I Tried Out Every Type Of Menstrual Product

April 11, 2019

Last year, at the peak of the #SanitaryAidForNigerianGirls movement, one thing that struck me as odd was the sheer volume of people (mostly men) screaming about women finding cheaper alternative to pads if we found them so expensive.

Everything from rags (yes rags like we are in 1932) to tissues to reusable pads and menstrual cups were suggested by men. Who I don’t know if anyone has noticed, don’t actually get periods.
But there were also a couple of women testifying to the fact that they were indeed cheaper and just as effective alternatives to pads. And even sanitary pads that cost as low as hundred naira per pack. This got me curious.

I started my period when I was 9, I’m 24 now. Which means I’ve had my period for fifteen years. That’s about 180 periods. In all that time I’ve only ever used pads. I had a brief stint with tampons in my late teens but I found them to be very uncomfortable. I decided to try out every single type of sanitary product I could lay my hands on in Nigeria over the last couple of months and here’s how my experience went.

Sanitary Pads

The most popular brand of sanitary pads in Nigeria is Always. It’s not the best brand your money can buy. And at about 400 naira a pack it’s also not the cheapest brand. Each pack contains eight pieces and I run through about 3 or 4 a day. My period runs for about 4 to 5 days. Which means I use about 15 to 20 pieces a period. That’s about 2 or 3 packs. Which cost me 800 to 1200 a month. That’s 9,600 to 14,400 a year. That is expensive.

But pads are easy to change into and out of. Easy to dispose off and easy to buy. You’ll find one at every corner shop and Mallam’s kiosk.
I almost always use ‘Always’ (no pun intended). That’s because it’s the most accessible. But I don’t particularly like it. It often gives me a rash and can get very uncomfortable. But it does the work. There are quite a number of cheaper alternatives to Always and the cheapest I could lay my hands on was this – Diva Sanitary pads which cost about 250 per pack. I tried my hardest but couldn’t seem to lay my hands on a brand that retailed for 100 naira per pack.

After soaking through an 8 piece pack of ‘Diva’ in about 6 hours. I switched back to Always for the rest of my period.

Tampons

Apart from the fact that I couldn’t get used to walking around with a foreign object lodged up my vagina. My biggest grouse with tampons was that when I went to the bathroom I couldn’t take a quick peek at it to find out if it needed changing like with pads.

The first time I tried out tampons I soaked through them in a couple of hours and got stained. For the rest of the period, I wore them alongside pads which just kind of defeated its purpose. They are also significantly more expensive than pads. Tampax is the most popular brand of tampons and a box of twenty costs a little over 2000. Even though I always bought the superflow pack I was running through 3 or 4 tampons a day. Mostly because I was afraid of soaking through and getting stained in public.

Which means by the end of my period I had run through the whole pack. Changing tampons in public restrooms was also an extreme sport. No level of experience prepares you for looking for a comfortable way to jam up a tampon in a bathroom where you are trying your possible best to avoid touching anything.

Reusable Pads

In theory, it’s easy to make a great case for reusable pads. They are cheaper in the long run and you’d be saving the environment. In reality using reusable pads are a giant pain in the ass. I had never actually seen them anywhere so I ordered this pack from Amazon.

I spent the whole day of my first period with reusable pads at home. So I dutifully went through the process of washing and replacing my reusable pad. I spent the second-day running errands and found myself throwing out my reusable pad and putting on a regular one midday.

I couldn’t imagine rinsing out my bloody pad in the office sink and there was no way I was going to pack up the bloody pad. Which means using reusable pads meant having access to constantly running water. I also couldn’t help but feel very grossed out by the whole process and I couldn’t bring myself to reuse the pads I had washed on the first day of my period. I ended up using them like regular pads. I spent the whole day of my first period at home.

Menstrual Cups

I used a menstrual cup for exactly 24 hours and that was all the time I needed to know I’d never use them again. Here’s how a menstrual cup works. Unlike pads, tampons or any other sanitary products, menstrual cups don’t absorb blood. You insert the cup into your vagina which is an even more uncomfortable process than putting on a tampon, where it sits and holds the blood for you. Since it’s up there you have no idea when it’s full which means you’ll find yourself taking it in and out several times in a day. I spent the day at home with my comfortbale bathroom and constant running water and I couldn’t imagine changing in and out of the cup anywhere else.

Tissues

I didn’t set out planning to try tissues as part of this project and only did out of necessity. My period had come unexpectedly at work and no one had a spare sanitary product. So I stuffed tissues in my underwear so I could go buy some pads. By the time I came back, I had soaked through the tissues and my underwear. The wad of tissue came off in pieces as I tried to take it out making quite a mess. I had to ask to be excused from work so I could go home to clean up properly.

While it might seem like there are a ton of options when it comes to menstrual products, living in Nigeria limits them. And pads are still the most efficient option. With 86.9 million people living on less than 400 naira (the average cost of a pack of pads) a day, movements like SanitaryAidForNigerianGirlsare not just important they are essential.

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