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In the lifetime of an average woman, we experience 450 periods. From the age of 13 to about 50, a window of 3 to 7 days for every month of our lives is dedicated to the transformative dance of our uterus and the tide of hormones, emotions, and physical changes. It is the most natural phenomenon that accompanies our womanhood. Whether you're an adventurer seeking freedom, an eco-warrior fighting for a greener future, or simply looking for comfort and convenience, there is a menstrual product out there that will suit your needs and empower you to take charge of your cycle!
Sanitary pads, also known as menstrual pads or sanitary napkins, are good old trustworthy friends for many of us. It has been made commercially available for over a century. The pads are typically equipped with multiple layers of absorbent materials (e.g., rayon, cotton, and plastic) to soak up the menstrual blood and have an adhesive side that is to be attached to the inner linings of underwear.
Tampons are designed to be inserted into the vagina canal to collect menstrual flow. Just like sanitary pads, tampons are available in different absorbency levels. Additionally, tampons also come in two main types of applicators: applicator tampons and non-applicator tampons. Applicator tampons have a plastic or cardboard applicator that helps with insertion, while non-applicator tampons are inserted directly using a finger.
Image source: mooncup.co.uk
Tampons should be inserted into the vagina using the applicator or finger until the tampon is comfortably positioned near the cervix. The tampon expands to absorb menstrual flow once inside the vagina. It is important to ensure that the tampon is placed properly to prevent discomfort and leakage– this takes practice and getting used to. To remove a tampon, gently pull the string downwards until the tampon is fully outside the vagina.
The truth is, menstrual cups are not new inventions! They have always been around since the early 1930s but it wasn’t until recently that the use gained large popularity. Menstrual cups are typically made of medical-grade silicone, latex rubber, or elastomer. They are bell-shaped and flexible.
Image source: saalt.com
To insert a menstrual cup, fold it and then insert it into the vagina. Once inside, the cup opens up and forms a seal against the vaginal walls, collecting menstrual fluid. The cup should be positioned below the cervix but not too low.
To remove a menstrual cup, it is gently squeezed or pinched at the base to break the seal and then pulled out. The contents of the cup can be emptied into the toilet, sink, or a designated container. After emptying, the cup should be rinsed with water before reinsertion. At the end of your cycle, sterilise the cup with hot water. Just like your sanitary pads and tampons, menstrual cups come in different sizes to accommodate variations in cervix height and flow.
Not many have heard of menstrual discs. Its mechanism is rather similar to menstrual cups, just that the design is different. Menstrual discs have a round or oval shape with a flat, flexible rim. They come in different sizes to accommodate variations in vaginal anatomy and flow. Some brands offer multiple sizes, while others have a one-size-fits-all design. They are typically made of silicone.
Image source: saalt.com
Unlike menstrual cups, the disc is designed to be placed higher in the vaginal fornix, behind the cervix to collect menstrual flow. Insert a menstrual disc, it is folded and squeezed into a more compact shape. It is then inserted into the vagina, aiming towards the back, and pushed back until it is positioned behind the cervix. Removal involves hooking one of your fingers behind the rim of the disc and pulling it out.
These look and feel just like your normal underwear. However, they have built-in multiple absorbent layers of fabric, including an inner absorbent layer made of materials like cotton, microfiber, or bamboo charcoal. These layers are designed to quickly absorb and wick away moisture, keeping you feeling dry and comfortable. Period panties can hold varying amounts of fluid, depending on the brand and style. Most period panties are reusable and can be washed and worn again. After use, they should be rinsed or soaked in cold water to prevent staining and then washed using a gentle detergent. Some brands also offer specific washing instructions to maintain the effectiveness and longevity of the absorbent layers.
All in All
With a wide range of menstrual products available, it's important to find the one that best suits your needs and preferences. Don't be afraid to explore new options and step outside your comfort zone. Whether it's menstrual pads, tampons, menstrual cups, menstrual discs, or other innovative products, each has its unique benefits. Embrace the opportunity to enhance your menstruation experience and discover what works best for you. By choosing the right product, you can feel confident, liberated, and in control. Always remember, it's your body, your cycle, and your empowerment to choose what works best for you.
This article is written by Ke Feng, Bpharm(Hons) DOC2US,
reviewed by Dr. Lee Siew Ling, MD (DOC2US).
Chavez-MacGregor, M., van Gils, C. H., van der Schouw, Y. T., Monninkhof, E., van Noord, P. A., & Peeters, P. H. (2008). Lifetime cumulative number of menstrual cycles and serum sex hormone levels in postmenopausal women. Breast cancer research and treatment, 108(1), 101–112. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10549-007-9574-z
International Planned Parenthood Federation. (2020). Periods products: What are the options? Retrieved from https://www.ippf.org/blogs/period-products-what-are-options
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