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Menstrual Health

5 Alternative Menstrual Products to Try in 2024 

Thinking of moving beyond traditional pads? We explore options, from menstrual cups to period panties and beyond, to help you find what suits you best and what doctors recommend. 

May 30, 2024

9 min read

Written by Aasia Merchant
Medically Reviewed by 

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A person holding different menstrual products

Did you know that more than 300 million women worldwide are menstruating on any given day? Pads are one of the most commonly used menstrual products. In India alone, roughly 121 million women use an average of 8 disposable pads monthly.

While getting your period might not be an exciting experience, managing it in 2024 has certainly become much easier with brands mushrooming with diverse period care products. Gone are the days when a traditional plastic pad was the only option to wear during your period. Today, we’re spoilt for choice between period underwear, menstrual cups, tampons, and many others. Whether you're just starting your journey or you’re a seasoned pro, this guide is here to help you explore different period products, understand what doctors recommend, and find your perfect period match.

But first, do you need to move away from traditional sanitary pads?

Disposable menstrual pads are 90% plastic and are always in direct contact with the skin for several hours. Wearing plastic, along with friction from pad movement against the skin, chemical sensitivity to materials used in pads, such as synthetic fibres, fragrances, or dyes and trapped warm moisture in an intimate area can not only feel uncomfortable but may leave you with rashes, irritated skin and itchiness. 

It is worth considering that not everyone experiences this kind of discomfort; however, for those who do, having alternative period products on hand can bring relief.

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It is not very uncommon to come across rashes and itching secondary to the use of sanitary pads. Potential causes include friction of the vulval region, irritation from prolonged usage, and even an allergic reaction to the materials that go into making the pad.

Dr Vishesha Yadav, Gynaecologist and Fertility Consultant

Dr Vishesha Yadav, Gynaecologist and Fertility Consultant, cautions, “It is not very uncommon to come across rashes and itching secondary to the use of sanitary pads. Potential causes include friction of the vulval region, irritation from prolonged usage, and even an allergic reaction to the materials that go into making the pad. Sanitary pads have an adhesive backing and are not always made from pure cotton. They are often mixed with synthetic materials and bleached with dioxin to give them that white appearance. These substances can act as EDCs or endocrine-disrupting chemicals, causing various gynaecological pathologies. To add to this, the vaginal tissues absorb chemicals rapidly without metabolising them first, and hence it's important to use safe, biodegradable organic products.”

5 alternative period products to try

1. Reusable cloth pads

Reusable cloth pads

A reusable pad offers a comfortable and eco-friendly alternative to traditional disposable options. Made from natural, washable materials like cotton or bamboo, these pads absorb your menstrual flow instead of trapping it.

Similar to disposable pads, reusable pads stay secure with wings that fold around your underwear and snap into place. While you change them based on absorbency and flow, just like disposable pads, the key difference lies in their reusability. After use, simply wash and sun-dry your reusable pad for future cycles, saving money and reducing waste compared to disposable options.

Wear time

Recommended wear time for reusable pads depends on your individual flow. As a general guideline, you should change your reusable pad every 4-6 hours.


  • They require washing and drying after each use, which may be inconvenient for people with busy schedules or limited access to laundry facilities. 
  • Carrying used pads also requires a designated storage solution, like a wet bag, for hygiene purposes. 
  • Finally, the initial cost of purchasing a set of reusable pads can be higher than buying disposable pads for a single period, and their availability might be limited in certain regions. 

2. Tampons


A tampon is a small, cylindrical piece of absorbent material, usually made of cotton, that is inserted into the vagina (with or without applicator) during menstruation to absorb menstrual blood. Tampons have a string attached to one end for easy removal. When inserted, the tampon expands to absorb menstrual fluid, preventing it from leaking out of the vagina. 

Wear time

Recommended wear time for tampons depends on your individual flow. As a general guideline, you should change your tampon every 4-6 hours.


  • First, learning to insert and remove them can be a challenge, especially for first-time users. 
  • Leaving a tampon in for too long carries a rare but serious risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). 
  • Some individuals may experience discomfort and dryness, particularly with extended wear. Choosing the right absorbency is crucial, as using one too absorbent can cause dryness, while a lighter option might lead to leaks.

Dr Vishesha adds, “Menstrual toxic shock syndrome is an uncommon condition caused due to the bacteria staphylococcus aureus, usually after using high-absorbency tampons. According to studies, it occurs in 1 to 3 women out of almost 1 lakh menstruating women. It can occur if tampons are used for more than 6 hours at a stretch and due to prolonged overnight use. It is also important to follow hygienic menstrual practices while inserting and removing a tampon. Recognising early signs of TSS like fever, low blood pressure, foul vaginal discharge and treating with timely antibiotics can avoid serious consequences of TSS.”

3. Period Panties

Period panties

Period panties or underwear are designed to be worn during menstruation to absorb menstrual blood and prevent leaks. They are available in both disposable and reusable options.

Disposable period panties are made from materials similar to disposable pads. They are designed for single-use and are discarded after each wear.

Reusable period panties are like regular underwear with built-in superpowers. They have hidden layers that absorb your period and are designed to soak up menstrual fluid like a sponge. You can wash and properly sun dry and reuse them, making them eco-friendly and budget-friendly in the long run. They come in different styles (briefs, thongs, etc.) and colours too.

Wear time

This depends on your individual flow, but It’s recommended that you don’t wear the same pair for more than 8 hours.


  • They require washing and drying after each use
  • Used panties require a designated storage solution
  • The initial cost of purchasing a set of reusable period panties can be high in comparison to traditional options.

What fellow menstruators have to say

"I've been using plastic pads since my first period at 12. I've not experienced any negative side effects, but over the years, I have grown into a financially stable woman who actively practices a low-waste lifestyle. So, hunting for alternatives has been more of a privileged personal choice than anything else. My experience with reusable period panties has been very positive. I find them very comfortable, hygienic and durable. They do cost a pretty penny, and it's critical to know how to wash them thoroughly, but they are a great alternative for anyone who is not keen on using an insertable product during their period." – Erica Miranda, 30, on switching to reusable period panties

“Period panties have been revolutionary—they're convenient and comfortable (yes, they remain dry while you bleed into them), I can wear them for a longer time than I can a napkin or tampon, they're cotton and good for my skin, I don't have to stress about Toxic Shock Syndrome, and now they even come with lace trims. The trick to choosing the right one is to pick the right fit, where the gusset sits snug but comfortable. Therefore no leaks, even when you're sprawled in bed. I'm just waiting for an enthusiastic germaphobe to invent a better way of rinsing them because right now, that's the only (minor-ish) hiccup.” – Rituparna Som, 44, on reusable period panties

4. Menstrual Cups

Menstrual Cups

Menstrual cups are flexible, bell-shaped devices made of silicone/rubber that are inserted into the vagina during menstruation to collect menstrual fluid. They work by creating a seal against the walls of the vagina, collecting blood instead of absorbing it like tampons or pads. After use, the menstrual cup is emptied, rinsed, and reinserted. After the menstrual cycle is over, the cup can be sterilised and stored for future use.

Wear time

Recommended wear time for tampons depends on your individual flow. Unlike other menstrual products, a menstrual cup can be worn for up to 12 hours.


  • Mastering the insertion and removal process involves a learning curve, which can be difficult for some users. 
  • If the cup is not positioned correctly or overflows, there is potential for leaks, leading to potential messiness and discomfort. 
  • Removing the cup may also pose difficulties, particularly if it forms a tight seal against the vaginal walls. 
  • Maintenance is another consideration, as menstrual cups require regular cleaning and sterilisation to prevent bacterial growth.

Dr Vishesha says, “Leaving menstrual products in the vagina for longer periods can trigger vaginal irritation and even toxic shock syndrome. A study from 2019 published in the Lancet journal showed 5 such case reports of TSS with the use of menstrual cups. Good practice points include washing your hands well before inserting and removing your cup. The use of a plain water-based lube can help with the easy insertion of the cup.”

What fellow menstruators have to say

“For me, using a menstrual cup has been a game-changer, honestly. It's cheaper, reusable, and doesn't cause any discomfort or rashes. Plus, I don't have to worry about running out of pads or finding a trash can.” – Preshita Jagtap, 24.

“I realised, like, sometimes you feel like you're not even on your period because it just makes things so much easier... It's a big game-changer with respect to elevating your period comfort. I mean, I love it." – Shruti Maheshwari, 28.

“What happens is over a period of time, it is much, much better than any other sanitary product I've used. Somehow, my cramps also went down.  What makes it better than other period products that I've used is it is not messy and I never stain. Obviously, it's way more sustainable. I really got to know my body a little bit better through this whole experience. It’s helped me be more comfortable with my period and my own body”. – Sreya Bose, 36.

5. Menstrual discs

Menstrual discs are flexible, disc-shaped devices made of silicone or similar materials that are inserted into the vaginal canal to collect menstrual blood. Unlike menstrual cups, which sit in the vaginal canal, menstrual discs are positioned higher up near the cervix. They work by creating a seal against the vaginal walls, collecting menstrual blood before it exits the body. To remove a menstrual disc, users need to hook their finger under the rim and gently pull it out, being careful not to spill the collected blood.

Like menstrual cups, they can be emptied, rinsed, and reinserted after use. After the menstrual cycle is over, the disc can be sterilised and stored for future use.

Wear time

Recommended wear time for tampons depends on your individual flow.  Menstrual discs can be worn for 10 hours.


  • They can be difficult to insert and remove, especially for individuals who are new to using them. 
  • Additionally, some people may find that menstrual discs are less comfortable than other menstrual products, particularly if they are not positioned correctly. 
  • Leakage can also be a concern with menstrual discs, especially if they are not positioned correctly or if they become dislodged during physical activity. 
  • Menstrual discs may not be suitable for everyone, particularly those with certain medical conditions or anatomical differences.

Setting the Record Straight on Menstrual Myths with Dr Vishesha Yadav

  1. Pads need not be changed so frequently: It is best to change your pad at least every 4-5 hours to avoid unwanted vaginal infections.
  2. One size fits all: Depending on your age, period pattern and comfort, make sure you choose the right size of pad or menstrual cup to have a hassle-free experience.
  3. It is difficult to pee with a tampon or a menstrual cup in the vagina: Not at all; urine is passed through the urethra, an opening just below the clitoris. Hence, the menstrual cup doesn’t disrupt the peeing.
  4. You cannot exercise or swim with a tampon or menstrual cup: Actually, it is best to use them if you lead an active lifestyle. When inserted properly, you can engage in all kinds of exercises without any fear of leaking.
  5. Can you lose a tampon or menstrual cup in the vagina: The vaginal canal is closed at one end, so rest assured! The tampon or the menstrual cup cannot really get lost. It can shift in position, making it difficult to remove; but it can definitely be located. If you are unable to do so, please visit your gynaecologist for professional help.
  6. Tampons can make one lose their virginity: Hymen is a thin membrane surrounding the opening of the vagina. It can thin out and tear even with strenuous exercises! So, using tampons will not make you lose your virginity.

Remember, there's no single "right" way to manage your period.  Explore the options available and experiment to find what works best for you. Don't hesitate to ask questions and seek advice from a healthcare professional.  

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