What Tampon Alternatives are There?

Kendra Bean
Kendra Bean20 Sep 2022

Tampon alternatives include menstrual cups, discs, period underwear, regular pads, and reusable cloth pads. Tampon alternatives refer to feminine hygiene products used in place of tampons. They have become increasingly popular for many reasons, including their eco-friendliness, durability, and ease of use.  

What Can I Use Instead Of Tampons?

Many people utilize tampon alternatives for many reasons, such as comfortability, cost, eco-friendliness, and functionality. Each option has advantages, disadvantages, and limitations in how long you can use the alternative. There is no one-size-fits-all, and finding the best alternative for your body and lifestyle may require trial and error.

The table below lists the pros, cons, average price, and hours of protection given. 


Average Price

Hours of Protection




Regular Pads

$6-$15 per box


- Non-invasive

- Cheap Upfront Cost

- Not reusable

- Long-term cost

- Environmental Impact



Cloth Pads



- Holds the same amount as a regular pad

- Eco-friendly

- Non-invasive

- Requires washing between uses

- Not the most comfortable


Menstrual Cups



- Cup itself can last up to 10 years

- High absorbency rates

- Self-insertion required

- Can leak


Menstrual Discs



- High absorbency rates

- Mess-free intercourse

- Can leak

- Fewer reusable options

- Self-insertion required

Yes and No

Period Underwear



- Extremely high absorbency rates 

- Eco-friendly

- Non-invasive

- Requires washing between uses



Pads are a form of external protection for periods. They attach to the crotch of your underwear through a snap or by adhesive and absorb blood as it flows. Pads have been around for over a hundred years and are approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA). There are two options for pads: disposable and reusable. 

Disposable pads are the most common type and offer the advantage of convenience and a lower upfront cost. Reusable pads, on the other hand, are becoming increasingly popular for their eco-friendliness and long-term savings. Cloth pads stay attached to your underwear with a snap rather than adhesive, giving approximately 4-8 hours of protection. Reusable pads, if properly cleaned and maintained, can last about 5 years.

Source: Menstrual Cup Reviews

Menstrual Cups and Discs

Menstrual cups are small, flexible funnel-shaped cups made of rubber or silicone that you insert into your vagina. Menstrual cups come in two different sizes, small or large. The one you use depends upon factors such as age, length of your cervix, flow rate, the strength of your pelvic floor muscles, and if you’ve given birth vaginally. Generally speaking, smaller menstrual cups are recommended for women under 30 who have not given birth vaginally. Many women choose this option for its affordability, sustainability, and ease of use.

Source: Cleveland Clinic

Menstrual discs are also an enormously effective tampon alternative and incredibly similar to menstrual cups. However, menstrual discs sit higher in the vaginal canal, right under the cervix, sometimes a little more challenging to insert and remove.

Additionally, menstrual discs are usually disposable, not making them as eco-friendly or cost-effective as menstrual cups. Menstrual discs have been praised for their ability to handle heavy flows. They usually can stay inserted for up to 12 hours and allow for intercourse while on your period.

Source: Mashable

Period Underwear 

Period underwear, also known as period panties, is an excellent alternative to tampons. They are highly absorbent and just about leak-proof. However, it is essential to remember that period panties absorb blood. Eventually, bacteria will form, making it vital to change your underwear often to avoid any smell or even infection. There is a discrete design to period underwear, making it easy to go out in public and wear regular clothes. In the long run, period panties are highly cost-effective as they last for 2-3 years on average, assuming they are taken care of and cleaned correctly. 

Source: NY Times

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Tampon Alternatives Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

Consider this additional information regarding tampon alternatives. 

Does Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) Still Apply With Tampon Alternatives?

Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is most closely associated with tampon use, even though there is no evidence directly linking TSS to tampon use. TSS is caused by bacteria getting into the body and releasing harmful toxins and can affect anyone of any age – including men and children. There is still a risk of TSS, although rare, even with tampon alternatives. There have been very few reports of TSS and the use of a tampon alternative; however, it is vital to maintain excellent feminine hygiene to prevent TSS. Other ways to reduce the risk of TSS are included here.

Do Alternatives Work Just as Good as Tampons?

Yes, if not better. However, it is essential to remember that what works for you may not work for someone else. You will likely have to try multiple alternatives and multiple designs and styles of each alternative. However, this will be worth it for a cost-effective, higher absorbency, and comfortable alternative to using while on your period.

Which Tampon Alternative Is the Best For An Active Lifestyle?

There is no one correct answer. Finding the best tampon alternative will be a trial and error process. Menstrual cups and discs are entirely functional for an active lifestyle as these operate similarly to tampons. Period panties are also practical as there are multiple designs, cuts, and styles with active lifestyles and discreteness.

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How Do I Insert and Remove a Menstrual Cup?

 Cleveland Clinic lists these steps for inserting a menstrual cup:

  1. Wash your hands
  2. Apply a thin layer of water-based lube or water to the rim of the cup
  3. Fold the menstrual cup in half and keep the edge of the cup face up
  4. Insert the cup. While keeping it folded and rimmed up, place it into your vagina
  5. Rotate it. Once the cup is in — and a few inches below your cervix — you will want to turn it so it fully opens.

On the flip side, recommendations for removal of the menstrual cup are as follows:

  1. Wash your hands
  2. Pinch the base and remove the cup. Using your thumb and index finger, reach into your vagina and pinch the cup
  3. Pull down gently to remove
  4. Empty cup into toilet
  5. Rinse the cup and wash with clean water and a mild, fragrance-free soap

How Do I Insert and Remove a Menstrual Disc?

Period Shop lists these steps for inserting a menstrual disc:

  1. Fold the menstrual disc - squeeze the sides together lengthwise to create a long and tapered shape that resembles a figure 8
  2. Insert with the open bowl portion facing up towards you (Make sure you pay attention to the brand of disc you are using as some require you to insert in a specific direction. E.g. Removal notches, strings, and tabs enter the body last)
  3. Direct the menstrual disc towards your tailbone while inserting
  4. Once you have inserted your disc as far as it will go, use a finger or thumb to tuck the front rim of your disc up as high as you can

Remove your menstrual disc by completing the following steps:

  1. Reach into your vagina with your index finger and hook it under the rim
  2. Pull the menstrual cup straight out
  3. Empty the contents into a toilet
  4. Some discs may be equipped with a removal aid such as a string or notch that you will pull to remove the entire disc

Bottom Line

Common tampon alternatives include menstrual cups and discs, disposable and reusable pads, and period panties. Overall, the different choices are eco-friendly and cost-effective. Each option has specific advantages and disadvantages and limits of re-use and duration of use. Finding a suitable alternative may be time-consuming, but the costliness and ease of use are worthwhile once you find the most suitable alternative.

One study found that the average woman spends $18,000 in her lifetime on menstruation-related items. Tampon alternatives are more eco-friendly and can save you a lot of money. Like these alternatives, Mira can save you money. Mira memberships start at an average of $45 per month. Members can access low-cost urgent care visits, affordable lab testing, and discounted prescriptions at up to 80% off. Sign up today and get started!

Kendra Bean

Kendra Bean is from Maui, Hawaiʻi. She is currently enrolled at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, specializing in Epidemiology. She is passionate about improving health literacy and access to care, specifically in rural areas.