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Table 1 Advantages and disadvantages of common menstrual products/materials

From: The state of adolescent menstrual health in low- and middle-income countries and suggestions for future action and research

Type of product/material Advantages Disadvantages
Pads:
single-use
Often preferred by users/programmes; numerous brands; absorbent; convenient; accessible Repeat expense; variable quality; require disposal mechanism; include plastic/pollutes; require users to wear pants/underwear
Pads:
Reusable [30, 31]
Reusable; absorbent; cheap; accessible; relatively environment-friendly Require water, soap, and a private space and sunlight to dry; variable quality; require users to wear pants/underwear; debate about risk of infection
Tampons [15] Absorbent; numerous brands; does not require users to wear pants/underwear; permits users to participate in all activities Repeat/higher expense; may violate norms in some contexts around vaginal insertion; require disposal mechanism; include plastic/pollutes; variable accessibility; require training/support on safe use; debate about risk of infection
Cups [32,33,34] Absorbent; does not require user to wear pants/underwear; numerous brands; permits users to participate in all activities, environment-friendly Initial/upfront expense; may violate norms in some contexts around vaginal insertion; include plastic/pollutes; variable accessibility; require training/support on safe use
Cloth [15, 35] Reusable; cheap; accessible; environment-friendly Require water, soap, a private space and sunlight to dry; debate about risk of infection; require users to wear pants/underwear
Sea sponges Absorbent; reusable; natural; does not require users to wear pants/underwear; permits users to participate in all activities; environment-friendly Limited availability; can contain bacteria/sand/sharp shells/hard coral; require training on safe use
Period panties Reusable; absorbent; permits users to participate in all activities Initial/upfront expense; variable accessibility; require water, soap, a private space and sunlight to dry; may require use with tampons or pads for heavy periods