Menstrual Products

Menstruation represents periodical discharge from the uterus occurring in women from puberty to menopause. Sales within the feminine supplies market are essentially driven by the needs of menstruating women, whose numbers are dictated by changes or growth of the population. Plenty of effort has been put to establish legislation in order to make feminine products safer, as well as to specify the ingredients on these packages.

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There are two principal types of menstrual products; those that give external protection and those for internal protection. External protection from pads and party-liners absorb the menstrual flow after it leaves the body, whereas internal protection products, such as tampons, are inserted into the vagina to absorb the menstrual flow before it leaves the body. Menstrual products are more commonly divided into disposable and reusable items.

Disposable menstrual items

Sanitary napkins, which is another term used to describe menstrual pads, are rectangular hygiene absorbent products that are preferred by women on light-flow days or when spotting is present. The absorbent pad is the most important component of a sanitary napkin, which is made of wood pulp mixed with super absorbent polymers for enhancing fluid holding capacity. There is a trend to make pads that are thinner and less bulky without compromising on their level of protection.

Tampons absorb the menstrual fluid inside the body (vagina) after it has left the uterus, thus offering very discreet protection. Tampons are mainly composed of rayon, cotton cellulosic absorbent material, or a mixture of these fibers. These feminine hygiene products can be used throughout the reproductive age, starting with the first menstrual bleeding (menarche) of young girls until the last menstrual bleeding or menopause.

Menstrual cups have been around for as long as tampons, but are not as widely used. These products are inserted into the vagina where they collect blood. Notably, menstrual cups be safely worn up to 12 hours, which is why they are preferred by some women as a tampon alternative. These products are primarily made of silicone or latex and can last up to 10 years, depending on the brand.

A significant proportion of women who are using tampons for their menstruation, particularly tampons that are designed to be super absorbent, are prone to develop toxic shock syndrome (TSS). TSS is a rare, albeit life-threatening bacterial infection caused by certain types of bacteria, namely Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes.

Reusable menstrual items

Menstrual cups are small, flexible items worn inside the vagina that capture the menstrual fluids during menstruation. There are several brands of menstrual cups that are shaped like a large cervical cap and made from various materials, namely rubber or silicone in reusable versions. These items can last up to 10 years or longer and come in two sizes that include before vaginal childbirth size and after vaginal childbirth size.

Cloth pads are used both as a primary product, and also to supplement or interchange with products for internal protection. These reusable pads can be made from flannel, terry cloth, and, often organic, cotton. In fact, some women can even sew their own pads. Reusable cloth pads can be soaked in cold water with vinegar or other natural disinfectants, rinsed out, and then subsequently washed in the regular laundry.

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Sea sponges that naturally grow in the oceans are good synthetic-free options for women. Such natural sea sponge tampons are worn inside the vagina just like a regular tampon to absorb menstrual flow. Sea sponges often have floss tied around them to mimic a conventional tampon string. Unlike tampons, sea sponges can be reused, although proper disinfection is needed between cycles and uses.

Padded panties containing washable absorbent pads are economical and preferred alternatives for women with allergies to synthetic materials that are often used in disposable pads. A draw sheet, towel, or blanket can be placed between legs at night in order to absorb menstrual flow. The advantage of these products is that they can be removed when necessary, leaving the original clean sheet on the bed.


Further Reading

Last Updated: May 23, 2021

Dr. Tomislav Meštrović

Written by

Dr. Tomislav Meštrović

Dr. Tomislav Meštrović is a medical doctor (MD) with a Ph.D. in biomedical and health sciences, specialist in the field of clinical microbiology, and an Assistant Professor at Croatia's youngest university - University North. In addition to his interest in clinical, research and lecturing activities, his immense passion for medical writing and scientific communication goes back to his student days. He enjoys contributing back to the community. In his spare time, Tomislav is a movie buff and an avid traveler.


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