Cramps, nausea, headaches, mood swings, period poops — menstruating can be unpleasant, to say the least. What's more, it can also be expensive.
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Period-related expenses — including tampons, pads and reusable options like menstrual cups, cloth pads and period underwear — can add up to more than $5,000 over the course of a lifetime, according to March 2020 research in The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Menstruation Studies.
Another study found that, for people with endometriosis (a condition where uterine tissue grows elsewhere in the body, often causing more painful periods), period-related costs — including products, health care expenses and productivity loss — amount to an average of about $11,000 a year, per May 2012 results in Human Reproduction.
That said, conclusive data on the total cost of having a period is still lacking and isn't very gender-inclusive, so how much you actually spend may differ from these figures.
Regardless, menstruating can take a toll on your body, mind and wallet. Here are seven of the best period products that may make it a little better.
1. Cycleliners Period Bed Sheets Protector
Getting a good night's sleep during your period can be tricky if you regularly experience nighttime period leaks (on top of any unpleasant symptoms). If you've had to toss your favorite bedding, the Period Bed Sheets Protector from Cycleliners may save you from more stained sheets.
It comes in dark colors like black and burgundy and claims to be 100 percent waterproof and leakproof. Stretch the product — which is made of breathable fabric — over your bed sheets and rest easy knowing that your middle-of-the-night menstruation mishaps are over.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $38.99 to $46.99
2. Orchyd On-the-Go Smart Case
Birth control — particularly combination pills that contain estrogen and progestin hormones — may help reduce heavy bleeding, lessen painful cramps and shorten the length of your period, according to the Mayo Clinic.
But it can be tricky to remember to take those pills consistently. Enter the Orchyd, a bluetooth-enabled smart case that's the perfect place to store your birth control and menstrual products.
The accompanying app can also remind you to take and replace your pills, alert you to stock up on period supplies, track your cycle and fertility and connect you with an ob-gyn around the clock.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $59
3. Cora Disc or Cup
Menstrual discs and cups are a top period product pick for Jodie Horton, MD, chief wellness advisor for Love Wellness. "Menstrual cups can last up to 10 years if properly taken care of [and] absorb more blood than pads and tampons," Dr. Horton says.
Menstrual discs are medical-grade silicone or polymer disc-shaped receptacles that are inserted into the vagina to rest at the base of your cervix and collect blood. Here's why you might want to try one:
- You can wear it for up to 12 hours
- You can wear it during sex
Menstrual cups are medical-grade silicone or polymer cups that you insert into your vaginal canal to collect blood. Per the Cleveland Clinic, here are some of the benefits of using a cup versus a pad or tampon:
- It's cheaper — one cup only costs about $30, versus the average $70 to $120 annual cost of pads or tampons, per The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Menstruation Studies
- It's a reusable and sustainable period product
- You can wear it for up to 12 hours
- It's odorless
Not sure which one is right for you? Dr. Horton recommends using a site like Period Nirvana to help you weigh the pros and cons of each product, including a quiz to help you determine the best option based on factors like your age and activity level.
4. Theo Organic Dark Chocolate
Food cravings are common during menstruation, especially for sweets. If you often find yourself reaching for chocolate to satisfy your period-induced sweet tooth, choosing a high-quality dark chocolate may work in your favor.
Dark chocolate is rich in magnesium, a mineral that may help reduce period bleeding. In fact, just 1 ounce of 60- to 69-percent cacao dark chocolate contains 50 milligrams of magnesium, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Give a fair-trade chocolate brand like Theo a try to start reaping those benefits.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $23.94 for a variety pack of six
5. Asenappy Reusable Cloth Sanitary Pads
While period underwear (those made with built-in pads that absorb blood) is a great option because of its versatility and long-term savings compared to disposable pads and tampons, the price quickly adds up. One pair can run anywhere from $15 to $50, and you may go through multiple pairs in a day.
Reusable sanitary pads might be a more cost-effective solution. They come in a variety of sizes, levels of absorbency and fabrics (including cotton, bamboo, hemp and fleece). Just attach them to your underwear like disposable pads, then rinse in cold water and machine-wash after use.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $23.99 for a pack of 10
6. Blume's Cloud 9 Cramp Oil
Essential oils may also help relieve certain period problems. For example, an April 2013 study in Evidence-Based and Alternative Medicine found that applying a mixture of almond oil and cinnamon, clove, rose and lavender essential oils to people's abdomens was linked to reduced pain and bleeding in people with severe menstrual cramps. (However, more research is needed to further support this connection.)
Per the Cleveland Clinic, essential oils may provide health benefits whether or not you're menstruating, including:
- Improved sleep
- Improved mood
- Headache relief
- Nausea relief
Blume's Cloud 9 Cramp Oil combines clary sage, peppermint, lemon and bergamot oils into a rollerball you can rub on your temples, wrists, neck or abdomen for potential relief from period symptoms.
Just be sure to test essential oils on a small patch of skin before using it on a larger area to make sure you don't have any irritation or allergic reactions, per the University of Minnesota.
Buy it: Blume.com; Price: $18
7. Ruby Love Period Leggings
If you regularly work out but have to adjust or sacrifice exercising during your period to avoid leakage, period activewear is here to the rescue.
Period activewear looks the same as typical athletic clothing like leggings, cycling shorts, leotards and even swimwear, but features additional absorbent layers, moisture-wicking fabrics and stain- and bacteria-resistant materials. You can peruse pieces that are designed to be worn with or without pads or tampons, depending on your preferences.
A great introductory piece to try is Ruby Love's leak-proof period leggings, which range from Juniors' size to 3XL and don't require you to wear underwear or period products.
Buy it: Rubylove.com; Price: $49.99
Is This an Emergency?
- Human Reproduction: "The Burden of Endometriosis: Costs and Quality of Life of Women With Endometriosis and Treated in Referral Centres"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Magnesium Rich Food"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Essential Oils 101: Do They Work + How Do You Use Them?"
- Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: "The Effect of Aromatherapy Abdominal Massage on Alleviating Menstrual Pain in Nursing Students: A Prospective Randomized Cross-Over Study"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Tired of Tampons? Here Are Pros and Cons of Menstrual Cups"
- The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Menstruation Studies: "U.S. Policymaking to Address Menstruation: Advancing an Equity Agenda"
- Mayo Clinic: "Delaying Your Period With Hormonal Birth Control"
- University of Minnesota: "Are Essential Oils Safe?"