What is a period?Menstruation, or having your period, is when the lining of the uterus flows out through your vagina in the form of blood and tissue (menses). Usually, menstruation begins between the ages of 11 and 14, and occurs each month for 3 to 7 days. Fun times! Essentially, periods are the body’s monthly notification that you’re not pregnant.
What period product is best for me?Given that the average menstruator spends over 6.25 years having their period, let’s first explore the different types of products out there you can use. Bear in mind, you can switch it up throughout your period, based on your unique flow and preferences.
PadsPads are one of the oldest forms of menstrual products still widely used today. A pad is a piece of soft material that adheres to your underwear to absorb period blood. Some pads have “wings” that fold over the sides of your underwear to stay in place. They can be made with disposable material, or from fabric that can be washed and worn again. Pads also come in various lengths and absorbency levels for lighter vs. heavier flows. For light-flow days or spotting between periods, some people prefer to use pantyliners (really thin pads), or to wear a pantyliner with a tampon/cup for added protection. Unfortunately, some people find that pads aren’t suitable for certain types of physical activity, like intense physical activity.
TamponsLike sanitary pads, tampons also come in different levels of absorbency to soak up menstrual blood. Some tampons include an applicator to help ease insertion. The string attached at the end makes them easy to remove. Menstruators often turn to tampons for greater physical freedom during menstruation. However, individuals with vaginismus or other pelvic pain issues may find it impossible to insert a tampon, as the contraction of their vaginal muscles prevents penetration. It’s important to change tampons at least every four to eight hours in order to prevent toxic shock syndrome (TSS). If you have not had sex, using a tampon does not cause you to “lose your virginity.”
Menstrual cupsMenstrual cups are flexible bell-shaped collection bowls for your period blood. One of the most popular brands is DivaCups. To use a cup, first it is folded, then inserted into the vagina, where it unfolds against the walls of the vagina to collect blood. Cups come in different sizes and levels of firmness, and generally last up to 12 hours. Most are reusable (after washing, of course), and some are disposable. Reusable menstrual cups are an eco-friendly and cost-effective option. Menstrual cups might be challenging for people with vaginismus, or that have a tilted uterus or low cervix. It is recommended that you consult with your doctor first about using a menstrual cup if you have an IUD.
#menstruationinnovationThere are many great new product alternatives on the market worth considering, such as period-resistant underwear (check out Thinx and Dear Kate). Flex (a flexible, disposable, disc-shaped product that collects menses) is another option that provides up to 12 hours of period protection, and can be worn comfortably during sex! Score.
What about ingredients?What (and who) you put inside your body is important. We recommend looking for products without chemicals, synthetics, fragrances, toxins, or dyes. Organic cotton pads, tampons, and liners will keep your vagina healthy and safe. Some of our favorite brands are Aunt Flow, L., Sustain, LOLA, and Cora.
What is PMS?Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) occurs the week or two before menstruation and refers to the physical and emotional changes you might feel.
- breast tenderness
- feeling tired
- food cravings
- joint or muscle pain
- mood swings
- trouble falling asleep
- upset stomach, constipation, or diarrhea
What can I do to relieve menstrual cramps?During menstruation, your uterus contracts (thus, the cramps) to help the lining separate and leave the body. Here’s what you can do to lessen the pain:
- take an over-the-counter pain reliever
- soak in a hot bath
- use a heating pad
What if I skip a period or my menstrual cycle is irregular?When a menstruator experiences a late or missed period, the most common concern is pregnancy. If this occurs, taking a pregnancy test is the only way to know for sure. However, many menstruators occasionally have irregular periods. Maybe you miss a period, or it comes earlier or later. Or maybe it’s notably heavier or lighter than usual.
Reasons your menstrual cycle might alter:
- birth control
- hormonal imbalance
- poor nutrition
- over exercising
- sudden weight gain or loss