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Menstrual Pads - Community Questions Answered

Updated: Nov 24, 2023

In the realm of menstrual hygiene products, pads stand as one of the most recognizable and widely used options. Providing comfort, protection, and convenience, pads have been a staple for individuals navigating their menstrual cycles. From their humble beginnings to the diverse array of choices available today, pads have undergone significant evolution. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the world of pads, exploring their history, types, benefits, and considerations. Whether you're a newcomer to the world of periods or seeking to expand your knowledge, join us as we journey through the realm of pads, uncovering their significance and the ways they've impacted menstruating individuals across the globe.

How do pads work?

Pads, also known as sanitary pads or menstrual pads, are designed to absorb menstrual blood during a person's period. They typically consist of a soft, absorbent core, a moisture barrier layer, and an adhesive backing to keep the pad in place within underwear. The core of the pad is made of materials such as wood pulp, cotton, or synthetic fibers that can absorb and hold the menstrual flow. The moisture barrier layer helps prevent leakage, and the pad's shape and wings (if present) provide added protection and secure fit.

When worn, the pad absorbs menstrual blood, drawing it into the absorbent core and away from the body. The pad helps keep the wearer dry and comfortable while providing protection against leaks. Pads should be changed regularly to maintain hygiene and prevent odor. Learn more about our unique reusable menstrual products.

How are single-use pads made?

The specific manufacturing process can vary among different brands and types of pads. Generally, pads are made using a combination of automated machinery and manual labor. The process typically involves the following steps:

a. Material Preparation: The raw materials, such as wood pulp, cotton, or synthetic fibers, are prepared and processed. These materials may be mixed and treated to enhance absorbency and create the desired properties.

b. Core Formation: The absorbent core of the pad is formed by layering the prepared materials. The layers may be bonded together using adhesives or other methods to create a cohesive structure.

c. Top Sheet and Back Sheet: A soft, non-woven fabric is typically used as the top sheet, which comes in contact with the skin. A moisture barrier layer, usually made of plastic or film, is added as the back sheet to prevent leakage.

d. Shape and Design: The pad is cut into the desired shape, such as rectangular or contoured, and wings may be added to enhance stability and prevent side leakage.

e. Packaging: Once the pads are made, they are individually wrapped and packaged for hygiene and convenience.

Can you use pads while swimming?

Standard pads are not designed to be worn while swimming. When pads come into contact with water, they become saturated and lose their absorbency capabilities. Additionally, the adhesive backing may not effectively stick to the skin when wet, leading to potential shifting or discomfort.

For swimming during menstruation, alternative options are available. Menstrual cups, which are inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual flow, are a popular choice for swimming as they do not absorb water. Some individuals also opt for period-proof swimwear or special swim-friendly menstrual pads that are designed specifically for use in water. These products are made with materials that are water-resistant, quick-drying, and provide protection against leaks while swimming.

It's important to choose the menstrual product that suits your needs and preferences. If you have specific concerns or questions about using pads while swimming, it's advisable to consult the instructions provided by the manufacturer or seek guidance from healthcare professionals or trusted sources specializing in menstrual health.

Do traditional pads contain chemicals?

Traditional pads can contain various chemicals, as they often include multiple components for absorbency, odor control, and adhesive purposes. Some of the common chemicals that may be present in traditional pads include:

  • Superabsorbent Polymers (SAPs): SAPs are commonly used in pads to enhance absorbency. They can absorb and retain significant amounts of liquid. While SAPs are generally considered safe, they are synthetic materials and may have undergone chemical processing during manufacturing.

  • Fragrances: Fragrances are sometimes added to pads to mask menstrual odors. These fragrances are typically synthetic and may cause skin irritation or allergic reactions in some individuals.

  • Adhesives: Adhesives are used to keep the pad in place. These adhesives can contain chemicals like styrene, which is a synthetic compound that may have potential health risks.

  • Dyes: Pads may be colored using dyes for aesthetic purposes. Some dyes may contain chemicals that could potentially cause skin irritation or allergies in some individuals.

  • Chlorine Bleaching: In the manufacturing process, some pads may be bleached with chlorine to achieve a bright white appearance. This process can create by-products called dioxins, which are considered environmental pollutants and may have harmful effects on human health in high concentrations.

It's important to note that regulations and manufacturing practices vary across different countries and brands. Some manufacturers have responded to consumer concerns and developed alternative options, such as organic pads or pads labeled as free from certain chemicals. These products may use organic or natural materials and avoid the use of certain chemicals that are commonly found in traditional pads.

If you have specific concerns about the chemicals present in menstrual pads, it is advisable to research and select products that align with your preferences and needs. Reading product labels, researching brands that prioritize transparency, and considering organic or alternative options may help you make more informed choices. Learn how to make your own Reusable Pads in our Courses Section.

Who invented pads and when?

Disposable pads, as we know them today, were invented by various individuals over time. Here's a brief history of the invention and development of menstrual pads:

  • Early Innovations: In ancient times, people used various materials as absorbents during menstruation. For instance, ancient Egyptians are believed to have used papyrus as a form of absorbent material.

  • Benjamin Franklin and Dr. Benjamin Joseph Smith: In the late 18th century, Benjamin Franklin and Dr. Benjamin Joseph Smith separately proposed designs for absorbent pads to manage menstrual flow. However, their designs were not widely adopted or commercially produced.

  • Johnson & Johnson: In the late 19th century, Johnson & Johnson, a well-known healthcare company, introduced Lister's Towels, which were the first commercial disposable sanitary napkins available in the United States. These early pads were made of cotton wool and became popular during that time.

  • Kimberly-Clark: In the early 20th century, Kimberly-Clark, another prominent company, introduced the first mass-produced disposable menstrual pads. In 1921, they released the Kotex brand, which quickly gained popularity.

  • Introduction of Modern Pads: Over the years, advancements in materials and technology led to the development of more comfortable and efficient menstrual pads. Features such as adhesive strips, wings, and thinner profiles were introduced to enhance comfort and prevent leakage.

It's important to recognize that throughout history, different cultures and individuals have used various materials and methods to manage menstrual flow. The invention and evolution of modern menstrual pads involved the contributions of multiple inventors and companies over time.

If you are interested in exploring more details about the history of menstrual pads, you may find additional information from historical records, medical literature, or archives related to women's health and hygiene.

How do I know what size pad I need?

When determining the size of pads you need, whether it's traditional disposable pads or reusable pads, there are a few factors to consider:

  • Menstrual Flow: Understanding your menstrual flow is essential in choosing the right pad size. If you have a heavier flow, you may need larger pads with higher absorbency to accommodate the amount of menstrual blood. For lighter flow, smaller pads or panty liners may be sufficient.

  • Pad Length and Coverage: Traditional disposable pads come in various lengths, typically measured in inches or centimeters. Longer pads offer more coverage and are suitable for individuals with a heavier flow or those who prefer additional protection. Shorter pads or panty liners are appropriate for lighter flow or towards the end of your period.

  • Body and Comfort: Consider your body shape and size when selecting pads. Pads should be wide enough to cover your underwear and provide a comfortable fit. Some individuals prefer pads with wings (flaps that fold over the sides of underwear) for added security and to prevent leakage.

  • Reusable Pad Considerations: Reusable pads often come in different sizes and shapes to cater to individual preferences. They may have similar absorbency levels as disposable pads but offer the advantage of being washable and reusable. When choosing reusable pads, consider factors such as length, width, and the number of absorbent layers to ensure they provide adequate coverage and absorption for your needs.

To determine the right size for both disposable and reusable pads, you can start by trying different options and observing how well they meet your specific requirements. It may take some trial and error to find the right fit and absorbency level that works best for you.

Additionally, many pad manufacturers provide size recommendations and guidelines on their packaging or websites, which can serve as a helpful reference when making your selection.

Remember, everyone's needs and preferences may vary, so it's important to choose pads that make you feel comfortable, protected, and confident during your menstrual period.

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As always, we are not doctors and you should consult a healthcare professional if you have any health concerns. This information is for educational purposes only and does not substitute for professional medical advice.

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