Pad, Tampons, & Alternative Period Products

Pad, Tampons, & Alternative Period Products

Since the dawn of time, women have faced the hardships of periods. Ancient Romans and Egyptians are said to have invented an earlier, primal version of a tampon out of sticks wrapped in cotton or papyrus fibers. There have been many advances in technology since then, allowing us more comfortable and preferential options today. However, beyond the more advanced and modernized tampon, we have alternative solutions.


One of the oldest menstrual tools invented is the tampon. Many women feel as though tampons allow for more movement and activity without as many risks for accidents. Athletes, such as female swimmers, benefit from using tampons. Playtex Sport tampons offer a variety of sizes and are the tried-and-true brand for swimmers. Additionally, Kotex offers their own brand of sporty tampons, U, that are compact and come with a small case to hold several spares for long days at competitions. 

Some women do not prefer regular tampons because they can lead to bacterial infections or on the very rare occasion TSS, toxic shock syndrome. Some women find organic tampons, such as L. Organic Tampons, which are made from organic cottons and fragrance-free.  


According to, 62% of women say they use and prefer pads. In fact, in China less than 2 percent of women use tampons and opt for a pad. Disposable pads are the most common period product as they are easy to use, present lower risks, and are not as uncomfortable for women as tampons are.  Pads are the oldest forms of menstrual products, referred to as menstrual rags or sanitary napkins as far back as the tenth century.  

There are two types of pads, or sanitary napkins: Disposable and reusable. Cloth menstrual pads, though not as commonly used, can be found on Amazon, through private sellers on Etsy, or online by brands such as Tree Hugger, GladRags, and Aisle. These products are more environmentally conscious. Though they cost more money up-front, you save money long term by opting for a washable, reusable option. The average woman will spend $2,000 on menstrual products in her life—so this is potentially a money-saver. 

Menstruation Cups 

Another option for women looking for alternatives that can save money and reduce waste are menstrual cups.   These cups are inserted in the vagina and conversely to tampons and pads, catch the period flow in the cup to be emptied rather than absorbing the flow with the cotton. One of the biggest pros to this product is that it can be worn for a longer amount of time—between 8 and 12 hours. They are also beneficial for women who experience heavier menstrual cycles. The cup can be used while exercising and through regular day-to-day activities, though it may not be as preferential by athletes before a race or competition.  

These have been more popular in the past decade by companies such as The Diva Cup. There are several brands of period cups found on Amazon, such as Saalt Soft Menstrual Cup, Lena, and Softdisc.   

Menstrual Discs 

Similar to the menstrual cups are the menstrual discs, which are both named after their identifying shapes. The disc is inserted similarly to a tampon, but you squeeze the sides of the disc to insert it into the canal and past the pelvic bone. While they can handle heavier flows, they would need to be changed more frequently than the cup. The main setback to these products is that similar to tampons there are risks of TSS, though there are not many cases reported. 

Period Underwear 

Period underwear are wearable products that are washable. They offer the convenience of a reusable pad without having to wear multiple layers. The Period Company and Thinx by Target offer several styles of period underwear that can hold the equivalence of nine tampons in absorbency.  

There are many options and alternative period products to use. It’s important to be educated on these different options so you can find what product is the best fit for you. 

Written by Janah Brown

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