Your overall menstrual flow

To help you out, we’ve put together a guide that will help you choose between the top three disposable period products: tampons vs pads vs discs.

MENSTRUAL PADS

The Quickie on Menstrual Pads...

Ease of use: ★★★★★
Change frequency: Every 4 hours
Sizes: Vary depending on flow
Activity Level: Low 💪 __ __
Where do they go? Your underwear

What are menstrual pads?

Menstrual or sanitary Pads (sometimes called “sanitary napkins” by middle-school health teachers) are the most common period product in the world, probably because they’re such low maintenance - you’re basically lining your underwear to be super absorbent. Most pads have an adhesive strip on one side to stick to your underwear so it doesn’t move around. Some pads also have wings that wrap around the bottom part of your underwear to keep it in place (watch out for a wayward pube getting caught!). Downside is that they are about as advanced as a diaper.

Panty liners are also a type of pad that are for very light days or as a backup in case of leaks. Panty liners, like pads, can be worn with other period products like tampons, cups, and discs. Other pad options that might be worth checking out are reusable pads and period underwear.

Pads are best if you…

✓ do not want something inside of your vagina
✓ use another product that goes inside the vagina and want extra protection

Pass if you…

✗ go swimming
✗ are active
✗ wear leotards or leggings
✗ don’t want to sit in wetness at any point of your day

TAMPONS

The Quickie...

Ease of use: ★★★★✰
Change frequency: Every 4 hours
Sizes: Vary depending on flow
Activity Level: Medium💪 💪  __
Where do they go? In your vagina, near the entrance

What are tampons?

Tampons are a made of an absorbent cotton that is shaped like a narrow tube (about the size of a chapstick) with a cotton string attached. Tampons sit inside the vagina, near the lower third so the string hangs out past the labia to make removal easier.

As tampons absorb menstrual blood, the cotton expands like a sponge so when you remove it, the shape will be different than when you first inserted it. Most tampons come with a cardboard or plastic applicator to make it easier to insert. Tampons tend to be more discreet than pads but make sure to hold the string aside while you pee so you don’t have to deal with a urine and blood-soaked sponge.

There are organic tampons available. “Organic” meaning that the cotton used to make them is not sprayed with pesticides. However, organic or not, all tampons do increase the risk of contracting Toxic Shock Syndrome, so make sure you change it regularly and use as directed.

Best if you…

✓ are not sensitive to organic materials
✓ don’t mind changing every couple of hours
✓ don’t often get yeast infections or BV

Pass if you…

✗ are uncomfortable having a product in your body
✗ are concerned about infections like TSS
✗ recently gave birth
✗ get frequent yeast infections or BV
✗ don’t have the ability to change the product every 4 hours

MENSTRUAL DISCS

The Quickie...

Ease of Use: ★★★★✰
Change Frequency: Every 12 hours
Sizes: One size fits most
Activity Level: High 💪 💪 💪  
Where do they go? In the vagina, around the cervix

What are menstrual discs?

Menstrual discs are one of the newest period products on the market.

Menstrual discs are made of a medical grade polymer - this means they won’t mess with your vagina’s natural flora or host toxic bacteria. Menstrual discs sit around the cervix (goodbye pee-string) in the widest part of the vaginal canal called the vaginal-fornix.

Because of where it sits, the disc is not pressing on the vaginal walls, which makes it so comfortable, you can’t feel it when it’s in properly. Since menstrual discs are body-safe, you can wear one for a full 12 hours.

If you’re worried about touching menstrual blood, try taking your disc out in the shower so you can practice without worrying about mess.

Best if you…

✓ want a product that you can wear for a full day
✓ are sensitive to tampons
✓ get frequent yeast infections or BV
✓ have a heavy flow or endometriosis
✓ are going swimming
want to have period sex without period blood getting in the way

Pass if you…

✗ are uncomfortable with having a product in your body
✗ are not comfortable touching your body

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