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Types of Sanitary Pads

author image Lillian Downey
A Jill-of-all-trades, Lillian Downey is a certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, certified clinical phlebotomist and a certified non-profit administrator. She's also written extensively on gardening and cooking. She also authors blogs on nail art blog and women's self esteem.
Types of Sanitary Pads
Types of Sanitary Pads Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Shopping for sanitary pads in a major department store can be like picking a needle out of a haystack. There are dozens of types of brightly colored packages boasting different materials, absorbencies, shapes and sizes. It can be intimidating, especially for a young woman buying them for the first time. If you know what you're looking for and the type of flow you generally have, the search for the perfect product becomes a little easier.


The thinnest type of sanitary pad is the panty liner. Panty liners are low-absorbancy products designed to be used during spotting or times of high discharge. Next are pads designed for menstrual flow. These pads come in "mini, light, regular, maxi and super maxi, classic, super long maxi, extra heavy weight, and heavy, moderate and light use," according to India Children website. What these absorbencies boil down to are the amount of liquid they're designed to absorb and the length of time they're meant to be worn. Thickness does not always indicate absorbency, as there are thin and ultra-thin pads which absorb as much as thicker pads. These ultra-thin pads use lightweight materials which absorb many times their weight in liquid. Overnight pads are meant to be worn during sleep, but they're also used by new mothers and women with extra-heavy flows.


Most sanitary pads are designed with an adhesive backing as opposed to the belted pads women used in the past according to Teen's Health. They are two basic shapes. The first type of pad is a simple rectangular strip that adheres to the lining of your underwear. The second type adds side leak protection or wings to that basic shape. These pads have absorbent flaps which fold around your underwear and adhere underneath. The point of these flaps is to offer side protection for women whose flow sometimes overflows the side of the pad and stains her underwear's side fabric. Either type offers extra-long sizes for extra protection, especially during activities and sports.


The pads sold in your grocery store are generally plastic or latex disposable products. The inside materials range from cotton to absorbent gels. The top layer material differs from manufacturer to manufacturer. The most common types are plain cotton fibers and synthetic materials which wick moisture away and leave you feeling drier. The synthetic materials in pads contain latex, which some women are allergic to, according to Family Doctor. For those women and women who are interested in natural or environmentally sustainable products, cloth pads are making a comeback. These are usually made from cotton or wool-based fabrics and have snap-together or hook-and-loop wings. Some cloth pad brands have liners, which you can add to increase absorption. They're not traditionally worn with belts, but mimic the size and shape of disposable pads.

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