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Alternatives to tampons & pads are booming - 20min asked us what we think about them

If you are looking for an alternative to tampons or pads, you now have a wide choice. A gynaecologist explains which method is the best - and which you should leave alone.

Light into the darkness of the period jungle

In the course of her life, a menstruating woman in Europe uses an average of between 8,000 and 17,000 disposable tampons or pads. If you don't want to use disposable products like pads or tampons during your period, you can now find plenty of alternatives: period briefs, menstrual cups, sponges or washable pads are becoming increasingly popular.

But as is the case with the growing range of products on offer, at some point you lose track of them all. To bring light into the darkness of the period jungle, we got some help: Dr. med. Johanna Janku is a specialist in gynaecology and obstetrics and works as a senior physician at Ladies Permanence Stadelhofen. She also offers sex and couples therapy in her practice Oh Yes Baby Yes.

Menstrual cup

Most people are now familiar with silicone menstrual cups. It is inserted into the vagina where it sits around the cervix and can be worn for up to twelve hours. It has been around for much longer than you might think from the current hype about the product: the first patent was filed as early as 1937.

The gynaecologist says: "The great thing is that, unlike tampons, the cup has no effect on the vaginal flora because it is made of silicone. However, inserting and removing the cup needs to be learned. Just like your hands, the cup has to be washed thoroughly before it is reinserted. This can be difficult in public places. It is always better to boil it before inserting it again. And: Women with an IUD sometimes have the problem that it slips when they remove the cup - because the threads of the IUD get caught on it or because of the negative pressure caused by the cup. This is where I would recommend other period products."

Menstrual sponge

They are available in synthetic or natural materials and usually come without threads. The big advantage of the menstrual sponge is that you can have sex with penetration without any problems while wearing it because the soft sponge is neither a nuisance nor a risk of injury. Removal is done with the fingers - as with the cup, practice makes perfect. Natural sponges can be worn for up to 24 hours and then washed and used again. The synthetic version is thrown away after a maximum of 8 hours of use.

The gynaecologist says: "I find the untreated natural sponges particularly difficult. After all, they are living organisms that you are introducing. Even if you wash and boil them, germs can still remain in the sponge which can cause diseases and infections. Because they can be carried for so long, the risk of suffering toxic shock syndrome is also much higher with either option. So I would not recommend the sponge at all."

Period panties

Period panties are now also well known. Except for a slightly thicker area in the crotch, they look like normal underwear. The blood that leaks out is caught by the briefs and trapped in the middle part. They come in different absorbencies and styles. You should change your panties after twelve hours. Tip: Rinse worn panties briefly in cold water before putting them in the wash - this helps to prevent stains.

This is what the gynaecologist says: "I am very positively surprised by the period panties. They can hold up to 30 ml of fluid, which is about three to four tampons, come with no risk of toxic shock syndrome and are comfortable to wear. Apart from the limited wearing time, I can't find any downside to them. Thumbs up."

Washable pads

Instead of the disposable variety, there are cotton pads that can be washed and reused. They are fastened with press studs in the underwear. Depending on the size and thickness, they are changed like standard sanitary pads and also rinsed out in cold water before washing.

The gynaecologist says: "In principle, the pads work according to a similar system to period panties. They are effective, safe, cheap and environmentally friendly. However, they are harder to place in the underwear or slip sometimes - so they are less leak-proof."

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