Desi Girl StoriesMenstrual Hygiene Day: Which Period Product Is Best For You?

Menstrual Hygiene Day: Which Period Product Is Best For You?

As we celebrate Menstrual Hygiene Day 2020 on 28th May, we highlight the importance of good menstrual hygiene management (MHM). Initiated by the German-based NGO WASH United in 2014, this day aims to benefit women and girls on a global scale.

This year, MH Day recognises that periods do not stop for pandemics and will continue to drive home the idea ‘It’s Time for Action’. This theme highlights how vital it is to continue this collective work. It is time to change the archaic social norms surrounding menstruation and empower women and girls to unlock their educational and economic opportunities.

Menstruation, periods, chums, menses, the scarlet wave, or ‘that time of the month’, you can call it whatever you want but the issues remain the same. With a growing range of products available, the choice is endless. While sanitary napkins are still the preferred option for most Indian women, there are tampons, diva cups and so much more to suit your needs. The key is to choose wisely and here are some ways to do it.
Menstrual Hygiene Day
Image Via Instagram/Aditi Rao Hydari

Did You Know?

70% of Indian mothers with menstruating daughters consider menstruation as dirty and 71% of adolescent girls remain unaware of menstruation till menarche.

Indian History Of Menstruation

With regressive practices and age-old superstitions taking a back seat in India, one can only imagine the traditional rules that surrounded periods in the past. Ask your nani, dadi or even your maa or mausi and you will hear plenty of stories. 

Women used old cloth rags, ashes, socks filled with sand and all sorts of unsafe things to deal with periods. Unfortunately, many women in economically backward areas still depend on such dangerous methods in India. This has been the cause of severe health problems like infections, cervical cancer and more.

Did You Know?

Indian Council for Medical Research’s 2011-12 report stated that only 38% of menstruating girls in India spoke to their mothers about menstruation. 

8 Factors That Affect Your Choice Of Period Products

  • Age
  • Lifestyle
  • Level of activity
  • Cost
  • Time efficiency
  • Ease of use
  • Period flow
  • Comfort level

How To Choose Your Menstruation Solution?

Every woman has her story about the time she got her first period. From keeping it a secret to embracing the wonders of menstruation, India is certainly making progress. With movies like Padman shining a light on such an important issue, how times have changed! Yet most of us are still confused about the newer options of menstrual products.

  • How do you choose a menstrual cup?
  • Are all period panties the same?
  • Can that panty liner really do the trick?
  • How to figure out tampons?

We are here to answer these questions and help you pick the perfect menstrual product.

Did You Know?

National Family Health Survey 2015-2016 estimates that of the 336 million menstruating women in India about 121 million (roughly 36%) women are using sanitary napkins, locally or commercially produced.
Real Talk: The High Cost Of Menstrual Products
Image Via Instagram/Oh My Period

Period Products With Pros, Cons & Tips

1. Pads

Sanitary napkins or pads are the most commonly used period products. Yet they are wrapped in paper and stuffed in black bags to keep it a secret. But gone are those days and you can now choose from a variety in-store or online. Pads and panty liners are made of rayon and Super Absorbent Polymers (SAPs), which are typically partially made of acrylic, a plastic.

How To Use:

  1. Remove the plastic liner and extra plastic tabs, if any.
  2. Stick it inside your panties/underwear right on the crotch area.
  3. If it has wings, stick them around the panties.
  4. Make sure it is in place and has stuck properly.
  5. For days with a lighter flow, you can use panty liners that are just like pads but smaller.
No insertion required Can make noise when you walk
Can be worn for long periods of time, like overnight. Can make you feel wet
No need to worry about toxic shock syndrome High monthly cost of buying pads
No maintenance or cleaning required Can be restrictive for certain activities like exercise or swimming
Comes with a wrapper for easy disposalCan be visible through clothing with the wrong clothing/pad combination
Can cause skin irritation and rashes

Tip: Buy 100% cotton pads that are unscented and fragrance-free. Try buying sanitary pads that use plastic-free packaging. When done, wrap it securely and then dispose of.

Interesting Fact

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS), a series of symptoms that typically occur in the week or two before the start of a period can include headache, fatigue, bloating and irritability.
Indian Schools Provide Free Sanitary Napkins
Image Via Instagram/Guwahati Plus

2. Tampons

A tampon is made of soft, absorbent material. It is inserted into the vagina to soak up the blood. It comes with an applicator to help you insert it correctly. Most conventional tampons are actually composed of synthetic materials like rayon and use plastic applicators.

How To Use:

  1. Take out the tampon from the plastic wrapping.
  2. Position yourself so that you can easily reach your vagina.
  3. Insert the tampon slowly in your vagina with the applicator.
  4. Once it is in, push the bottom of the applicator to further secure the tampon.
  5. Take out the applicator and dispose of it.
  6. You will be able to feel the string hanging out of the vagina.
Convenient and discreetNot easily available everywhere
Small enough to carry aroundRisk of toxic shock syndrome
Typically, no feeling of wetnessInserting it can be tricky for beginners
Comfortable for exercising and swimmingHigh cost as a monthly purchase

Tip: Buy cotton tampons with biodegradable applicators. Once done, remove the tampon slowly and carefully, do not pull it out.

Did You Know?

The Indian government decided to scrap a controversial 12% tax on the feminine hygiene products in July 2018.
Use Biodegradable Tampons
Image Via Instagram/Pee Safe

3. Menstrual Cups

Menstrual cups are inserted into the vagina and collect blood into the cup. They can then be emptied, washed, wiped or rinsed. These are reusable menstrual products swiftly gaining popularity in India. Menstrual cups are often made of silicone, rubber or thermoplastics and the amount of period blood they can hold depends on the size.

How To Use:

  1. Begin with clean hands.
  2. Apply water or water-based lube to the rim of the cup.
  3. Fold the menstrual cup tightly in half.
  4. Hold it in one hand with the rim facing up.
  5. Insert the cup into your vagina, a few inches below your cervix.
  6. Once inserted, rotate it so that it forms a seal that prevents leakage.
Environmentally-friendlyFinding the right size can be a long process
Cost-effective as it lasts for years Takes practice to correctly insert and remove
Can be used for up to 12 hoursCan be messy
Comfortable for all activitiesWomen with IUDs should consult a doctor

Tip: Only use menstrual cups made with 100% medical grade and undyed silicone. To remove, place your index finger and thumb into your vagina. Pull the stem of the cup gently until you can reach the base. Pinch the base to release the seal and pull down to remove the cup. Make sure you use non-toxic cleaning methods.

Interesting Fact

On average, a woman menstruates for about 7 years during her lifetime.
Choose The Right Sized Menstrual Cup
Image Via Instagram/Pee Safe

4. Period Panties

Picture Credit: Rozette Rago

A pair of panties that are designed to absorb blood are known as Period Panties. They have varying absorbency levels. Some are designed for heavy flow and some are made similar to panty liners. They can even be used as extra support during days with a heavy flow.

How To Use:

These are supposed to be worn instead of your regular panties.

Environmentally-friendlyBuying a couple of panties can cost high in the beginning
Cost-effective as you don’t have to buy one every monthMust invest in multiple pairs or do laundry daily 
Can be worn long-term without the risk of toxic shock syndromeCan feel more wetness than with a tampon.
Changing in public can be a hassle

Tip: Buy period panties with organic cotton as the primary material. Avoid products with nano-material silver and antibacterials or antimicrobials.
Period Panties Are Easy To-Use & Comfy
Image Via Instagram/Adira

FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Which is the best period product?

A. The answer varied from women to women. Some prefer sanitary pads since it has been around longer. Many women choose tampons as it gives them the freedom to engage in activities. The newer products like menstrual cups and period panties each have their own unique benefits.

Q. What do you put in a period kit?

A. A period kit is a small bag full of period essentials. You can add:

  • Your choice of menstrual products
  • Pantyliners for emergency
  • A change of underwear
  • Pain medication (consult your doctor)
  • Herbal teas like chamomile and peppermint for cramps
  • Snacks

Q. How long does a period last?

A. Generally, a period can last anywhere from 3 to 7 days. The flow of the periods changes every day depending on several factors like age and medical conditions. A period that lasts longer than 7 days is classified as menorrhagia, which is a prolonged and excessively heavy menstrual bleeding at regular menstrual cycle intervals.

Tip: Irregular menstrual cycle is one of the most common issues experienced by women of all age groups. And practising yoga for irregular periods is a highly effective solution that women can consider.

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