What are reusable menstrual pads?

One product that seems to be gaining increased attention is reusable menstrual pads. These are washable, highly-absorbent cloths that are usually secured by wings around the underwear. In many ways they are a modern version of what was used by women in "the old days" during their menstrual cycles. (In fact, it's from this practice that the demeaning and archaic phrase "on the rag" comes from.)

Although relatively few women use reusable menstrual pads, they do have certain advantages:

• They are allergen-free, chemical-free, and perfume-free and are thus less likely to cause irritation and contact dermatitis on the vulva[1] and the vagina, and they are generally more comfortable for women with sensitive skin.

• They are less expensive than disposable pads over the long term.

• They carry less menstrual odor and are more breathable.

• They are environmentally friendly because they are made of natural materials rather than plastic and do not contribute to growing landfill problems.

Reusable pads do have disadvantages, however. For instance:

• They are more time consuming due to the need to wash and dry them.

• Washing them is not particularly easy because the water with the menstrual blood needs to be disposed of properly.

• If the user has a yeast infection[2] the pad must be sanitized in order to prevent re-infection.

• Their initial cost is higher, although over time they become more economical.

Reusable menstrual pads are certainly not for everyone, but they are worth considering if they fit your lifestyle.

When should my daughter use tampons?

After using sanitary pads for a while, it's likely that your daughter will tell you one day that she'd like to try tampons[3]. That means it's time for you to go to the store and stare at the many options on the shelf. (And when I say "you," I mean that in the singular rather than the plural form. Unless you're willing to travel to a different state and perform your task in disguise, don't count on your adolescent daughter being willing to stand in a store aisle next to you as you both publicly survey the menstrual products they have available.)

What are the different types of tampons?

The Food and Drug Administration now regulates tampon absorbency, which is defined as the rate at which a tampon soaks up menstrual blood. Absorbency is measured in grams of fluid, and you will find absorbency ratings on all tampon boxes. Specifically, the following tampons are readily available:

• Light or Junior Absorbency: 6 grams of blood or less. This tampon is good for the end of a woman's period when she has the lightest flow.

• Regular Absorbency: 6 to 9 grams of blood. As the name suggests, this tampon is good for many women on most days of their periods.

• Super Absorbency: 9 to 12 grams of blood. This tampon will provide the extra absorption that some women need on their first 1 to 2 days of heavier bleeding.

• Super-Plus Absorbency: 12 to 15 grams of blood. Some women experience especially heavy bleeding on their period and may require this tampon.

• Ultra-Absorbency: 15 to 18 grams of blood. Most women will never need to use this tampon. If this tampon is necessary, a visit to the gynecologist may be wise in order to evaluate the cause of this extremely heavy menstruation.

Absorbency is measured in grams of fluid, and you will find absorbency ratings on all tampon boxes.

  • [1] The external female genital organs that include the labia majora, labia minora, clitoris, Bartholins glands, and the opening to the vagina (vestibule).
  • [2] One of the most common vaginal infections among women. This infection is not sexually transmitted. Yeast is commonly present in the vagina in very small amounts. A change in the balance of the vaginal flora often caused by taking an antibiotic will cause the yeast to overgrow and symptoms of itching and discharge can occur.
  • [3] A plug of absorbent material placed in the vagina to prevent menstrual blood from coming out.
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