When your period arrives, you reach for a pad or tampon…just as women have been doing for decades. But there are several tampon alternatives to consider if you’re looking for other ways to get through that time of the month.
There’s a reason tampons and pads have been so popular for so many years—they work. But we’ve come a long way since the ’70s, when women were still wearing belts to keep their pads in place because adhesive sanitary napkins hadn’t yet been invented. As technology continues to march forward, there are even more innovative ways to greet Aunt Flo when she comes to town.
1. Period Underwear
If you don’t like the bulkiness, potential shifting, or frequent trips to the bathroom that come with sticking a pad in your panties, a number of underwear brands now build them right into the lining. Companies like Thinx and Knix Wear carry period panties in designs ranging from athletic undies to sexy lingerie, and Dear Kate even makes yoga pants you can wear without pads or underwear. These products are all washable, which means they’re not only preferable to some women but also better for the environment.
2. Menstrual Cups
Fun fact: The first menstrual cup was patented in 1937 by actress Leona Chalmers. But the device didn’t become popular until recently, when brands such as DivaCup and Lunette hit store shelves. It’s also gaining popularity as an eco-friendly sustainable option.
Menstrual cups collect the blood from your period, and you dump it out every 10 to 12 hours, which means you rarely have to head to the bathroom while you’re using them, nor do you need to buy new ones more than once a year. There’s even a smart menstrual cup called Loon Cup that will tell you when it needs to be changed.
3. Menstrual Discs
Menstrual discs are similar to menstrual cups in that they are inserted and collect period blood. Beyond that, however, there are some key differences that put these tampon alternatives in a class all their own.
As the name suggests, discs are, in fact, discs rather than cups. But the placement is really what differentiates them. While the menstrual cup sits in the vaginal canal where a tampon also sits, menstrual discs sit at the vaginal fornix, which is deeper into the vaginal canal. This is an important distinction, because that placement means discs can be safely worn during sex while still blocking the flow of blood (menstrual cups cannot). Like tampons, menstrual discs are disposable and should not be reused.
4. Reusable Cloth Pads
As you might have guessed, a cloth pad is simply the more sustainable version of a disposable pad. Twenty billion disposable pads and tampons end up in landfills every year—cloth pads (and other reusable feminine products like the menstrual cup) are an eco-friendly solution to periods.
A cloth pad is snapped into place in the crotch of your underwear and can be worn for up to six hours. After use, just toss it in the washing machine.
5. Sterile Gauze
Ever been caught off-guard by your period, with nary a tampon (let alone a tampon alternative) in sight? In cases like this, who among us hasn’t folded up a wad of toilet paper to create a makeshift pad? This is good when there’s nothing else around, but if you can (say you’re at home but just out of tampons), reach for sterile gauze instead. In addition to being sterile, gauze is more absorbent than a regular tissue—it’s literally made to absorb blood. It’s a last resort and by no means a standard solution for managing your period, but it’s the best option in a pinch!
Originally Appeared on Glamour