Choosing the Best Tampons, Pads, and Menstrual Cups

Today, women have more menstrual hygiene products than ever from tampons and pads to reusable cups that fit over the cervix. How do you know which product is right for you?

Tampons of various sizes in a row
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Your Period

The first step in deciding which menstrual hygiene product is the best choice for you is knowing yourself and your period. Periods can vary from woman to woman, as well as from the onset of menstruation to menopause. Menstruation can be lighter, heavier, longer, or shorter and still be considered normal.

Picking Your Menstrual Hygiene Protection

Fortunately, you have several choices in sanitary protection products. Some women may find that one product is right for them, while others may decide to use different products depending on their flow and lifestyle.

Let’s explore the options.

Menstrual Pads

Sanitary protection pads have been around in one form or another for as long as women have had periods. Until 1921, when Kotex pads were introduced to the market, women often used cotton rags or knitted, washable menstrual pads. Now, all you have to do is visit your local drugstore to see the wide variety of brands and styles of disposable menstrual pads available.

This option is a good one for young women who’ve just started menstruating, as they are more user-friendly than other picks. However, you may not find them desirable if you lead a very active lifestyle.

You may choose one based on your flow. Traditionally, women have had to opt for maxi pads for heavy days, and mini pads for light days. Today, there are mini pads that work during even your heaviest days, such as the Always Infinity brand mini pad. Or, if you’ve had issues with the comfort of pads in the past, you may want to consider some styles that conform to the style of panties you wear or have “wings” that fit over your panties to hold them in place.

The influence of increased environmental awareness over the last 30 years has renewed the interest in reusable, washable menstrual pads. Various online vendors, such as GladRags and Lunapads, sell them.​


Tampons are a great choice for women who are physically active. They do not interfere with exercise or swimming, for example. Many women also say they choose tampons over other options because they create less mess.

Today, women have a wide choice of brands of tampons available. Some have cardboard applicators, which tend to be less expensive and more environmentally sound. Others have plastic applicators, which you may find more comfortable to insert. Those with no applicator are also available.

What all currently available tampons have in common is an absorbency rating system to help you determine which tampon is right for your flow. Some companies sell boxes of tampons with various sizes in one box so that you can use the smaller ones on your lighter days and the more absorbent tampons on your heaviest days. Here’s a cheat sheet to what each grade means:

Note: 1 gram of menstrual fluid equals about 1/4 teaspoon

  • Junior: will hold up to 6 grams of menstrual fluid
  • Regular: hold between 6 and 9 grams of menstrual fluid
  • Super: have an absorbency rating of 9 to 12 grams of menstrual fluid
  • Super plus: for your heaviest days; absorb from 12 to 15 grams of menstrual fluid

Some tampons contain deodorants to help reduce menstrual odors. There is much controversy about the safety of tampons and their possible connection to women’s health conditions such as endometriosis and toxic shock syndrome (TSS). Women who enjoy the convenience of tampons but who are concerned about possible health risks can find all-natural, organic, cotton tampons on several websites, as well as at your local organic market.

Reusable, washable menstrual sponges have been used for thousands of years. A silk sponge tampon called Sea Pearls is another option for women who prefer the comfort of tampons. Some women may like the fact that Sea Pearl tampons are a naturally organic, synthetic-free, way to enjoy the convenience of tampons without the potential health issues possibly related to tampons and the pollution problems to the environment caused by synthetic tampon brands. Each tampon can be reused for three to six months which makes them an environmentally-friendly option for sanitary protection during your period.​

Menstrual Cups

Commercial menstrual cups have been around for decades, and they have evolved over time. Today, both reusable and disposable menstrual cups are available for women.

Reusable Menstrual Cups: The Keeper is a reusable menstrual cup currently on the market. It is made of natural rubber and can be used for up to 10 years. It’s a great choice for women who are concerned about the effect the environment may have on disposable types of period protection products. The Keeper holds up to one ounce of menstrual fluid and is simply washed out each time it is full. It is then either reinserted or saved for your next period. There are many other brands and styles available.

Disposable Menstrual Cups: The first disposable menstrual cup on the market was the Instead SoftCup. It is made from a non-absorbent, non-irritating thermoplastic material that conforms to your shape to prevent leakage. It can be worn for up to 12 hours.

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