Period Products: A Round-Up

bleed here now

It’s a glorious age to be a person with a period. Sure, periods aren’t always comfortable, but isn’t it nice to know that there are lots of options available that can help? Finding the period products that work for your particular body and your lifestyle can make the difference between, “Ughhhh my period started!” to simply, “My period started.” At GladRags, we aim for an ugh-free period with comfy cloth pads and menstrual cups. Here’s a round-up of period products that you may, or may not, know about:

Cloth Pads

Cloth pads and pantyliners are used just like disposable pads in terms of size and different absorbency levels, except GladRags cloth pads are plastic-free, and made of 100% cotton so they’re exceptionally soft and comfy, and can be re-used for decades.

Menstrual Cups

Menstrual cups are designed to collect period blood, rather than absorb it. GladRags XO Flo cups are made in the USA of medical grade silicone and can be worn for up to 12 hours at a time before needing to be emptied. With proper care a menstrual cup can last for years and years.

Menstrual Discs

Discs are similar to cups in that they collect rather than absorb. A cup sits in the vagina below the cervix and extends into the vaginal canal, whereas a disc fits back into the vaginal fornix, which is where the vaginal canal meets the cervix.

image via @periodnirvana


Tampons as we now know them were originally used to stop bleeding in bullet wounds. Made of cellulose fibers, tampons are designed to be worn internally to absorb menstrual flow and need to be changed every few hours and properly disposed in the trash (not flushed).

Disposable Pads

Back in the day these were called “sanitary napkins” and are the most widely-used type of period product, globally. Available in multiple sizes, styles, and absorbency levels, disposable pads are designed to be used for a few hours and then disposed in the garbage.


Sea sponges are an all-natural alternative that’s worn internally and absorbs period blood. They’re made from the harvested section of an aquatic organism called spongin. Menstrual sponges can be reused for up to 6 months.

Free Bleed

We hear “free bleeding” associated with the use of cloth pads sometimes, but free bleeding means just that: bleeding freely, without any products at all. Some people prefer to bleed freely (over a towel, or perhaps outdoors) to help minimize discomfort with a heavy flow. Some people bleed freely because they have no other choice (see below).

art credit @hellies.goddesses

when options aren’t an option

Options are awesome … when you have them. But the fact of the matter is a lot of people don’t have access to period products, let alone have the luxury of choosing which ones they like the best. When accessibility is an issue, lives are affected. People miss school, experience shame, and are unable to meet their full potential.

  • 1 in 4 students in the USA has missed school due to lack of access to period supplies.
  • 1 in 5 low-income menstruators report missing work, school, or other important commitments due to lack of access to period supplies.
  • 30 states still tax period products, increasing the financial burden for those who already struggle.
  • 1 in 4 menstruators struggle to purchase period products due to low income.
  • 12 million menstruators in the USA between the ages of 12 and 44 live below 100% of the federal poverty line.

*facts courtesy of 2020 Period Poverty Fact Sheet, Alliance for Period Supplies

How We Can Support Other People With Periods

There are a couple of great ways right now to help others in the USA who struggle with access to safe period products.

  1. SIGN THIS PETITION: An effort initiated by the student-led organization, PERIOD, is working to provide FREE period products in all Oregon schools, including public K-12, college, and university restrooms in the state. No one should miss school because they don’t have proper period supplies. Sign the petition here.
  2. SPONSOR PERIOD SUPPLIES: Support BIPOC and low-income youth in the Portland area by purchasing essential menstrual supplies to ensure students have what they need to succeed. Products will be distributed by Equitable Giving Circle at their back to school event in early September. Sponsor period supplies here.