Yepp, it’s Shark Week, so we’re talking about periods! Here’s a refresher on how you should be using your menstrual products:
Most people use pads, tampons, or menstrual cups to collect their period flow and protect their clothes from stains. You can buy pads and tampons in most drugstores or supermarkets. Menstrual cups are most easily bought online. Every package has instructions in it. Pads and tampons come in different sizes. Some are for lighter flows (usually called light or slim), and some are for heavier flows (usually called heavy or super). Using a tampon, cup, or pad takes a little practice. Try different kinds until you figure out what you like best.
Tampons are little plugs of cotton that fit inside your vagina and absorb menstrual blood. Tampons can’t get lost inside your vagina or move to another part of your body. They stay inside until you remove them. Most people can’t feel tampons if they’re placed in the vagina correctly.
How to use tampons:
- Wash your hands and get into the position that’s most comfortable for you. Many people squat, put one leg up, or sit on the toilet with their knees apart.
- Slide the tampon into your vagina using the applicator or your finger, depending on what kind of tampon you have.
- Putting a tampon in your vagina shouldn’t be painful, but it may hurt if you’re not relaxed. Using tampons with smooth, rounded applicators may make it easier.
- If you’re still not comfortable, ask someone you trust to show you how to correctly place it in your vagina.
- Tampons have a string at one end that hangs out of your vagina. Slowly pulling the string removes the tampon. It’s easier to remove a tampon when it’s fully soaked.
- Change your tampon every 3-4 hours to prevent odor and stains on your clothes.
- You can wear tampons overnight, but not for more than 8 hours. Change it as soon as you get up in the morning.
- Don’t use super or heavy tampons unless you really need them, and change them often.
- When you take the tampon out, wrap it in toilet paper and throw it away in the trash.
- You can wear tampons in the water, and during all kinds of sports and activities.
- Using a tampon takes practice. Try different kinds until you figure out what you like best, but don’t wear tampons unless you’re actually having your period.
- Don’t douche or use scented tampons or vaginal deodorants — this can lead to irritation or infection. If you’re worried about odor, change your tampon more often.
Unlike tampons or cups, pads are worn outside of your body. Pads stay in place with a strip of adhesive that sticks to the inside of your underwear. Some have “wings” or flaps that fold over the sides of your underwear to protect against leaks and stains. Like tampons, pads have different sizes. Pads can be very thin (for light flows) or cushy (for heavier flows).
How to use pads:
- Peel the backing off the adhesive strip and press the pad into your underwear.
- Change your pad every three to four hours, or when it’s soaked, to prevent odors and stains on your clothes.
- You can wear pads overnight.
- Don’t flush used pads down the toilet. They’ll clog it up. Wrap them in toilet paper and put them in the trash.
- Pads can be used with tampons or cups as a backup in case of leaks.
- You can’t wear a pad in the water. If you want to go swimming or do very active sports, use a tampon or cup instead of a pad.
- Don’t douche or use scented pads or vaginal deodorants — this can lead to irritation or infection. If you’re worried about odor, change your pad more often.
Menstrual cups are shaped like little bells or bowls, and they’re made of rubber, silicone, or soft plastic. They’re held inside your body by the walls of your vagina, where they collect menstrual fluid.
Most menstrual cups are reusable, which means that you use the same cup over and over again. Some people like this because it’s better for the environment and costs less than using disposable products like tampons or pads.
Cups may look kind of big, but most people can’t feel them once they’re placed into the vagina. Cups can’t fall out, get stuck inside your vagina, or move to another part of your body. They stay inside until you remove them.
How to use menstrual cups:
- There are different types of cups, but each one comes with directions that explain the best way to use it.
- Wash your hands and get into the position that’s most comfortable for you. Many women squat, put one leg up, or sit on the toilet with their knees apart.
- To insert a cup, you usually fold or squeeze it so it’s easier to put in your vagina. Follow the directions that came with your cup to find the best way to put it in.
- Putting a menstrual cup in your vagina shouldn’t be painful, but it may be uncomfortable if you’re not relaxed.
- If you’re having problems inserting your cup or it feels uncomfortable once it’s in, ask someone you trust to help you read the directions and insert your cup correctly.
- Menstrual cups can be worn overnight or for up to 12 hours, but you can empty it as often as you want. The cup will leak if it gets too full.
- To remove and empty a menstrual cup, put your fingers in your vagina, then gently squeeze the cup and pull it out. Empty the menstrual fluid in a toilet, sink, or shower drain. Wash it with warm water and mild, unscented soap (or just wipe off the outside with toilet paper), and then put it back in. Always follow the cleaning directions that came with your cup.
- Menstrual cups cannot be flushed down the toilet. If you have to throw away a menstrual cup, put it in the trash.
- Menstrual cups usually take a little more practice to get used to than tampons or pads. It may take a couple of periods to get it right. You can wear a pad as a backup in case your cup leaks. You can’t wear a tampon and a cup at the same time.
- Cups can be worn in the water and during all kinds of sports and activities.
- Don’t douche or use vaginal deodorants with your cup — this can lead to irritation or infection. If you’re worried about odor, empty your cup more often.