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A sanitary towel (U.K.) or sanitary napkin (U.S.) is an absorbent piece of material worn by a woman while she is menstruating, to absorb the flow of blood from the vagina. These pads are not to be confused with incontinence pads, worn by women who have bladder control problems.
A sanitary napkin, or maxi pad as it is commonly called, is worn during a woman's period to absorb her menstrual flow. Maxi pads are made out of a super-absorbent material covered by quilted cotton. It is worn externally in a woman's panties unlike tampons which are worn inside the vagina. Between tampons and maxi pads, maxi pads are far more popular worldwide. In general, a pad lasts a woman on average 6 hours, although it can last between 4-8 hours depending on the pad's absorbency and the woman's flow.
Types of Maxi Pads
There are two main classifications of maxi pads: Ultra Thin and Maxi. Maxis are usually preferred over Ultra Thins except in adolescence, when women tend to prefer discreet protection. Maxis have a higher absorbency than Ultra Thins and are quite easy to carry around.
Under maxis there are three categories: Regular, Super, and Overnight. Regular maxis are used for average flows. Super maxis cater to women with heavier flows and problems with leaks in the front and/or back of their panties. Overnight maxis are designed for menstrual flow absorbency during sleep, when fluid can trickle out of the vagina at varying rates.
There are additional features that can be combined with the three types of maxis to achieve the best protection. One of them that is growing in popularity is winged maxis. Winged maxis have additional adhesive material to firmly secure the pad to the panties. This is usually used by women with leaks. Another feature is deodorant, which adds a light perfume to a maxi to block out menstrual odor. Usually maxi pad brands offer all types of maxis with different combinations of features to fit the variety of needs of different women. There is also a different shape of maxi to be used with thongs.
An offshoot of maxi pads are pantiliners. These are thin, discreet "mini-pads" that absorb daily vaginal discharge, light menstrual flow, or serve as a tampon backup. This helps keep a woman feel fresh and dry no matter what time of the month it is.
Alternatively, women can use washable or reusuable menstrual pads, which are typically made from cotton (flannel or fleece). Washable menstrual pads do not need to be disposed of after every use and therefore offer a more environmentally friendly and economic alternative for women. Many women report that washable products are equally or more comfortable than disposable ones and are just as effective a form of protection.
The following are general instructions on how to use disposable maxi pads. Disposable maxi pads usually come individually wrapped and then packaged in bundles of 24, 36, or 48.
- Remove the pad from its wrapping.
- Remove the paper backing from the back of the pad (and wings if applicable) to expose the adhesive side.
- Pull panties down to access crotch of your panties.
- Firmly press the pad into the crotch of your panties (middle area which touches your vulva) quilted side up.
- Change pads in no more than 8 hours (4-6 hours recommended). The time to change a pad is when you feel leaks, or are uncomfortable wearing it any longer.
- Dispose of pad by folding and wrapping up in toilet paper, then discarding in a dustbin (DO NOT FLUSH!).
Most women use maxis for their period. They are usually individually wrapped so they are easy to carry around in a purse or backpack. This discreetness and portability makes maxis very easy to travel with.
Some women do not like the feel of maxis because they believe they feel bloated and get in the way of walking and running. They prefer something more discreet but less absorbent, like a tampon, a menstrual cup or sea sponge. Women should not wear a pad during their period if they plan to swim. The maxis may release the flow into the water and may swell up and reach maximum absorbency very quickly. These women should plan on wearing tampons.
The three main brands of disposable maxi pads are Kotex, Stayfree, and Always. These three brands offer all kinds of maxi pads from Ultra Thins to Super Deodorant Maxis with Wings. These companies also offer their own brands of pantiliners and tampons as well. The most popular brand is Always, followed by Kotex and Stayfree. These companies have sites designed especially for preteens and teens that usually cover social issues of adolescence and offer advice, in addition to menstruation and their line of products.
There are many companies making reusable menstrual products including Lunapads, Gladrags and Goddess Moon.
Where to buy
Maxis are easily obtained in most supermarkets, pharmacies, and even in public bathroooms (usually for 25 or 50 cents) and plane lavatories. Cloth menstrual pads can be purchased online or at health food stores.
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