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My Period

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Added August 01, 2013

From WebMD: Sanitary Products for Your Period

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WebMD Feature

By Emily Soares

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

Today, girls starting their periods have a lot of choices in sanitary products: disposable pads, tampons, even menstrual cups or sea sponges. Try out several options to find out what's most comfortable for you. Soon you'll have a preference. Here's some basic information on your choices.

Disposable Sanitary Pads

Pads for your period come in various thicknesses and absorbency. You can purchase them with or without wings that fold over to prevent leaking.

Select a pad based on how heavy your period is and what kind of clothes you’ll be wearing. You may want to buy two types of pads: a thicker one for your heavy flow days, and a thin one for the days you're just spotting. Be sure to change your pad before it is saturated. Most girls need to change pads every few hours.


Tampons are cotton tubes with a string on one end. You insert them into your vagina to absorb menstrual blood. The string helps you remove the tampon. Many tampons come with plastic or cardboard applicators to help you insert them. Some don't have applicators, and you use your finger to insert them. If you have a hard time, talk to your mom, sister, or a trusted adult about how to insert them.

Tampons generally come in light, regular, and super thickness. Often girls start with light or slender tampons. But the size you choose should depend on how heavy your period is.

It's important to change tampons at least once every four to eight hours. Insert a new tampon before going to bed and remove it as soon as you wake up. Leaving a tampon in too long increases your risk of toxic shock syndrome, which is caused by bacteria.

Menstrual Cups, Sea Sponges, and Cloth Pads

You don’t have to use the same sanitary products your mom used when she was young. “Besides tampons and pads, which are the most commonly used sanitary product, menstrual cups, sea sponges, and non-disposable cloth pads are other alternatives,” says Sharon Horesh Bergquist, MD, Emory School of Medicine, Atlanta.

A menstrual cup is made of silicone or rubber. You place it in your vagina to hold the blood. These cups can be disposable or reusable. Reusable menstrual cups should be emptied every 6 to 12 hours. Single-use cups are also available and should be removed and thrown away after 12 hours.

Sea sponges are natural sponges that you place in your vagina to absorb blood just like a tampon. Sea sponges should be removed and rinsed every few hours. Most can be reused for up to six periods, but each brand is different so it's important to read the labels.

Washable cloth pads are the traditional method that women have used for centuries during their period. You can purchase them online or make your own.

Which Sanitary Product Is Right for You?

“Your lifestyle and activities will dictate which product is right for you,” says Atlanta pediatrician Deborah Pollack, MD. “If you swim or participate in other sports, tampons would make the most sense. Slender tampons are great to start with.”

If you're uncomfortable putting something in your vagina, pads are a great way to start. Try out a couple of different types of sanitary products to see what feels best. And, remember, talk to your mother, your older sister, or your doctor or counselor about any concerns.


Sharon Horesh Bergquist, MD, assistant professor of General Internal Medicine at Emory School of Medicine, Atlanta.

Deborah Pollack, MD, FAAP, Atlanta.

Children’s Hospital Boston, Center for Young Women’s Health, “Alternative and Environmentally Friendly Menstrual Products” and “Feminine Protection.”

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on August 08, 2011

© 2011 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

WebMD Content may not be published, copied, broadcast or redistributed without the prior written authority of WebMD.

Access all of WebMD’s health content at

Rate this:
comments so far
Posted April 28, 2014
this was sooooooooooo helpfull
Posted December 19, 2013
I think the kind of product you choose to use is influenced by what your mom and/or sister use(d). I use mostly tampons and the occasional pad, because the idea of re-using a (cloth) pad kind of grosses me out, even though I know you wash them...
Posted April 23, 2012
My idea is to read the labels and think about what you will do.Then you can select a type of product
Posted February 17, 2013
pads 4 me
Posted June 21, 2012
I never knew about the cups and sponges for your period.
Posted July 11, 2012
Cups and cloth pads are the best things ever, just sayin. <3
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