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Which period product is best?

Samantha Wild
Clinical Lead for Women's Health and Bupa GP
19 October 2022
Next review due October 2025

Choosing a product to use during your period used to be simple. Now there are so many different options, and it can be hard to know which one is right for you. Here I’ll discuss the different pros and cons of each type. I’ll also reveal whether you need to use a particular product if you have a condition such as endometriosis.

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What types of period product are there?

There are several different products available these days. Besides sanitary towels (pads) and tampons, there are now also period pants and menstrual cups. Which period product is best for you will depend on what type of period you have, as well as your personal preferences.

What is the best product for heavy periods?

If you bleed heavily, then you’ll want to make sure you are fully protected by your period product. For both sanitary pads and tampons you can choose the highest absorbency level to match your heavier flow. Some people like to use both a tampon and pad for extra protection.

You can also opt for a menstrual cup, which is able to hold the amount of three tampons’ worth of blood. Whilst you can get period pants for heavier flows, you may not like bleeding freely on heavier days.

If you’re struggling with heavy periods, then see a doctor to help you work out what the cause is. If you need to change your period product hourly, lose blood clots that are bigger than 2.5cm, or have flooding, you might have heavy periods.

Are tampons or pads better?

Whether you choose to use pads or tampons is a personal choice. Some women feel that pads are uncomfortable and may worry that they can be seen. Tampons are useful if you go swimming, but some women don’t like the idea of inserting a tampon or worry about toxic shock syndrome.

Toxic shock syndrome can happen when bacteria from your tampon enters your body. Changing your tampon regularly reduces your risk of this happening (every three or four hours, and more often if you have a heavy flow. Menstrual cups also carry a small risk of causing toxic shock syndrome if you leave them in too long (over eight hours).

What period product should I use?

If you have a condition such as endometriosis, you might be wondering which period product to use. There’s no specific product that works best for everyone with this condition. Instead, it comes down to what feels best for you and your lifestyle.

You might have read that there are harmful chemicals in regular period products. Some people have questioned if these may make endometriosis worse, but there’s not enough evidence to show that these chemicals cause or worsen reproductive conditions. If you would prefer to, you can choose to buy period products which contain organic cotton and less added chemicals.

When choosing which period product to use you could also consider the following factors.

Comfort

How do you feel when using the product? Do you feel as if you can wear what clothes you want? And carry out your daily activities (including exercise) without fear of leaks? Feeling that your period doesn’t stop you from living your life is important. Also bear in mind that you can wear a menstrual cup for around eight hours, and period pants for even longer. This can be useful if you’re travelling or out and about.

Cost

Depending on where you live, you may spend around £13 a month on your period products. Luckily there is now a step towards addressing these costs. In Scotland, for example, period products are now free for those who need them. It’s useful to how much using each product would cost you.

Whilst period pants can cost more initially, they can be reused for up to two years. This means that they can work out cheaper than using pads or tampons. You’ll need to make sure you have enough pairs to cover your entire period though. This is because period pants need to be machine washed, which can be expensive if done daily.

Environmental factors

If you want to choose an eco-friendlier product, then consider one that can be reused, such as a menstrual cup. A menstrual cup is also better for the environment because it doesn’t need to be machine-washed like period pants.

Even if you still prefer to stick to pads or tampons, there are now some more eco-friendly brands available. These aim to use recycled packaging, but they may also cost more for you to buy. Disposing of your period product packaging correctly can also help to reduce the environmental impact of these items.

Infographic: Which period product is best for me?

Bupa's Which period product is best for me? infographic (PDF, 0.2 MB), illustrates things to consider when choosing period products- factors such as comfort, cost and environmental impact.


Which period product is best for me? infographic - Bupa's guide to help you choose.

If you have heavy, painful, or irregular periods, you’ll know just how disruptive they can be, both physically and mentally. With our Period Plan, you don’t have to face these problems alone.

Samantha Wild
Dr Samantha Wild
Clinical Lead for Women's Health and Bupa GP

    • How much blood do you lose on your period? Healthline. www.healthline.com, updated May 2018.
    • Periods (menstruation). Bromley Public health service (NHS).www.bromley0to19.co.uk, 19 January 2019.
    • Toxic shock syndrome. Patient professional articles. www.patients.info, 30 September 2020
    • Gao C and Kannan K. Phthalates, bisphenols, parabens, and triclocarban in feminine hygiene products from the United States and their implications for human exposure. Environment International.2020. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2020.105465.
    • Average monthly cost of periods in the United Kingdom. www.statista.com, accessed 17 October 2022.
    • Period products act comes into force. Scottish government. www.gov.scot, published 14 August 2022.
    • Period underwear FAQ’s. www.theperiod.co, accessed 17 October 2022.
    • Eco period products compared: period pants, menstrual cups and more. Which UK. www.which.co.uk, 2 March 2022.
    • Best sustainable period products review. www.independent.co.uk, 21 April 2022.
    • Personal correspondence with Dr Sam Wild.

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