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Choosing the right protection for your period

Laura Willard is a law school grad who has successfully avoided using her education for eight years and counting. She's a wife and an adoptive mom to two kids. Motherhood is the best job she never knew she wanted so much until she had it...

What to use and when

We all know that the days of the one-size-fits-all pad are long gone, but do you really know all of your protection options? Don’t be overwhelmed with the choices. In this case, having so many is a good thing! Simply being aware of what is available and what your needs are will get you on the right track.

Tampon

Most women choose to use either pads or tampons during their periods, or a combination of both. Thanks to companies being in tune with women's needs, several types of both are available. It's just a matter of knowing what you need and when.

Tampons

Tampons aren't one size fits all. Rather, they come in various absorbencies to meet your needs. You might not be aware of this, but the Food and Drug Administration regulates tampons. As such, the absorbencies are standard and range from junior absorbency all the way to ultra absorbency, with three more options between the two. Absorbencies are measured in grams, and chances are that no woman really knows exactly how many grams she needs absorbed. You'll have to pay attention to your flow and try out a few different absorbencies to determine what you might need and when.

Pads

An alternative -- or supplement -- to tampons are good old-fashioned pads (aka sanitary napkins), although the designs are certainly not old fashioned any more. There are too many options to list: Thin, long, overnight, wings and regular, just to name a handful. Plus, there are combinations. You also have the option of using pantiliners -- and even thong liners!

Woman attaching pantyliner

What's best for me?

Determining what protection works best for you and your lifestyle will make managing your period easier. Most women have varying needs at different points in their cycle. Pay attention to your light-flow days and your heavy-flow ones. Are things a little heavier at the beginning of your period, the end or in between? On lighter-flow days, you might be able use a junior tampon, while later in your cycle, it just won't do.

If you sleep for long stretches, consider using a pad at night. You need to change your tampon every four to six hours, and should never leave one in for more than eight -- so if you experience heavy flow at night, try an overnight pad.

Finally, if you're nervous about the dreaded I-might-have-to-tie-my-sweatshirt-around-my-waist situation while you are in the process of figuring out what works for you, you can always double up until you know. A tampon used in conjunction with a pantiliner or a thin pad adds protection and peace of mind.

Your period is a fact of life and, fortunately, there are no shortage of protection options for you. Finding what's best for you will make your period more manageable.

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