Feminine hygiene

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Camelia Populär - sanitary napkin around 1942 from military stocks for nurses

Feminine hygiene products are personal care products used during menstruation, vaginal discharge, and other bodily functions related to the vulva and vagina. Products that are used during menstruation may also be called menstrual hygiene products, including menstrual pads, tampons, pantyliners, menstrual cups, menstrual sponges and period panties. Feminine hygiene products also include products meant to cleanse the vulva or vagina, such as douches, feminine wipes, and soap.

Feminine hygiene products are either disposable or reusable. Sanitary napkins, tampons, and pantyliners are disposable feminine hygiene products. Menstrual cups, cloth menstrual pads, period panties, and sponges are reusable feminine hygiene products.[1]


Menstrual hygiene products[edit]

A menstrual pad with wings
The elements of a tampon with applicator. Left: the bigger tube ("penetrator"). Center: cotton tampon with attached string. Right: the narrower tube.
Reusable cloth menstrual pad with Kokopelli motif.
Menstrual panty


  • Pantyliner: Sticks to the inside of underwear to absorb blood and uterine lining during menstruation, sometimes worn with a tampon or for light discharge.[2][3]
  • Menstrual pad: Worn on the inside of underwear to absorb a heavier menstrual flow. Available in many different absorbencies and lengths, with or without wings.[2][3][4]
  • Tampon: Inserted inside the vagina to absorb menstrual blood, can also be used while swimming. Available in different levels of absorbency.[2][3][4]


  • Menstrual cup: Inserted inside the vagina to catch blood/uterine lining.[5]
  • Cloth menstrual pad: Worn inside underwear.[5]
  • Period underwear (AKA period panties): Can refer to either underwear that keeps pads in place, or absorbent underwear that can take the place of tampons and pads.[5]
  • Menstrual sponge: Inserted like a tampon or cup and worn inside the body.[6]
  • Towel: large reusable piece of cloth, most often used at night (if nothing else is available), placed between legs to absorb menstrual flow.[citation needed]

Cleansing products[edit]

  • Unscented soap: A gentle way to wash the vulva to minimize the risk of irritation.[9]

Feminine hygiene products that are meant to cleanse may lead to allergic reaction and irritation, as the vagina naturally flushes out bacteria.[10] Many health professionals advise against douching because it can change the balance of vaginal flora and acidity.[11]


The different products may carry some health risks, some of which might be proven, others speculative.[12][13][14][15]

  • Toxic shock syndrome: A rare illness that may occur when tampons are worn for long periods of time, although not directly linked to tampon use but caused by poison linked to bacteria of the Streptococcus pyogenes or Staphylococcus aureus type.[4][3]
  • Irritation: Can be caused by fragrances, neomycin (adhesive on pads), tea tree oil, benzocaine. Inflammation can also be a risk associated with some products.[4]
  • Yeast infection: A fungus.[3]
  • Bacterial vaginosis: Overgrowth of naturally occurring bacteria in the vagina that leads to a type of vaginal inflammation. The imbalance of bacteria from its natural state has been connected to bacterial vaginosis [16][17][18]

Society and culture[edit]

According to the World Health Organization, as of 2018 there are about 1.9 billion women who are of reproductive age.[19] In low-income countries, women's choices of menstrual hygiene materials are often limited by the costs, availability and social norms. Not only are women's choices limited but, according to the WHO and Unicef, 780 million people do not have access to improved water sources and about 2.5 billion people lack access to improved sanitation. The lack of proper hygiene leads to a harder time for women to manage feminine hygiene.[20][21][19][22]

Costs and tax[edit]

Menstrual hygiene product dispenser

Tampon tax is a shorthand for sales tax charged on tampons, pads, and menstrual cups. The cost of these commercial products for menstrual management is considered to be unacceptably high for many low-income women. At least half a million women across the world do not have enough money to adequately afford these products. This can result in missing school or even dropping out. In some jurisdictions similar necessities like medical devices and toilet paper are not taxed. Several initiatives worldwide advocate to eliminate the tax all together. In some countries, such petitions have already been successful (for example parts of the UK and the United States).[23][24][25]

Access to products in prisons[edit]

The Federal bureau of Prisons in the United States announced that women in its facilities would be guaranteed free menstrual pads and tampons. In section 411 of the First Step Act which was passed on May 22, 2018 states, "The Director of the Bureau of Prisons shall make the healthcare products described in subsection (c) available to prisoners for free, in a quantity that is appropriate to the healthcare needs of each prisoner".[26]

Other social views[edit]

Some girls and women may view tampons and menstrual cups as affecting their virginity even though they have not engaged in sexual intercourse.[4]

For those with autism, using pads before menstruation begins may help reduce sensory issues associated with menstrual hygiene products. Prior education and practice may help familiarize an individual with body changes and the process of using products associated with menstruation.[27]

Menstruation may occur despite paralyzation; product use depends on the individual's personal preference.[28]


Historical types of menstrual hygiene products[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nicole, Wendee (March 2014). "A Question for Women's Health: Chemicals in Feminine Hygiene Products and Personal Lubricants". Environmental Health Perspectives. 122 (3): A70–A75. doi:10.1289/ehp.122-A70. PMC 3948026. PMID 24583634.
  2. ^ a b c Schaefer, Valorie Lee, et al. The Care & Keeping of You 1: The Body Book For Younger Girls. American Girl, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e Natterson, Dr. Cara, and Josée Masse. The Care and Keeping of You 2 The Body Book for Older Girls. American Girl Publishing, 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Stewart, Elizabeth Gunther. (2002). The V book : a doctor's guide to complete vulvovaginal health. Bantam Books. ISBN 9780307492449. OCLC 773813783.
  5. ^ a b c "How Do I Use Tampons, Pads, Period Underwear & Menstrual Cups? | Facts & Info". www.plannedparenthood.org. Retrieved 2019-11-18.
  6. ^ Kim, Naeun (2015-11-10). "Soaking It Up With Menstrual Sea Sponges". Vice. Retrieved 2019-11-18.
  7. ^ "What Is a Douche? Usage, Safety, and More". Healthline. 11 August 2017. Retrieved 2019-11-18.
  8. ^ Benton, Emilia (2019-10-16). "These Are The Feminine Wipes Gynos Actually Recommend". Women's Health. Retrieved 2019-11-18.
  9. ^ "Is It Safe to Use Soap? And 12 Other FAQs About Vaginal Health". Healthline. 5 February 2019. Retrieved 2019-11-18.
  10. ^ "Feeling Fresh". kidshealth.org. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  11. ^ "Douching | Womenshealth.gov". womenshealth.gov. 2017-02-21. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  12. ^ "Are panty liners beneficial or harmful? I alternative to panty liners". UTI prevention I Vaginal care I Ezspur. Archived from the original on 2018-11-18. Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  13. ^ "Menstrual Cups: How to Use, Benefits, and More". Healthline. Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  14. ^ "Cloth Pad Pros & Cons". Reusable Menstrual Products. 2016-11-23. Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  15. ^ "Should We Really Be Using Feminine Care Wipes for Down There?". InStyle.com. Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  16. ^ Klebanoff MA, Nansel TR, Brotman RM, Zhang J, Yu KF, Schwebke JR, Andrews WW (February 2010). "Personal Hygienic Behaviors and Bacterial Vaginosis". Sexually Transmitted Diseases. 37 (2): 94–99. doi:10.1097/OLQ.0b013e3181bc063c. PMC 2811217. PMID 19823112.
  17. ^ "Douching". Pffice on Women's Health. Retrieved 2020-12-23.
  18. ^ Pallett, Abitha (December 14, 2020). "Keeping the Vagina and Vulva Clean". YourPeriodCalled. Retrieved 2020-12-14.
  19. ^ a b "Tackling the taboo of menstrual hygiene in the European Region". www.euro.who.int. Retrieved 2021-03-03.
  20. ^ UNESCO (2014). Puberty Education & Menstrual Hygiene Management - Good Policy and Practice in health Education - Booklet 9 Archived 2015-04-02 at the Wayback Machine. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Paris, France, p. 32
  21. ^ Kaur, Rajanbir; Kaur, Kanwaljit; Kaur, Rajinder (2018). "Menstrual Hygiene, Management, and Waste Disposal: Practices and Challenges Faced by Girls/Women of Developing Countries". Journal of Environmental and Public Health. 2018: 1730964. doi:10.1155/2018/1730964. ISSN 1687-9805. PMC 5838436. PMID 29675047.
  22. ^ "Global WASH Fast Facts | Global Water, Sanitation and Hygiene | Healthy Water | CDC". www.cdc.gov. 2018-11-09. Retrieved 2021-03-03.
  23. ^ "Could this be the first country to end 'period poverty'?". www.msn.com. Archived from the original on 19 April 2018. Retrieved 2 May 2018.
  24. ^ Nosheena Mobarik (3 October 2018). "Mobarik: UK one step closer to ending the tampon tax". Conservatives in the European Parliament. Archived from the original on 14 April 2019. Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  25. ^ "Women get their periods every month — and it's incredibly expensive". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2018-10-15.
  26. ^ "Text - H.R.5682 - 115th Congress (2017-2018): FIRST STEP Act". 2018-05-23.
  27. ^ Lyons, Tony. (2015-04-14). 101 Tips for the Parents of Girls with Autism : the Most Crucial Things You Need to Know About Diagnosis, Doctors, Schools, Taxes, Vaccinations, Babysitters, Treatment, Food, Self-Care, and More. ISBN 9781629148427. OCLC 1054370720.
  28. ^ Farrell, Kate, et al. Period: Twelve Voices Tell the Bloody Truth. Feiwel and Friends, an Imprint of Macmillan Publishing Group, LLC, 2018.
  29. ^ a b c d Stein, Elissa (2009). Flow : the cultural story of menstruation. St. Martin's Griffin. ISBN 9780312379964. OCLC 946560416.
  30. ^ a b c d e f g h i j ONEILL, THERESE. (2018). UNMENTIONABLE : the victorian lady's guide to sex, marriage, and manners. BACK BAY Books LITTLE BRN. ISBN 978-0316357906. OCLC 1003312707.

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