Menstrual pads are probably the most popular alternative to tampons. These are worn in the underwear to collect a woman's menstrual flow as it leaves her body, and disposable and reusable versions are available. Interlabial pads are other types of menstrual pads worn sandwiched between the labia. Menstrual cups can also be inserted into the vagina during a woman's period to help collect the flow of menstrual blood. Some women also use natural sea sponges as an alternative to tampons.
Unlike tampons, which collect menstrual blood inside the vagina, menstrual pads collect the blood as it leaves the body. The menstrual blood is drawn into a very absorbent cloth-like material, and a thin protective plastic layer helps protect the underwear. Some menstrual pads also have tabs, known as wings, that wrap around the sides of the underwear to help prevent stains in these areas. This alternative to tampons, also referred to as a sanitary napkin, is typically attached to a woman's underwear during her period.
Disposable and reusable menstrual pads are available. Disposable pads are typically attached to a woman's underwear with an adhesive on the back of the thin protective layer. Reusable pads may be attached to the underwear with snaps or Velcro®. These types of reusable alternatives must be washed and sanitized often to help prevent stains and infections.
An interlabial pad is another possible alternative to tampons. These typically consist of long rolls of absorbent cloth. They are often considered a hybrid of the two previously mentioned menstrual products, and they are worn between the labia, or the folds of skin outside of the vagina. These alternatives to tampons are typically less popular, since they are prone to leaking and they must be removed during urination.
Instead of absorbing a woman's menstrual flow, menstrual cups can be used to collect it. Like tampons, these cup-shaped devices are also placed inside the vagina, but they can be worn for longer periods of time. This alternative to tampons is also available in disposable and reusable versions. Disposable menstrual cups can simply be thrown away when a woman needs to empty them, but reusable cups must be rinsed, sanitized, and reinserted. Unlike tampons, some of these cups are also designed to allow a woman to have sexual intercourse during her period.
Although they are not typically sold as menstrual products today, some women still consider sea sponges to be natural alternatives to tampons. Like tampons, these small sponges are inserted into the vagina to absorb a woman's menstrual flow. While these can be sanitized and reused several times, they will eventually break down over time.