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Pads and other ways to take care of your period

feminine products.

There are lots of products for taking care of your period. You might decide you like sanitary pads or tampons best. Or, you might decide to use pads sometimes and tampons or menstrual cups other times. Try different products to find the right ones for you.

It’s normal to feel nervous or shy about buying pads or tampons at first. But getting your period is a normal part of life. Need help? Ask your mom, older sister, or someone else you trust which products she likes.

Here’s some great advice about using products for your period: To stay safe, always follow the instructions on the packaging and wash your hands before and after use. And remember to shower or take a bath regularly during your period. Read below for more info.

What you should know about pads arrow. top

  • Pads stick to the inside of your underwear and soak up the blood that comes out through the vagina. A sticky strip holds them in place on your underwear.
  • Some pads are thinner for days when your period is light, and some are thicker for when you are bleeding more. You can also use these thicker pads at night when you sleep.
  • Check your pad every couple of hours during the day to see if it needs changing. You should change it before it is soaked with blood or starts to smell.
  • No one can see that you are wearing a pad, so don’t worry about that.
  • If you are concerned about any smell, changing pads often and keeping up good hygiene will help control this. You do not need to use deodorant or scented pads (which sometimes can irritate your skin or vagina).
  • You can use a panty liner, which is a very thin pad, together with a tampon if you want extra protection. Or you can use a liner alone on light days.
  • You probably don’t want to wear pads when you swim. They can soak up lots of water and get bulky, and then can leak when you get out of the water. You could try a tampon instead.

What you should know about tampons arrow. top

  • A tampon goes inside your vagina to soak up blood before it leaves your body. Instructions come with tampons to show you how to put them in. Using tampons sometimes takes practice.
  • Some tampons have a plastic or cardboard covering that makes it easier for you to put the tampon in. This is called the applicator. Do not leave the applicator inside your vagina.
  • All tampons have a string at the end. This string helps you take the tampon out when it needs to be changed.
  • You need to change your tampon at least every four to eight hours. If you think you might sleep for more than eight hours, it's a good idea not to use a tampon overnight.
  • Tampons will not get lost in your vagina or “slip up.”
  • You can wear tampons when you swim. Water does not enter your vagina.
  • If you have trouble putting in a tampon, you might try a smaller one or one with an applicator. If you really cannot get it in, you might see your doctor.
  • It is very important to use the tampon with the lowest level of absorbency for your needs.
    • On heavy days, you may need a “super” tampon, and as your flow gets lighter, you may need only a “regular” tampon. Or, you may need a “regular” tampon on heavy days, and then can switch to a “lite” tampon for lighter days.
    • If you remove the tampon after four to eight hours and find that some white material is still showing, you should use a lower absorbency.
    • If a tampon absorbs as much as it can before four hours, you might want to try a higher absorbency.
  • Girls who have never had sex can use a tampon. You might try a “slender” tampon at first because they can be easier to put in. What about your virginity? Some people think having a torn hymen (the covering to the vagina) means you aren’t a virgin. Using a tampon might stretch or tear your hymen — or it might not. But doctors say that changes to your hymen do not mean you aren’t a virgin. Having sex means you aren’t a virgin.
  • Scented tampons can cause irritation. It’s best not to use scented tampons. If you’re concerned about smell, make sure to wash daily and change your tampon regularly.
  • What is toxic shock syndrome (TSS)? 

    Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a very rare but dangerous illness that affects your whole body. TSS is caused by certain types of bacteria that make poisons. Tampons may make it easier for bacteria to grow in your body, so read our info on using tampons safely. You can also get TSS if bacteria get into an open skin wound, so make sure to clean all wounds well with the help of an adult.

  • You could be at risk for toxic shock syndrome (TSS) if you use tampons that are too absorbent or don’t change them often enough. You can avoid TSS by not using tampons at all, changing them often, or by switching back and forth between tampons and pads. The symptoms of TSS can be caused by many other illnesses, but make sure to tell an adult and call a doctor if you are using tampons and have the following:
    • High fever that comes on all of a sudden
    • Vomiting or diarrhea
    • Muscle pains
    • Dizziness or fainting
    • A rash that looks like sunburn
    • Redness of eyes, mouth, and throat
    • Strange vaginal discharge (fluid)
    • A feeling of confusion

It is important to get medical help right away if you have any of the above symptoms after using a tampon. Doctors treat TSS with antibiotics.

Other ways to care for your period arrow. top

You may not know about alternative period products that are natural or reusable. Some girls choose items such as menstrual cups or reusable pads because they feel they are better for their bodies and for the environment.

If you’re interested in trying these, you may find them in your local supermarket or drugstore. If not, you can go to a natural foods store or buy them online. Here are some options:

    • Menstrual cups. You put a small cup into your vagina to collect blood. Some cups are for one-time use. Others are emptied, washed well, and reused.
    • Reusable pads. These are pads that are washed and reused. Usually, you would put a cloth pad into a liner that attaches to your underwear. You change the pad as needed and wash it according to the maker’s instructions. These pads are more expensive than disposable ones, but they save money over time because they last for years.
    • Reusable menstrual sponges. These are natural sponges from the ocean floor. They work the same way tampons do. Follow the company’s instructions for changing them (usually after around three to four hours) and washing them. Just like with regular tampons, it may be possible to get toxic shock syndrome from sea sponges.
    • Non-chlorine bleached all-cotton pads and tampons. These are disposable like regular tampons and pads, but they are made without chemicals. They are usually more expensive than other pads or tampons.


Content last reviewed April 15, 2014
Page last updated May 23, 2014