The best period products for your period
Every cycle is different, and the best period products for you may differ for someone else.
So, whether you’re new to having a period or you’ve had one for years, make sure you find the best period products – including newer options on the market – that suit your cycle and lifestyle.
Finding the right fit for light, medium or heavy flow
Most periods last for four to six days and usually decrease in flow over the course of your period, explains GP Dr Leigh Exelby, who specialises in women’s health. “So, what works for you for the first few days of your period may not be the best option for the lighter days.”
For example, you may start using regular or super-sized tampons at the start of your period and then move to a smaller size as the flow decreases.
Conversely, if your period is light in the first day or two and then gets heavier, you’ll need to switch to products for a heavier flow.
On average, Leigh explains, you should aim to change a tampon every four to six hours.
“If you need to change your tampon earlier than this due to bleeding through the tampon or from vaginal discomfort, then you should look to increase in the size of your tampon,” Leigh says.
“If you don't need to change your tampon as regularly as this, you could go down a size.”
Sanitary pads should also be changed every four to six hours. If they’re leaking sooner than this, change them more regularly or try a larger size.
You’ll also need to take this approach when using sustainable product options, such as a menstrual cup or period underwear (learn more below).
Finding the right fit for your lifestyle
If you’re super active, tampons – if placed correctly – shouldn't be felt at all, Leigh says. She notes that tampon design has become more streamlined and some even have a silky overlay to help with insertion.
“Menstrual cups are also a good option and a fantastic alternative for women who enjoy water activities.”
Period underwear can be a comfortable option for active types, especially for teenagers who may find it difficult to insert tampons or menstrual cups.
Health and hygiene
It’s important to always wash your hands well before and after using a new tampon or pad.
And don’t leave tampons in for longer than eight hours due to the small risk of developing toxic shock syndrome, Leigh advises. This is when toxins are released into the bloodstream from bacteria and can be dangerous.
Leigh notes that there are some great sustainable and reusable period products available.
Menstrual cups: A small funnel-shaped silicon device inserted into the vagina during a period, which can be removed, washed out and reinserted into the vagina. It can remain in the vagina for up to 12 hours, depending on the flow, and can be reused for up to one or two years.
Period underwear: Comfortable, easy-to-use and with swimwear options. They can be washed and reused. Depending on absorbency and flow, period underwear can be worn overnight, but they generally need changing when they start to feel wet against you.
Reusable sanitary pads: Made from washable fabric, including bamboo or cotton, that can be washed and reused. They will need be changed up every few hours on heavy flow days or when they feel wet against your skin.
Buying single-use products in bulk or on sale helps, but investing in reusable products, despite the initial financial outlay, will save you in the long-term.
For example, a single use tampon can cost around 50c, whereas a menstrual cup (about $40) costs 9c per use over its lifespan. A single-use pad costs 40c per use, compared to period underwear (about $24) or 13c per use over its lifetime.
Please note: The tips throughout this article serve as broad information and should not replace any advice you have been given by your medical practitioner.
Dr Leigh Exelby
Dr Leigh Exelby is a Queensland-based GP who specialises in women’s health, fertility and children’s health. Her path to medicine was far from conventional, having studied music and business administration and holding down roles in media and marketing before eventually enrolling in medical school. After graduating from Bond University with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, Leigh worked in several hospitals before moving into general practice. Leigh has performed in musicals across Australia and the UK, and rates Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal as her favourite song for dancing.