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Pads, Tampons, Menstrual Cups: Which Is Best for Your Period?

Pads, Tampons, Menstrual Cups: Which Is Best for Your Period?

When it comes to dealing with our menstrual cycle, most of us are pretty comfortable using the same product that we’ve been using for years. Perhaps it’s what your mother showed you how to use when you experienced your first period, and you’ve just never felt a need to try anything else. While using a pad, tampon, or menstrual cup during your period is a very personal decision, there are definitely pros and cons to each method.

Photo by Laura kabrishka via Flickr
Photo by Laura kabrishka via Flickr

Sanitary Pads/Napkins

For most women, this was the first product ever used in dealing with their own period. While I don’t use them anymore myself, it was my first method as well, and I used them consistently for years. Sanitary pads are generally the easiest way of dealing with the red flow, and a lot of people never bother to try the other types of products because of this. However, there are both pros and cons to even this most basic product, and it never hurts to experiment a little to find out which is the best option for you!

Image by KaurJmeb via Wikipedia(CC BY-SA 3.0).



  • Non-invasive and nonthreatening
  • Reliable
  • Easy to use and change
  • Fast and clean application
  • Low risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome
  • Easy to tell when you need to change it
  • Fast and easy to change when in public places
  • Best option for young girls who are new to dealing with periods


  • Can be uncomfortable after using for a while
  • Stronger smell than tampons or menstrual cup
  • Not suitable for some activities(swimming, gymnastics, etc)
  • Sometimes visible through tight clothing
  • More likely to leak overnight

Weighing the Options:

If the idea of inserting something inside your vagina is scary or intimidating, this is the best option for you. While pads aren’t ideal for all situations, such as a beach getaway, they are definitely the simplest and most friendly option for most women. You can see and feel when it needs changing, so as long as you are able to change it before it gets too full, leaks aren’t that big of a worry; though this worry does increase when wearing them overnight. If you’re uncomfortable with experimenting and just want to stick with something that’s proven to work for most women, pads are your best bet.

Photo from New Girl courtesy of ETC Entertainment Central
Photo from New Girl courtesy of ETC Entertainment Central


For a lot of women and girls, tampons are a step up from sanitary pads in the sense that they are a bit more difficult to use. While they can be more challenging for a new user than pads are, there are lots of pros that can outweigh this once you’ve gotten used to wearing one. Remember, though: it’s a myth that you can only use a tampon if you’re not a virgin. Tampons have nothing to do with your virginity, and I happily used one long before I was sexually active.

Image by Shattonbury via Wikipedia(CC BY-SA 1.0).



  • Better than pads for active lifestyles
  • Can swim while wearing one
  • Very discreet, don’t show through clothes
  • Almost no smell
  • Not messy
  • Easy to get rid of as they can be flushed
  • When changed frequently enough, low risk of leakage


  • Higher risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome
  • Hard to tell when you need to change them
  • More difficult to get used to
  • Takes more time to insert
  • Learning curve to figure out how much absorbency you need
  • Some have to wear a pantyliner with them to ensure no leaks


Weighing the Options:

A middle ground between menstrual cups and pads, tampons are the most versatile of options when you’re dealing with your period. They are great because they give you the freedom to be active and enjoy swimming at any time of the month, and they’re a lot more discreet than sanitary napkins are. While it might take time to adjust and learn how to use them as well as how often you need to change them, once you’ve got your system down they are just as reliable as pads, if not more so. If you’re new to using tampons, I recommend using panty liners or sanitary pads as backup for your first couple of cycles until you learn your body and how frequently you need to change your tampon.

See Also

Photo from New Girl courtesy of ETC Entertainment Central
Photo from New Girl courtesy of ETC Entertainment Central

Menstrual Cups

I bet a lot of women reading this are going, “wait, what, there’s a third option?!” Even though menstrual cups have been around for decades, they are still relatively unknown to most people, although they are gaining popularity. The menstrual cup is easily the most eco-friendly (and wallet-friendly!) product to use as one single device, while more expensive than a pack of pads or tampons, can be reused for up to 10 years with proper care. While they can be challenging at first and are certainly not for everyone, I’ve found it to really change my periods for the better.

Photo by Michelle Tribe via Flickr
Photo by Michelle Tribe via Flickr


  • Only needs to be changed twice a day
  • Reusable, so will save money in the long run
  • Holds a lot more fluid than pads or tampons
  • No smell and no chance of leaking if inserted correctly
  • Best option for overnight or physical activity
  • Great for women with heavier flows
  • No risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome
  • Many women report less cramps when using a cup


  • More expensive short-term
  • More difficult to use than pads or tampons
  • Size can be intimidating
  • Can take a few tries to learn how to use properly
  • Difficult to change/clean in public places
  • Messier, requires dealing with and cleaning your blood

Weighing the Options:

Making the switch to a menstrual cup can be a bit intimidating – especially since the initial cost is definitely more than purchasing pads or tampons. Don’t let the expense scare you, though, as you’ll save money in the long run because you don’t need to change it as often as you do with pads and tampons. While it’s definitely more embarrassing to have to deal with in a public restroom, the fact that you only have to empty it every 12 hours means you probably will never have to do that. The cup does, however, take some getting used to. If you’re brave enough to try it out, I recommend giving it at least one full cycle to get the hang of it before you decide it’s not right for you as it does get easier.

Photo from New Girl via Tumblr
Photo from New Girl via Tumblr

So there you have it, there are three known options for dealing with your monthly flow. Every woman is different and has a different comfort level, so take your time to weigh the pros and cons and figure out which product best suits your needs.


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