period care for summer

It’s summer in Indiana, and you know what that means: extremely hot and humid days that are perfect for swimming! By the height of summer, it is honestly too hot to step outside unless you are stepping directly into a pool. Even though days of lounging by a pool in a swimsuit sound luxurious and effortless, your period is still going to happen despite wanting to wear your cute bikini bottoms. 

Although periods can cause bloating, headaches, and other discomforts, managing your menstrual flow should not stop you from enjoying time by the pool, on the beach, or in a lake. There are a handful of great options for managing your period during the summer months when you want to spend your time in a swimsuit submerged in cool water with a cold drink in hand!

1. Tampons

This tried and true method for period management is a great swimsuit-proof way to manage your period during the summer. Tampons are inserted into the vagina via an applicator that is removed, leaving the cotton tampon inside the vagina with a string hanging out. The cotton absorbs the blood, collecting it until it is ready to be changed. When you’re ready to remove your tampon, pull on the string to remove the cotton. 

Tampons are sold at nearly every grocery and drug store, with a variety of options to choose from. Depending on your flow, activity level, and applicator preference, you can find a size that works for you. Make sure you don’t leave your tampon in for more than eight hours, as there is a risk for toxic shock syndrome. Depending on your flow, you will likely need to change it more often than that anyway.

2. Menstrual cups

Menstrual cups have gained popularity over the last few years for being a reusable, super sustainable option for period care. Menstrual cups are small bell-shaped cups made from silicone or latex that are inserted into the vagina and collect your menstrual blood. There is a little stem on the end of the cup that stays in the vaginal canal, allowing you to remove it. To insert, you pinch the top of the cup, relax the vaginal muscles, and insert using your fingers. The opening of the cup sucks into place around the opening of the cervix and collects your blood throughout the day for up to 12 hours. 

While it is inserted, you shouldn’t feel it, and there will be that little knob of the cup that you can grab when it’s time to remove it. When you are ready to empty it, bear down using your bathroom muscles, grab the knob at the end of the cup, then carefully pull the cup out of the vagina. It will be filled with blood, so be careful in case of any spills. If you’re able to remove the cup in the shower at the end of the day, that would be ideal for clean-up.

Menstrual cups come in different sizes depending on if you have given birth yet or not, as that changes the size of the cervix a bit. Menstrual cups are a little expensive (around $40), but they end up being more economical than tampons because one cup lasts years and years. You clean it in between uses, following the directions that come with your specific cup.

3. Menstrual discs

Similar to menstrual cups, menstrual discs are inserted into the vagina and collect blood at the cervical opening. Menstrual discs are single-use items, however, and have to be thrown away after each use, similar to tampons. Menstrual discs look like actual little discs with a flexible round opening and material to collect the menstrual blood. To insert the disc, pinch the top of the disc so it is compact, then use your fingers to insert it into the vagina. Just like your menstrual cup, the opening of the disc will seal itself around the cervix and collect blood. 

Unlike a menstrual cup, the disc keeps the vaginal canal completely open. The disc sits at the top of the vagina, right below the cervix. These discs can also be kept in for up to 12 hours, while some even empty themselves as you use the restroom. When you’re ready to remove the disc, (with clean hands of course), bear down to activate those bathroom muscles, and insert your pointer finger into the vagina until you can use it to hook onto the edge of the disc and pull it out. Similar to menstrual cups, this can be a little messy upon your first few tries. Once the disc is removed, dump out the menses, then throw it away and insert a new one.

4. Period swimwear

You may have heard of period underwear as a way to manage your period, but now period swimwear is an option as well. Similar to period underwear, period swimwear is made from absorbent, odor-proof material that can hold 1-3 tampons worth of blood. Although this might not sound like a high level of absorbency, remember you would just wear this while you’re swimming, which would likely be only a few hours. 

Period swimwear can also be used as a backup method when wearing a tampon, cup, or disc, offering you extra protection. Period swimwear would be a great option on the lightest days of your period, absorbing the little bit of blood you might have as you start or finish your cycle. They’re as easy to use as regular swimwear- just put them on, and you’re good to go! You would wash them of course between uses, but this is definitely the least invasive method. 

Periods can have poor timing and cause discomfort, but don’t let your menstrual cycle get in the way of you having fun and being cute in your swimsuit this summer. If you’re not sure what period management method is best for you, talk to your gynecologist and express your needs or concerns. Knowing your vaginal health, your doctor can likely recommend what would work best for you. If you opt to use a tampon, cup, or disc, know it might take a few tries to successfully insert into the vagina. Menstrual cups and discs especially take a few tries to practice inserting and removing since you are using your hands and not an applicator to do so. 

Now go have some fun in the sun this summer!

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