I’m so sick of pads and tampons! Do I have any other options?

That’s a great question. Buying and carrying around pads and tampons can get super expensive and cumbersome, and many people have found themselves wondering if there’s a better way. Although pads and tampons are certainly the most popular and easily available menstrual products out there, you shouldn’t feel constrained by them! There are some other great, lesser-known options out there that could be a better fit for you.

There are two basic categories of menstrual protection: internal, such as tampons and menstrual cups, and external, such as pads, cloth pads, and absorbent underwear. Both are completely safe and hygienic, and your choice depends on your own comfort level!

There are two types of menstrual cups. Both methods are designed to collect menstrual fluid instead of absorbing it as a tampon does. The first, a bell-shaped cup made of sterile rubber or silicone (popular brands include Divacup and Mooncup), is designed to sit against the cervix. Although it can be a little more expensive (about 30 dollars) at the outset, this type of cup is reusable and designed to last for years! After each menstrual cycle, you should sterilize the cup by boiling it. These cups hold more liquid than a tampon, making them a great option for long or active days!

The second type of cup, a flexible plastic cup with a hard plastic ring (the most popular brand is Instead Softcup) is designed for disposal after either one use or one menstrual cycle, depending on which type you buy. Since these cups are made from a flexible plastic, it’s possible to have mess-free penetrative sex while wearing one. With both types of menstrual cups, there can be a bit of a learning curve–inserting and removing a cup requires getting comfortable through hands-on practice. People who use them, however, tend to be huge fans, pointing out their reduction of waste, lack of leakage, and comfort when compared to tampons and pads.

Absorbent underwear and cloth pads are both reusable external forms of protection. Absorbent underwear (THINX is a popular brand) is engineered to absorb and wick away menstrual flow. It can be used as backup with a pad or a tampon, or on its own during light days. Cloth pads usually attach to underwear with snap fasteners, and can be washed and reused. These are an awesome choice for people seeking comfortable and environmentally-friendly alternatives who don’t want to insert anything into the vagina.

Some of these products are fairly recent innovations, which hopefully indicates that inventors are putting their heads together to give the world more menstrual-care options! If you’re looking for alternatives to tampons and pads, it’s worth checking some of these out to see how they work for you.