Sanitary napkin (with clipping path) isolated on white background

Also called sanitary napkins, sanitary towels, or menstrual pads, sanitary pads are thin pads designed to absorb vaginal fluid during menstruation. These are available in a variety of shapes and thickness, with capacities differing to bear light or heavy menstrual bleeding. The materials across pads vary too – for instance, cotton or plastic netted. Some are deodorized as well, but those are likely to irritate the skin. Unlike a menstrual cup or tampon, sanitary napkins are not inserted into the vagina, but within the underwear, covering up the vagina.

History of Sanitary Pads

Before the advent of disposable sanitary napkins, the majority of women used cotton, rags, sheep wool, rabbit fur, knitted pads and also grass to stem menstrual blood flow.

The first proper non-commercial disposable pad was made from wood pulp by French nurses. The material was absorbent and inexpensive enough to be disposed later. In 1888, sanitary pads became commercially available.

Despite the options available, most women still resorted to past methods, since commercial pads were expensive and most women found it uncomfortable to ask for the product at a store. It took quite some time (post market launch) for disposable pads to become commonplace.

Changing and Disposing Sanitary Pads

Though there are some reusable, cloth-based pads that can be washed for fresh use, most women use disposable pads.

Sanitary pads must be replaced once every four to eight hours, or depending on how quickly they get soaked up with the discharge. A thicker pad is recommended during nights. On the heaviest days, pads may have to be changed every three to four hours. Generally, the pad should be completely blood-soaked at the time of replacement. In case of pad-caused irritation, scent-free pads made purely from cotton are recommended. For best results and infection prevention, product usage instructions must be followed.

Once the pad is removed, wrap the used pad in toilet paper and trash it away. If at home, the disposed pad must be out of  reach of kids and pets. Also, flushing the used pad down the toilet is strictly not advisable since that may lead to unnecessary blockages.

Choosing Sanitary Pads

As aforementioned, sanitary pads vary in their absorbing capacity and length. No single pad type fits and suits all. The pads must therefore be picked based on the intensity of fluid flow. Generally, different types of sanitary pads need to be tried and tested to determine the right fit.

During the initial few days of flow when blood discharge is the heaviest, a pad that effectively and quickly absorbs flow is recommended. Also, there are specific sanitary pads for day and night. Day pads are generally shorter, in the 17 to 25 cm range. Night pads are as long as 35 cm or even higher. Not to mention, the pad’s absorbing capacity is directly correlated to its length.

Fluid-Absorbing Capacity

Clearly, the vital qualification of a good pad is its ability to take in substantial volumes of blood within a short time span. Also, the absorbed blood must stay in the pad’s center, negating the possibilities of a spill or spread when subjected to pressure (for instance, when sitting on a chair). The pad’s absorbency potential can be determined by the blood’s color. If the color is fresh or bright, it means the blood is not deeply soaked in, indicating a higher probability of dampness and backflow. It’s the opposite if the blood color is a duller red. This translates to a much dryer pad.