When it comes to menstrual products, you have lots of options.
Pads are easy to use. The most common ones come from bleached cotton and rayon (a type of artificial cotton). They stick to the inner lining of your undies, catching and absorbing the flow. When you’re done, take it out of your underwear, roll it up, and throw it away. A lot of people like them because they’re easy to use and easy to carry in your purse and backpack. You also don't need to insert it into the vagina. But some people feel that the pad irritates their vulva. They're also not great for the environment, and the cost accumulates as you have to continue to buy them.
For this reason, reusable pads and period underwear are good alternatives! Reusable pads work like disposable ones. Only now you wash them in the sink before tossing them in with your laundry! Although they can be expensive up-front, they cost less because you keep using them. And if you want something more gender-affirming, they sell period briefs! Of course, these aren’t as easy to carry around with you like disposable pads. People also usually don't buy enough pairs to last them their entire period. But they’re still good options, and it’ll still save you money if you end up alternating with disposable pads.
After that, we have tampons. Tampons, like pads, are bleached pieces of cotton and rayon. Unlike pads, they go inside the vaginal canal (sometimes with the help of an applicator), and a string hangs out of the vagina. Once you’re ready to take it out, all you have to do is pull it out with the string and throw it away. Most people like tampons because they feel it’s discreet and easy to use. But tampons also have a nasty habit of not only absorbing menstrual flow, but all of the bacteria in the vagina. For this reason, it’s not a good idea for people who get infections easy, and it also makes the vagina a bit drier all around. It can also increase menstrual cramps. Tampons also have to get changed often: while Toxic Shock Syndrome is rare, it’s still possible. Still, they’re easy to carry around and are discreet.
Something that’s becoming more popular is the menstrual cup! While they make disposable ones, they can be super leaky. The reusable menstrual cup is made of silicone. All you have to do is squeeze it, push it into the vagina, and let it suction inside. Instead of absorbing, it catches the flow, and when you’re done, all you have to do is pour it out, wash it, and reuse it. If that sounds gross, don’t worry—bacteria can’t stick to silicone, making it easy to clean and boil between cycles! The cost up front can feel like a lot, but it’s a product that, like period panties, lasts people for years with good care. And unlike tampons, cups can stay inside for 12 hours, meaning you don’t have to keep changing it out. It’s gaining in popularity for a reason!
Last, we have sponges. You can buy these at a pharmacy, and, surprise, it’s literally a sponge! You put it inside, take it out, boil it, and put it inside again. Sponges do deteriorate over time, so while it has a few reuses, you’re going to have to continue to buy them. And they're not vegan--these are usually actual sea sponges. But the sponge is also the only menstrual product that you can use during intercourse! Sponges are natural, a cool mix between disposable and reusable, and work for lots of people!
(Horny on your period? With all the other products, take out your menstrual product and lay a towel down on the bed. Seriously. Lots of people enjoy intercourse during their period, since it provides natural lubricant. But keep using condoms, since you can get pregnant while you’re on your period. Some studies even suggest you’re more prone to getting an STI during menstruation.)
And there you have it—there are more products out there than just disposable pads and tampons. Check out your options and figure out which ones you prefer! And if your flow is light enough, lots of people have separate bedsheets for when they menstruate. You don’t have to use anything at all while you sleep if you so choose.
The best site to purchase reusable pads, cups and sea sponges is gladrags.com. Another good option for things like period panties and the diva cup is lunapads.com. Shethinx.com has lots of period underwear to choose from, including briefs, boy shorts, and thongs.