How many times have you walked past or accidentally walked down the mysterious Feminine Hygiene aisle in the drug store and been overwhelmed by the choices? Maybe your partner has sent you to the store on a mission to buy pads without specific information and you encounter The Feminine Hygiene Wall of Choice.
Imagine being a 12 year old girl, anxious about getting your first period and everything that means, and having to decide between pads, pantyliners, tampons or cups. Imagine trying to figure out the best brand and which bells and whistles to choose. If it is intimidating for us as men and dads, it is probably 10 times as intimidating and embarrassing for our daughters.
You can help.
This is the third post in my Dad Guide: Talking to your daughter about her period and menstruation series. The first post Dad Guide: Menstruation covered the basics of the biological process of menstruation. The second post Dad Guide: Your Daughter’s Period covers how to support your daughter and help her prepare for her first period. The next and final post includes information about tampons and menstrual cups, so that combined with this one you can help your daughter make an informed decision about what products are right for her.
This series is not sponsored by or affiliated with any maker of any menstrual products, and I am not promoting any specific brand or type of product. This post contains images of some of the available products. I’ve avoided specific brand names where possible. That was not always possible as I furtively took photos in the drug store. Any brand names shown should not be taken as a recommendation or endorsement.
Once all of the posts are done I’ll bundle them together into an e-book along with content from my previous post on How to talk with your kids about sex and sexual health. The e-book will be exclusively available to newsletter subscribers. If you would like a copy when it is done, there is an opportunity to sign up for my monthly newsletter at the end of this post.
Pads vs. Pantyliners
If this is your first trip down the aisle you might be wondering what the difference is between a pad and a pantyliner – I know I was. Like most men I don’t give much thought to products that I don’t use. I have been sent on buying missions before and always with specific brand and feature instructions so I only had to find (or hunt and gather) what I was told to get. I didn’t need to know exactly what I was buying or how it worked.
Pantyliners are a thinner pad. They have limited absorption capacity. A woman would typically wear one to protect her underwear when she is anticipating the start of her period or towards the end of her period when the final drops of blood are still clearing her system. A woman may also choose to wear a pantyliner if she is using a tampon or menstrual cup and wants extra protection if she is concerned about leakage.
Pads are used by some women, others may use tampons or menstrual cups to manage their monthly period. Pads are absorbent materials that a woman will place on or attach to the crotch of her underwear to catch and absorb the menstrual blood when her uterus sheds its lining every month. There are disposable and reusable pads. Most of the pads you see in pharmacies are of the disposable variety.
Pads & Pantyliners: Options
Disposable pads and pantyliners come with a wide range of options:
- Various magical absorbent materials
- Various thicknesses of pads
- Scented products (these can cause more skin irritation than unscented products, especially for girls with sensitive skin and/or allergies)
- Pads for heavy menstrual flows vs. lighter blood flows
- Options for how to attach the pad or pantyliner to the underwear
- Different pads for daytime vs. nighttime
- Pads for adults or pads for teens
Every woman is different and every woman will find what works best for her in her circumstances. I have only one recommendations when it comes to the various options of disposable pads as I am in no position to judge the value of the various options.
My one recommendation is that when you are helping your daughter prepare for or purchase pads or pantyliners is to look for those products designed for teens. They are smaller and may be more comfortable for your daughter. It may turn out that she requires products designed for heavier flows. During the adolescent years some girls experience significant irregularity in their periods as their bodies shift into gear. They may experience heavy bleeding and the smaller teen pads may be insufficient.
Reusable Menstrual Pads
You will often need to look for the reusable pads online. Disposable pads are more convenient. However they also contain chemicals and for some girls and women, those chemicals can cause skin irritation and itchiness.
Disposable pads – as the name suggests – are made to be thrown out, which means they end up in landfills, and some women will prefer to reduce their impact on the environment by using reusable pads.
While reusable pads are unlikely to contain the chemicals that can cause irritation, rashes, allergic reactions and toxic shock syndrome (more on that in the post on tampons and cups), they do need to be cleaned and washed. Similar to reusable diapers, they require laundering and therefore you will likely consume extra water, detergent and electricity.
Reusable pads are typically more expensive per package. They are, however, cheaper in the long run since they only need to be purchased once.
Disposal of Used Pads and Pantyliners
Any discussion about pads and pantyliners with your daughters should also include information about how to dispose of used products. Toilets and municipal waste water systems are not good friends with menstrual pads. These are not products that degrade easily in water. You and your daughter may be uncomfortable and embarrassed having the conversation about her period and pads. She will be more embarrassed if she flushes the pad down the toilet and the toilet gets blocked up and overflows as a result – especially if it results in a call to the plumber to resolve the issue.
In many public washrooms there are disposal containers for used pads and liners. I had the opportunity to empty these containers in the bathrooms and outhouses during a summer lifeguarding/park maintenance worker at a campground. I can tell you that on many days emptying these containers was one of the easier things I did. At home there isn’t typically a designated waste bin and there is no need for one if you already have a garbage bin in in the same room as the toilet.
Regardless of public or private toilets, the soiled pad should be wrapped up and thrown in the garbage. Toilet paper, wrappers for a new pad, and plastic bags all make excellent wrappers. Remind your daughter that soiled products contain blood and blood can contain pathogens which can be harmful to other people. It can also make an unappealing mess for other people to clean up if the pads are not properly disposed of. If you have animals at home, you may want to consider placing a trash can in the bathroom with a lid that they cannot open. Animals may be attracted to the scent of blood and root through the bin to find and eat the pad. I think we can all agree that is not an appealing outcome. You may also want to keep a supply of small plastic bags in the bathroom that can be used for pad disposal.
Hand washing after disposing of used pads is of course very important.
Supporting Your Daughter
Your daughter is going to be anxious about her first period and puberty generally. The average age that girls have their first period is between the ages of 12 and 13 in North America and much of the world. Talking with your daughter before her periods start and helping her choose pads and pantyliners to include in a kit that she can carry with her will help to ease her anxiety. Talking with her about how to dispose of those products properly will also help her be prepared.
Tampons and Menstrual Cups
The next and final post in this series focuses on tampons and menstrual cups to help you learn about the other products available and factors to consider when advising your daughter on her choices for managing her period.
Please let me know if you have any questions or topics you would like to see addressed in this series and the e-book. Submit them in the comments below or by email to dadgoesround (at) gmail.com.
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Sign up now for my monthly newsletter and as soon as the e-book is ready, you will receive a copy. It and other upcoming Dad Guide e-books will only be available to newsletter subscribers. In addition to the content about menstruation and how to talk with your daughter, there will also be information about all the different feminine hygiene products and options available so that you can help your daughter make decisions about which of the dizzying array of choices are right for her.
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