How Often Should You Change Your Pad or Tampon?

No two people experience their menstrual cycles in the same way, and we can even experience them differently from month-to-month. There are many ways to handle your flow each month, from pads, tampons, cups, and period underwear, and they all have different rules about how long you can wear them hygienically.

Below, we’ll answer all your questions about changing your menstrual hygiene products so you can stay dry and comfortable.

How often should you change your tampon?

Generally, tampons need to be changed more frequently than sanitary towels. If you have a moderate flow, you should be changing your tampons around every three to five hours throughout the day.

There is also a small but notable risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome, a rare but dangerous condition caused by otherwise harmless bacteria entering the body and releasing toxins. For safety and hygiene reasons, it’s important to remember to change your tampons more frequently than you would with sanitary towels, and if a tampon gets “lost”, head to the doctor’s office to see a nurse. 

How long can you leave in a tampon while swimming?

If you want to go for a casual dip in the pool, your period should not be a reason to avoid it! Tampons are water-safe but should be changed more frequently if you swim often. Because tampons are absorbent, they will naturally soak up a certain amount of pool water. When a tampon gets to a certain point of moisture, it will no longer be able to absorb your blood. You can wear your tampon while you swim, but you should enter the pool with a fresh tampon and change it once you have finished swimming.

How long does a tampon last with a heavy flow?

If you are prone to a heavy flow, it’s best to change your tampons around every two to six hours. If you’re going through high-absorbency tampons quickly (in less than 2 hours), it’s likely best to see a doctor to check you don’t have any deficiencies. Try to choose an absorbency level that’s comfortable and does the job for at least four hours, and changing it more frequently can make you sore.

What happens if you leave a tampon in too long?

If you leave a tampon in too long, you’ll likely experience some leaking, especially if you do so on a heavy day. For long periods, don’t forget that the blood your body is letting go will start to die, so it’s important to remove it from your body to prevent infections. 

Aside from being unhygienic, leaving a tampon in for too long can cause infections and, in rare cases, Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) which is often serious.

Can you get toxic shock syndrome from pads?

Generally, tampons increase the wearer’s risk of getting toxic shock syndrome because they are physically invasive. Since pads sit outside the body, it’s highly unlikely you could get TTS. You are, however, subject to other infections (such as yeast infections) should you wear a pad for an extended period of time. 

How long can you wear period underwear? Overnight?

Period underwear can often be worn for longer than tampons or pads, and worn comfortably overnight. Most brands suggest starting with shorter periods of time before changing when you first buy them to allow you to figure out how they work with your flow. Some period underwear can be worn for up to 24 hours, depending on the absorbency levels. Generally, we recommend changing your period underwear every 10-12 hours. Of course, if you want to change them more frequently, you can.

Which is better: period underwear or tampons and pads?

While all menstrual products have their benefits, period underwear is generally safer and more comfortable. Safety and comfort are two vital qualities menstrual products should have, and while it might be easier to stick to the products you know, like pads or tampons, it may be time to explore a new and more comfortable option. 

Many brands use modern materials which wick away moisture, leaving you feeling dry and significantly reduces the risk of infection. Proof underwear does just that and isn’t bulky or thick – no feeling like you’re wearing a diaper, even if you have a super heavy flow!  

When you wear tampons, you must be sure your flow has begun. Otherwise, you’ll be inserting a tampon into a dry area, which will be uncomfortable and potentially dangerous. Sanitary towels are prone to bunching up or even slipping around if you wear smaller underwear, which is obviously an uncomfortable experience. Period underwear eliminates these problems; you can wear them just like regular underwear! They don’t form uncomfortable bunches and shapes and they are the safest, non-intrusive menstrual product. 

Period panties are also more sustainable and offer longevity, provided they are taken care of correctly. They are reusable and can save huge amounts of plastic that we are used to seeing with the packaging on tampons and pads. Once you buy a pair of period underwear, they should last you years, instead of pads or tampons, which are only designed to be worn for a few hours and then thrown away. 

It's also worth noting that period underwear is much more environmentally friendly. Every time you use a sanitary towel or tampon it has to go to a landfill, contributing to the world’s waste problem. The simple switch to period underwear will end your contribution for good.

When it comes to menstrual products, the products you choose depend on the heaviness of your flow, your age and whether you’ve had children. It also depends on what you prefer to use, but now that you’ve got all the information, you can make an informed decision about the best options for you! 

To learn more about period underwear, click here.

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