Feminine Hygiene Guide
Pads are made up of absorbent material that sticks to the inside of your underwear to hold your menstrual flow. They come in a number of sizes and provide various degrees of absorbency (for light flow vs. heavy flow days). Some pads come with "wings" or tabs on the sides to better protect your underwear and provide greater period protection. Some of the drawbacks to wearing pads are that they have to be changed frequently, you may be able to feel the wetness from your menstrual flow against your body, and they shouldn't be used in the water or while doing heavy physical activity.
Tampons are inserted inside the vagina to absorb your menstrual flow. Many have an applicator to help with insertion, while others are designed to be inserted with your finger. Some girls like tampons because they are able to wear them during physical activity and they are more discrete than pads. Some of the drawbacks of tampons are that they must be changed frequently and can cause irritation and/or dryness because they are typically made up of absorbent synthetic materials. The biggest issue with tampons is that the high absorbency variety has been linked to a life-threatening infection called toxic shock syndrome or TSS. Click here for further information on TSS.
Menstrual cups are inserted into the vagina in order to catch your monthly flow. Some brands are disposable, while others can be washed and reused for a period of time. The cups are made of hypoallergenic, latex-free material that does not absorb, thus reducing the potential for dryness and irritation. Menstrual cups have not been linked to TSS. Girls who use menstrual cups love them because they can wear them longer than a tampon or pad (up to 12 hours and even overnight), they can't feel them when they're in, and they can wear them during intense physical activity such as swimming, running and sports. Click here for menstrual cup Q&A. Some girls who use menstrual cups find that they are harder to insert or remove than a tampon at first, but after some practice, most perfect the process. Click here to learn how to use a menstrual cup.