Alternative menstrual products to know if tampons, pads become unavailable

Tampons and menstrual pads are the latest products being affected by supply chain issues and rising prices, but a Maryland gynecologist shares some alternatives.

“There are options that can be affordable because a lot of these options are reusable,” said Dr. Trashawn Thornton-Davis, an OB-GYN with Kaiser Permanente in Silver Spring.

Reusable period wear includes menstrual cups and disks, period underwear and reusable cloth pads.

Thornton-Davis said menstrual cups with proper care can provide up to about 10 years of use; prices can range from about $14 to $50.

“Those work really nicely. They provide you about six to 12 hours of protection, depending on how heavy the flow is. They’re small, they’re flexible, some can be funnel-shaped, and they can be placed pretty simply; they actually hold about twice the capacity of a tampon,” she said.

Dr. Trashawn Thorton-Davis is an OB-GYN with Kaiser Permanente in Silver Spring, Maryland. (Courtesy Kaiser Permanente)

Menstrual discs, which come in disposable or reusable versions, like the menstrual cup, are inserted into the vagina to collect period fluid. Thornton-Davis said the discs are a little less messy than the cups when it comes to use, and they can be worn during sex. Prices can range between $10 and $40.

Period underwear can have higher upfront costs at about $15 to $50 per pair, if you’re buying multiple pairs.

“And you’d need multiple pairs because, in essence, you’d have to wash them after each wear. But they can also be very comfortable and stylish. And, they also can hold a lot more oftentimes than tampons could,” Thornton-Davis said.

Reusable cloth pads can cost around $10 to $40. They offer four to eight hours of protection.

“They’re really good for the environment. The only con really is that they require washing, and they may not be as comfortable as some of the other options that are available,” Thornton-Davis said.

Bottom line: While Thornton-Davis said women in the U.S. tend to use either pads or tampons, they should know and be reassured that reusable, affordable alternatives are available.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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