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What to use when your period starts

When you get your period, there are several options you can use to soak up the blood. You can use a sanitary pad/towel, a tampon, or a menstrual cup. We will tell you what you need to know about each one of them.

Sanitary pads/towels

These are pads that you can’t use more than once. You put the pad inside your underwear to soak up the blood from your period. Some pads have a side that sticks onto your underwear to keep the pad in place. Some even have sticky ‘wings’ to stop leaks. Remember to change your pad every 4-6 hours depending on how heavy your period flow is.

Will people be able to see the pads? 

No. The pad can feel much bigger than it looks. They also come in different sizes and shapes. Pick the one that is most comfortable for you.

Can I use a cloth instead of a pad? 

You can use any clean pieces of material that will soak up the blood. Fold the material well into a rectangle and put it inside your underwear. Change and wash the cloth with soap and cold water between every use and iron it or hang it in the sun to kill any germs.

Tip: If you’re going to school or using other public toilets, take a packet to keep the material in so you can wash it when you get home.


A tampon is a tube of special cotton wool. You put the tampon inside your vagina to soak up the blood before it comes out. A little string hangs from the tampon and out of your vagina, so that you can pull the tampon out when you’re done with it. Do not use ordinary cotton wool. Only use tampons that are made especially for periods.

Tampons come in different sizes depending on how much blood they hold. They call this absorbency. Try to use the lowest absorbency tampon you can until you know which ones work best for you.

A tampon may feel strange to use at first. They’re easy to use once you get used to them. If you can feel the tampon, it’s not in properly. Only use one at a time and change it every 4-6 hours, even if there isn’t much blood in them.

Can tampons get lost inside the vagina?

No. The vagina has a tube at the top called a cervix. And the opening in the cervix is too small for the tampon to go through. If you can’t find the tampon string, take a moment, breathe, and calmly insert your finger into your vagina and look for it. If you’re very worried, talk to a trusted adult about it.

Can I flush the pads or tampons down the toilet?

You can flush your used tampons if you are using a flush toilet. For pit toilets, it’s better to throw them out in the rubbish. Never flush pads. You can wrap them in paper or the plastic they come in and put them in the bin.

Menstrual cup

A menstrual cup is a small, rubbery cup that you place in your vagina like you would with a tampon. You can wash and reuse it, and it lasts many years. It’s safe and hygienic. Some people say it takes time to get used to it, because it collects the blood, and you have to dump the blood into the toilet. You then need to wash it out before you reinsert it.

Want to learn more about what a period is? Click here.

Find out which organs of the female reproductive system play a part in the menstrual cycle here.

Not sure if you are on your period or whether you are spotting? Let us help in this article.

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