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.
Pad Alternatives for Different Circumstances
Perhaps you’ve read the above guidelines, tips and information regarding pads and still feel as though your period solution isn’t on the list. Not to worry — there are plenty of alternatives to pads that will help you get through the day comfortably and cleanly.
Most people choose between pads and tampons, and the debate wages on as to which option feels better and proves more convenient. Tampons have a shorter lifespan than pads, as you need to swap a tampon out for a fresh one every three to five hours. Also, you should never wear a tampon to bed or for longer than five hours. Doing so puts you at risk for toxic shock syndrome, a bacterial infection that affects the blood and can be fatal.
Beyond these two traditional options, more menstruation-related products have come onto the market, allowing you to truly customize your hygiene regimen. For instance, you can try a menstruation cup. The flexible receptacle can stay in place for up to 12 hours. When you remove it, you pour out its contents and clean it before reinserting it. This option produces little waste, making it eco-friendlier than pads and tampons.
To that end, you might also consider trying a washable pad. The 100-percent cotton option keeps your skin away from plastics, as well as fragrances, dyes and other ingredients you might not have realized were lingering within your store-bought pads. With gentler materials inside of the washable pad, their makers and users contend that you can wear them for longer, too.
Another pad-like option is the natural sea sponge. Because they come from nature, these sponges are also free of unwanted additives — bleach, synthetics, chlorine, fragrance, chemicals and dyes included. Plus, you can trim your sponge to the right size for a snugger sense of protection. You can even rewash and rewear your sponge up to six months before replacing it with a fresh one.
Period-proof underwear has also taken the menstruation market by storm. With these, you can get through a light-flow day without the help of a tampon, pad, cup or sponge. Instead, the underwear itself catches any droplets — you wash and rewear them afterward. If you use pads as a backup for your tampon on heavy flow days, the period-proof underwear could be a great alternative.
For many girls and women, the problem with pads is that they have to carry them to the bathroom, a task that’s not often subtle. If you’re tired of reaching for your purse or taking your makeup bag to the bathroom with you, you might want to try out some of these nonpad alternatives. They give you the same long wear without stress or frustration.
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 wear your pad for two more hours if you’re comfortable. After that, be sure you change your pad for hygiene and comfort. Remember to check your pad every two to four hours, and swap 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! If those don’t work, try the pad-like alternatives, all of which have been designed with your health and comfort in mind. In other words, you can’t go wrong, so long as you’re diligently keeping up with your hygiene and checking in on your personal comfort levels. It’s all about you, and that means you should feel good, even if you’re on your period. We promise, it’s possible.