Not every female experiences the same menstrual cycle, so throw “normal” out the window once you get to know your body. You know your normal. Some women start their period off with heavy bleeding and others start theirs off with light bleeding. The initially heavy bleeders may end light while the initially light bleeders end heavy. So, how often should you change your pad?
How often to change your pad will depend on the rate of your flow. Many women tend to experience a slower rate of flow toward the end of the period and may change their pads two or three times a day. For women who start off light, this will apply to the start of their cycle instead. But if you find yourself asking “when should you change your pad?” then read on for some pointers.
Pad Changes for Hygiene
You should always change your pad, period. Experts recommend putting on a new pad every six hours, even if the stain runs small. Your rate of change increases with a heavier flow, and some women may need to change their pad every four hours.
But what happens when you wear a pad too long? A stained pad left in place for hours begins to smell foul and may lead to infections and skin rashes, aside from possibly making you feel anxious, too.
Contact dermatitis causes most rashes from pads where something therein irritated your skin, such as bacteria or a sensitive reaction to the pad itself, which is rare. One study stated 0.7 percent of skin rashes came from allergic reactions to an adhesive in pads. Another study reported that maxi pad irritations accounted for only one per two million pads used.
The back sheet of a pad is made of polyolefins which are used in ropes, clothing and straws. The absorbent part contains material wood cellulose and absorbent foam and sometimes gels. The top sheet commonly comes into contact with your skin the most and includes petrolatum and zinc oxide, used in moisturizers, along with polyolefins. Adhesives and fragrances can also irritate your skin.
You may experience a sensitivity to one of those substances, or more likely simple friction, if you change your pad every two or three hours and notice a rash. Leaving your pad on for too long also exposes you to bacterial infection.
Pad Changes for Comfort
How often should you change your pad? When you need to and when you feel like it.
Change your pad as frequently as you want to feel clean and comfortable. Women change their pads primarily for three reasons: saturation, hygiene and comfort. A bulky, soaked pad starts feeling like a weight after a while, and that makes no one feel better on top of dealing with bloating and cramps.
Take a look at these commercial pads and how they may apply to your absorbency needs:
- Overnight pad: These suckers feel like diapers and tend to be thick, but they absorb all night long. All night! Longer pads, thick or thin, will help absorb stains as you toss and turn during sleep. If you can’t check your pad every two to four hours, better stick one of these suckers on to get through the day, but remember the six-hour hygiene rule.
- Heavy flow: Many women experience a heavy flow at the start of their period. Like overnight pads, heavy flow pads offer increased absorbency and longer wear times in addition to their length. Change these every three to six hours, depending on your flow.
- Regular flow: Your normal is your normal. Regular flow pads work well for moderate bleeding, but you may need to change these closer to every three or four hours, depending on your flow. They can last up to six hours.
- Light flow: These wafer-thin pads catch your flow, and many women know them as panty liners, wearing them for barely-there periods, low flow and spotting. These can also last up to six hours.
Be wary with light flow pads on your first day because a light period in the morning can turn into a royal deluge by the afternoon. Every cycle can shift, and stress also makes your period irregular, creating less, more or a no-show Aunt Flo. When irregular becomes your new norm, you need to see your gynecologist for possible underlying problems.
How Often Should You Change Your Pad?
So how often should you change your pad? If your light period creates a little spot around four hours, you can push it to six hours if comfortable, but do change your period for hygiene and comfort. Remember to check your pad every two to four hours, and change your pad if saturated, unsanitary or uncomfortable.
The latter includes if your pad decides it wants to become a snowboard and glide around in your undies. When your pad gets a mind of its own, it’s time to reconsider wings!