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Menstrual Discs Have Been Found to Be the Best Feminine Hygiene Product For Heavy Flows – But What Exactly Are They and How Do You Use Them?

All your questions, answered.

Last Updated on August 11, 2023

What are menstrual discs and how do you use them? This week, it was found that these rarely-used feminine hygiene products were the best for heavy flows, as they hold the most blood when compared to tampons, pads, period underwear and even menstrual cups. Experts at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, USA, completed the first study to compare the absorbency of period products using *actual* human blood instead of saline or water, which are most commonly used in such studies – despite the fact that blood has a different consistency. Instead, they used packed red blood cells to measure the capacity of 21 sanitary products, including tampons, pads and period underwear.

The results, which were published in the journal BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health, found that menstrual discs held the most blood – 61ml on average – while tampons, pads and menstrual cups each hold between 20-50ml. Despite being such a popular choice, period underwear is said to hold just 2ml of blood on average. So if these products are so much less absorbent, why is so little known about menstrual discs?

Here, we’re answering everything you need to know about the underused feminine hygiene product. Next, you might want to check out the best period underwear we tried and tested and how to clean yours so they last as long as possible.

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What are menstrual discs?

According to Heathline, a menstrual disc is ‘an insertable alternative period product that’s supposed to provide 12 hours of protection, let you have mess-free sex on your period, and even help minimize cramps.’ They’re inserted into the vagina and fit back into your vaginal fornix, the place where your vaginal canal meets your cervix. Here, they collect blood.

How does a menstrual disc work?

As mentioned, a menstrual disc sits in the vaginal fornix and collects blood. They work in a similar way to menstrual cups, but they’re often disposable. They can be worn for up to 12 hours (but may need to be changed more regularly depending on your flow) and then need to be removed, emptied and thrown away.

Similarly to tampons and menstrual cups, they post a risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). This is a serious condition caused by a bacterial infection. Symptoms include a rash, low blood pressure and fever. If you experience any of these symptoms suddenly, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately.

What are the downsides of menstrual discs?

While menstrual discs have been found to be the most absorbent menstrual product, there are a few downsides. Firstly, they take a bit of getting used to – especially when inserting them. They can also be messy to remove and as many of them are disposable, it’s not the most sustainable option out there.

Overhead top view of menstrual cup and disc isolated on pink background

What is the difference between a menstrual cup and disc?

Menstrual cups and discs are very similar, but there are a few differences. Firstly, menstrual cups are reusable and discs are often disposable. You can wear a menstrual disc during sex, but menstrual cups should be avoided. Discs also offer a longer wear time as they have a higher capacity than cups, and they’re messier to remove. As discs are less commonly used, there’s also not a wide range of sizes and styles available.

Is removing a menstrual disc messy?

Menstrual discs are said to be quite messy to remove. To remove one, you should first wash your hands. This is very important as it reduces the risk of TSS and avoids putting bacteria up *there*. Next, sit on the toilet. Reach into the vagina with an index finger, hook it under the rim and pull it out. You then empty the contents into the toilet and dispose of the disc.

Is it harder to pee with a menstrual disc?

You can pee easily with a menstrual disc, but if you’re experiencing trouble, you should stop using your disc and seek medical attention immediately.

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