Search this site
Article Listings
Active Living
Full Listing with story descriptions
A Healthy Balance
Ankle Sprains
Active Kids, Healthy Kids
Active Kids in Winter
Athletic Skin Infections
Children, Nutrition and Exercise
Beat the Heat!
Cold Comfort
Cold Weather Workouts
Concussion in Sport
Core Stability
Cross Country Skiing
Exercise and Disabilities
Exercise and Menstrual Irregularities
Exercise in the Heat
Exercise is Medicine
Exercise Options
Exercising in Pregnancy
Exercising in Pregnancy
Female Athletes
FITT Prescription
Footwear for Running
From Surviving to Thriving
Gadgets and Gizmos
Get Moving!
Get Motivated
Golf Exercises
Golf Injury Prevention
Head Injuries
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Hockey Injuries
Home Gyms
Jump Start Weight Loss
Knee Cap Pain
Knee Ligament Injuries
Live Actively
Low Back Pain
Osteoporosis and Exercise
Osteoarthritis of the Knee
Plantar Fasciitis
Prehistoric Workout
Recreational Safety Equipment
Safe Snow Shovelling
Shin Splints
Ski Conditioning
Sore Elbow
Sore Shoulder
Spinal Cord Injuries
Staying Active
Staying Fit in the Cold
Sports Nutrition and Supplements
Strength Training
Swimming Injuries
Teen Sports Injuries
Water and Exercise
Weight Training
7 Wonders of Walking
Adolescent Health
Full Listing with story descriptions
Adolescent Behaviour Problems
Adolescent Growth and Development
Body Image
Body Piercing
Chronic Diseases in Teens
Communications Skills
Concussion in Sport
Cosmetics and Skincare
Dangers of Artificial Tanning
Depression - Causes
Drug Use
Female Physical Exam
First Period
Internet Safety
Junior High
Mentoring to Quit Smoking
Parent-Teen Communication
Parent -Teen Interaction Patterns
Personal Care
Psychological Assessment
School Problems
Self Esteem
Self Esteem and Body Image
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Talking About Sex
Taking Chances
Teaching Respect
Teens and Smoking
Teenage Blues
Teen Bedwetting
Teen Drivers
Teen Girls
Teen Health
Teen Immunization
Teen Independence
Teen Rebellion
Teens and Divorce
Teenagers and Sexual Issues
Teens and Exercise
Water and Exercise
A Woman's Physical
Your First Job
Youth Violence
Ask the Doctor
Aspirin Every Day?
Cost of Doctor's Visit
Does My Sore Knee Require an MRI?
Do I Need a Bone Density Test?
Do I Need an Annual Physical?
My Doctor Says I Need a Test
My Doctor Diagnosed Osteoarthritis
Restore Your Core
Should I Exercise During pregnancy?
Vaccination Controversies
Full Listing with story descriptions
Advice from the Maternity Clinic
Advice from the Maternity Clinic (Part 2)
Alcohol in Pregnancy
Building a Better Baby
Birthing Etiquette
Birth Plans
Birthing Procedure Trends
Bleeding in Pregnancy
Blood Pressure
Breastfeeding Benefits
Caesarean Section by Request
Care for the New Mother
Cord Blood Banking
Delaying Motherhood
Blue after Baby or Postpartum Depression
Diabetes in Pregnancy
Eating Well for Pregnancy
Evolving Ideas about Pregnancy and Birth
Exercise in Pregnancy
Is it Safe to Exercise During Pregnancy
Fetal Alcohol
Flying During Pregnancy
Folic Acid in Pregnancy
High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy
Getting a latch on breastfeeding
Group B Streptococcus
Induction of Labour
Infections During Pregnancy
Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR)
In-Vitro Fertilization
Low Birth Weight Babies
Maternity and parental leave
Medication and Pregnancy
Managing Your Own Labour
Monitoring Your Labour
Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy
Pain Relief in Labour
Prenatal Classes
Preterm Labour
Planning a Pregnancy
Prenatal Care Providers
Postpartum Repetitive Strain Injuries
RH Disease
Rupture of Membranes Before Labour
Sex During Pregnancy
Skin Changes in Pregnancy
Smoking and Pregnancy
Support During Labour
Travelling While Pregnant
Ultrasound for Fun and Photos
Natural Remedies in Pregnancy
Pregnancy Weight Gain
Vaccinations During Pregnancy
Vacuum and Forceps for Delivery
Vaginal Birth After Caesarean
When Baby Comes Home
Full Listing with story descriptions
Asthma in Children
Attention Deficit Disorder
Bedtime Battles
Bed Wetting
Childcare Options
Children's Headaches
Childhood Obesity
Choosing A Babysitter
Colds and Flu
Common Childhood Skin Infections
Developmental Milestones
Diaper Rash
Daytime Wetting
Developmental Co-ordination Disorder
Feeding Your Baby
Feeding Your Toddler
Head Lice
How Children Grow
Hearing Loss
Hearing Issues in Newborns
Heart Murmers
Hip Clicks
Is it an Emergency?
Children and Sports Injuries
Lazy Eye (Amblyopia)
Learning Disabilities
Leg Problems
Preparing for Lab Tests
Red Rashes
RSV-Childhood Respiratory Virus
Safe Summer Fun
Sick Toddler
Sleep Struggles
Sniffles, Fevers, Rashes and Coughs
Introducing Solid Foods
Sore Throats
Speech Problems
Strep Throat
Toddler Safety
Tooth Injuries
Travelling with Children
Urinary Tract Infections
Vaccination and Autism
When to go to the Doctor
Whooping Cough
Worried Sick
Yeast Infections in Children
Chronic Pain
Full Listing with story descriptions
Managing Your Pain
Movement Matters
Moving Forward
Pain Medications
Returning to Work
Understanding and Goal Setting
When Pain Doesn't End
Dental Health
Full Listing with story descriptions
Antibiotics and Dental Surgery
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Baby Teeth
Bad Breath (Halitosis)
Children's Dental Injuries
Choosing a Dentist
Cosmetic Dentistry
Mouth Guards
Dental Exam
Dental Care Devices
Dental Caries
Dental Implants
Dental X-Rays
Dentures and Healthy Jaw
Esthetic Dentistry
Fluoride Findings
First Dental Visit
A Healthy Mouth
Healthy Mouth, Healthy Body
Jaw Joint and Muscle Problems
Keeping it Clean
Laser Use in Dentistry
Oral Cancer Screening
Oral health and long term care
Oral Health Care Products
Orthodontist First Visit
Painless Dentistry
Periodontal Disease
Removable Dentures
Root Canal
Seniors Oral Care
Sensitive Teeth
Sore Mouth, Aching Jaw
Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Teeth for Life
Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD)
Tobacco Risks to Oral Health
Tongue Piercing
Tooth Whitening
Travel Dentistry
Water Fluoridation
Wisdom Teeth
Your Healthy Smile
Full Listing with story descriptions
10,000 Steps
A1C Test
A Diabetes Success Story
ABCs of Diabetes Management
Alternate Site Testing
Artery Health
ASA Therapy
Benefits of Insulin
Benefits of Breakfast
Blood Glucose Medications
Blood Glucose Myths
Blood Glucose Testing
Blood Sugar Lows
Blood Glucose Monitors
C-Peptide Testing
Canada Food Guide Revisited
Carbohydrate Counting
Catastrophic Drug Plan
CDA Guidelines for Diabetes
Celiac Disease and Diabetes
Celebrating Health
Childhood Diagnosis of Diabetes
Children and Type 2 Diabetes
Cholesterol-lowering Medications
Colds and Diabetes
Continuous Blood Glucose Monitoring
Cutting Edge
Dangers of Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure
Driving and Diabetes
Diabetes and Menopause
Diabetes Care Team
Diabetes and Depression
Diabetes Distress
Diabetes Eating on a Shoestring Budget
Diabetes Etiquette
Diabetes and Oral Health
Diabetes and Thyroid Disease
Diabetes and Your Mouth
Diabetes and Your Eyes
Diabetes in Cats
Diabetes in Dogs
Diabetes Management ABCs
Diabetes Meter Technicians
Diabetes Myths
Diabetic Ketoacidosis
Diabetic Retinopathy
Diet Tips for South Asians
Dining Out with Diabetes
Drinking and Diabetes
Eating Disorders
Easing the Strain of Stress
Eating Mindfully
Eating to Protect Your Kidneys
Eating Well During Shift Work
Eggs in a Diabetic Diet
Emotional Eating
Emotions of Diabetes Diagnosis
Erectile Dysfunction
Exercise Excuses
Why Fad Diets Fail
Fill Your Day with Energy
Diabetic Retinopathy
Food Temptation
Foot Care
Foot Health
Footwear and Foot Health
Fruits and Veggies
Gestational Diabetes
Get Active
Get Physical
Gift Ideas
Glucose Meters
Glycemic Index and Glycemic Loads
The Glycemic Index
Going Green in the Kitchen
Going Home from the Hospital
Grocery Shopping Tips
Holiday Party Survival Guide
Health Information on the 'Net
Healthy Happy Holidays
Healthy Beverage Choices
Health Benefits of Soy
Healthy Restaurant Meals
High Blood Pressure and Diabetes
High Blood Pressure
HbA1c Test
Healthy Eating for Active People
High Blood Lipids
Home from the Hospital
Home Alone and Sick
Hypoglycemic Unawareness
Impaired Glucose Tolerance
Immunization and Diabetes
Incretins-a Hormone Treatment
Injecting Insulin
Insulin Discovery-The Story
Insulin Handling
Insulin - the Key to Energy Management
Insulin Pumps
Insulin Pen Needles
Insulin Pump Infusion Sets
Insulin Pump Therapy
Immunization and Diabetes
Internet Health Sites
Islet Cell Transplantation
Kidney Disease - Reducing the Risk
Living Powerfully with Diabetes
Low Blood Glucose
Managing Diabetes
Managing Blood Glucose
Mental Health and Diabetes
Nutrition Food Labels
Meal Planning
Your Medication Expert
Medication Research Studies
Metabolic Syndrome
New Diabetes Technologies
Natural Medicines and Diabetes
No Need for Insulin?
Not Snoozing
Oral Health and Diabetes
Osteoporosis and Diabetes
Diabetes and OTC Medications
Pedicure Precautions
Pain of Walking - Peripheral Arterial Disease
Pet Diabetes
Planning for Pregnancy
Prebiotics and Probiotics
Preparing for Activity
Putting off Insulin
Reducing Stress of Surgery
Safe and Successful Travel
Schizophrenia and Diabetes
Setting Health Goals
Setting Goals for Physical Activity
Sharps Disposal
Shorter Insulin Needles
Sleep - a Missing Link
Smart Snacking
Smart Summer Nutrition
Snack Bars
Snacking with Diabetes
Social Media and Diabetes
Stress and Diabetes
Success in School
Supporting Spouse with Diabetes
Sugar, Carbs and Blood Glucose Control
Think Positive with Diabetes
Tiny Bites Equal Big Calories
Travelling with Diabetes
Tips for a Better You
Tobacco Use and Diabetes
Top 10 Reasons to Exercise
Treating Low Blood Glucose
Treating Hypoglycemia - Role of Glucagon
Tune up Your Diet
Type 1.5 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes
Understanding Diabetes
Understanding Diabetes Medications
Urinary Incontinence
Vacationing with Diabetes
Vegetarian Eating for Diabetes
Vitamin D
Wonderful Water
World Diabetes Day
Working Toward a Cure
Your Medicine Cupboard
Zimbabwe Hand Jive
Family Medicine
Full Listing with story descriptions
ADHD in Children
Allergic Rhinitis
Antibiotic Use
Aspirin Every Day?
Back Pain
Back Pain Myths
Back Pain - Lower
Birth Control
Bladder Problems
Blood Transfusions
Breaast and Prostate Cancer Screening
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Colon Cancer Screening
Contact Lenses
Diabetes Management
Diagnostic Tests
Doctor Visit
Driving Vision
Dealing with Dry Eyes
Electronic Medical Records
Eye Exam
Family Doctor
Floaters and Flashes
Food Poisoning
5 Ways to Stay Healthy
Get Active!
Healthcare Teams
Heart Health
Hepatitis C
Human Papilloma Virus
High Blood Pressure
How to Talk to Your Doctor
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Joint Replacement Surgery
Kidney Disease
Lazy Eye Blindness (Amblyopia)
Medical Digital Technology
Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple Myeloma
Opioid Myths
Primary Healthcare Reform
Prostate Problems
Quitting Smoking
Red Eyes
Respiratory Tract Infections
Screening Tests
Special Diagnostic Tests
Sports Eye Injuries
Stopping Stroke
Urine Tests
Win by Losing
Urinary Incontinence
Urinary Tract Infections
Vision Flickers
First Aid
Full Listing with story descriptions
Bites and Stings
Cuts and Scrapes
Emergency Care Guidelines
Eye Injuries
Fainting and Convulsions
First Aid Travel Kit
Hypothermia and Frostbite
Poisoning - Household
Growing Older
Full Listing with story descriptions
Advance Care Plans
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Alzheimer Disease
Avoiding Memory Loss
Building Strength
Caring for the Caregiver
Can I see Well Enough to Drive?
Congestive Heart Failure
Coping with Dementia
Controlling Medications
Diagnosing Dementia
Dementia and Agitation
Dizziness (Vertigo)
Eating Well
Elder Abuse
Exercise Benefits
Erectile Dysfunction
Eye Care
Eyesight and Driving
Fungal Nail Infections
Get Active!
Have Health, Will Travel
Health Tips for Seniors
Joint Replacement
Lab Tests
Living Longer With Diabetes
Macular Degeneration
Male Menopause (Andropause)
Maintaining Quality of Life as You Age
Memory Loss
New Corneal Treatments
Nutrition for Seniors
Parkinson Disease
Problem Gambling
Prostate Health
Seniors and Medications
Senior Sexuality
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Screening Tests
Seniors and Driving
Skin Structure
Skin Protection
Skin Over 50
Solving Sleep Issues
Staying Healthy
Stroke Prevention
Travel Tips for Snowbirds
Wills and Personal Directives
Modern Living
Full Listing with story descriptions
Adult ADHD
Aging and Memory
Alcohol and Your Health
Anger Management
Barbecue Basics
Bathtub Safety
Binge Drinking
Bisphenol A
Canada's New Blood System
Caring for a Loved One Dying at Home
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Computer Stress
Coping With Change
Cosmetic Surgery
Cosmetic Pesticides
Diabetes Epidemic
Diseases from Pets
Dying at Home
Erectile Dysfunction New Treatments
Exotic Travel
Fertility Issues
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
Foodborne Illness
Flu Pandemic
Healing Through Music
Healthy Computing
Ice Safety
Indoor Air Quality
Mature Student
Melamine in Food
Middle Age Health
Mind-Body Connection
Mom Time
Money Matters
Outdoor Workers and Sun Safety
Patient Safety in the Hospital
Pets and Health Benefits
Pet Therapy
Physiotherapy Visit
Planning for End of LIfe
Reproductive Freedom
Safe Drinking Water
Smokeless Tobacco
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Stigma of Mental Illness
Street Drugs
Stressed or Depressed?
Stress in the Workplace
Stress Leave
Swim to Survive
Time Management
Travel Health Protection
Travel Comfort Tips
Travel Immunization
Understanding Change
Wind Chill Index
Workplace Drug Testing
Workplace Health
Full Listing with story descriptions
5 Myths about Nutrition and Diabetes
5 Tips to Manage Weight
10 Ways to Cut Down on Fat
Battle the Bulge
Boost Your Bone Strength
Body Image
Breakfast is Important
Bowel Health
Building Your Bones
Celiac Disease
Challenging the Milk Myth
Diet Reality Check
Drink Up!
Eating Smarter and Cheaper
Energy Drinks
Food Allergies
Food for Active Kids
Fast Food
Food Labels
Giving Up Gluten
Healthy Diet, Healthy Smile
Healthy Eating for Boomers and Zoomers
Healthy Eating for Seniors
Healthy Eating on Business Travel
Healthy Ethnic Meals
Fad Diets
Fruits and Veggies - 5-10 a Day
Fat Phobias
Fats and Cholesterol
Feeding Your Kids
Food Chemistry 101
Food and Mood
Getting Kids to MOVE
Healthy Eating for Teens
Healthy Habits
Herbal Medicine and Nutrition
New Ingredients for Your Shopping Cart
Kid's Food
Liquid Candy
Meal Planning with Planned Overs
Meal Planning for Busy Families
Mercury Levels in Fish
Night Snacking
Night Shift Eating
Nutrition on the Net
Nutrition Myths Busted
Nutrition Questions Top 5
Nutrition for Menopause
Essential Omega-3
Preventing Cancer Through Nutrition
Picky Eaters
Power of Fruits and Veggies
Portion Control
Power Lunch
PMS and Nutrition
Preparing for Surgery
Reducing High Blood Pressure
Replacement Meals
Sensible Snacking
Sodium and Blood Pressure
Sports-Minded Nutrition
Sugar Substitutes
Survive and Thrive
Teen Nutrition
Tips for a SuperDiet
Understanding Food Biotechnology
Vacation Eating
Vitamins D
Vitamins and Minerals
Vegetarian Diet
Weight Loss Wisdom
Weight Loss
Weight Wise Tips
Pharmacy Care
Full Listing with story descriptions
After a Heart Attack
Adverse Drug Reactions
Adult Vaccinations
Allergy Attack
Antibiotic Overuse
New Anticoagulant Medications
Inhaled Asthma medications
Arthritis Medications
Biological Response Modifiers
Blood Pressure Monitoring
Blood Thinners
Calcium and Iron Supplements
Changing Role of the Pharmacist
Children's Cold Remedies
Child's Fever
Choosing Sunscreens
Cold Relief
Cold Sores
Constipation and Haemorrhoids
Diuretics and Potassium Supplements
Drug Recalls and Withdrawals
Drug Interactions
Emergency Contraception
Erectile Dysfunction
Expanding Role of Pharmacies
Eye Protection - Sunglasses
Feminine Hygiene
Generic or Name Brand?
Heart Health
Kids and Cold Medications
Medication Questions?
Metabolic Syndrome
Natural Medicines
New Blood Thinners
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs
Obesity Medication
Over-the-Counter Drugs
Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers
Over-the-Counter Drugs and Pregnancy
OTC Pain Relief
Packing Medications for Travel
Pharmaceutical Studies
Preventing Summer Hazards
Research Studies
Quit Smoking
Skin and Cosmeceuticals
Sports and Nutrition Supplements
Taking Medication
Take as Directed
Using Antibiotics Wisely
Vitamin D
Yeast Infections
Your Best Shot
Your Medicine Cupboard
Full Listing with story descriptions
Accident Prevention
Antibiotic Resistance
Backpack Pain
Bacteria Fight Back
Disaster Planning
Diseases from Pets
Cell Phones and Driving
Childhood Obesity
Cancer Prevention Tips
Chronic Disease Prevention
Cold and Flu Season
Disaster Planning
Diseases from Pets
Distracted Driving
Farm Safety for City Kids
Foodborne Illness
Flu Pandemic
The Flu and You
Heading Home for a Visit
Health Tips for Snowbirds
Hearing Loss and Music Players
H1N1 Virus - Plan Ahead
Household Mould
Infection Control
Injury Prevention
Live Actively!
Insect Repellant
Keys to Preventing Cancer
Kids' Mental Health
Live Actively!
Low Birth Weight
Are Pesticides Safe?
Preventing Burns and Scalds
Preventing Cancer through Nutrition
Quit Smoking 101
Respiratory Infections
Seniors and STIs
Should You Immunize?
Sun Safety
Surviving Disaster
Sushi Preparation
Teens, Drugs and Driving
Travel Health Considerations
Travel Medicine 101
Travel Tips
Type 2 Diabetes Prevention
Water Smarts
Vision Damage
Water Wisdom
West Nile Disease
Whooping Cough
Workplace Alcohol Abuse
Women's Health
Full Listing with story descriptions
15 Great Reasons to Breastfeed
Approaching Menopause
Birth Control
Breast Cancer Screening
Breast Cancer - Genetic Risks
Breast Cancer Self-Exam
Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines Changes
Breast Health
Breastfeeding Myths
Cervical Cancer Screening
Contraception for Mature Women
Cosmetic Procedures
Estrogen's Effect on the Brain
Fear of Fracture
Heart Attack
Hirsutism - Unwanted Hair
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Menopause - What Men Should Know
Menopause and Your Moods
Menstrual Bleeding - Abnormal
Menstrual Bleeding - Heavy
Menstruation Myths
Menstrual Pain
Third Generation Birth Control Pills
Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian Cysts
Oral Contraction (The Pill)
Pap Test
Premenstrual Syndrome
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Urinary Incontinence
Varicose Veins
Viagra for Women
Yeast Infections
Your Pelvic Floor
Family Health Online / Pharmacy at Safeway
spacer   spacer pharmacy image pharmacy
Family Health Magazine - PHARMACY CARE

Feminine Hygiene
Unveiling the mysteries

At some point, it becomes necessary to venture into that mysterious sanctuary of womanhood: the feminine hygiene aisle at your local store or pharmacy. As a pharmacist, I regularly see shoppers staring dazedly at the wall of brightly colored packages. You pick up first one box, then another. You may be a first-timer, an experienced user wondering about new options, or even a bewildered boyfriend or husband doing your significant other a favour. In any case, the next few pages should provide you with a guide to the variety of products available in the feminine hygiene section.

Why they call those things ‘feminine protection’?

Tips for First-Timers

  • Keep a few products on hand at home so you are ready for your first time.
  • Try various products to find one you are most comfortable with. Some product lines make multi-pack boxes with several different size products in them.
  • You may find the “junior” or “slender” products a better fit for your body than “regular” products.
  • At first pads may be easier to use than tampons. Perhaps try pads to begin, and move to tampons after you’ve experienced a few cycles.
  • Don’t be embarrassed to talk to your mom. After all, she’s had years of personal experience with menstruation and can offer practical advice. If mom is not available, try your older sister, aunt, grandmother, dad, nurse or doctor.

Check out product websites. Some sites you may want to visit include the following.

Visiting some of these sites with your mom may make it easier for both of you to have a good conversation about menstruation and the changes happening in your body.

It’s universal. Every woman (barring certain medical problems) will menstruate. The average woman has her first menstrual period around age 12 and her last period when she is in her fifties. The average length of a menstrual cycle is about 28 days, but may vary greatly depending on the woman. Menstruation is the release of about 25 to 65 millilitres of blood, tissue fluid, mucus and cells that line the uterus (where a baby develops). It lasts for about the first five days (and nights!) of the menstrual cycle. Menstrual flow is often heaviest on the second day of menstruation and then tapers off over the next few days. Women protect their clothing from this flow, and so the term ‘feminine protection.’

External protection - pads

Pads consist of several layers: a top sheet, an absorbent core, a waterproof sheet and an adhesive beneath a protective paper strip. To use a pad, a woman removes the paper strip, exposes the adhesive and attaches the pad to her underwear. The pad may be left in place for up to several hours or overnight. Depending on the amount of flow, pads may need to be changed every couple of hours to prevent leakage. After use, pads should be discarded in the trash. Flushing them in the toilet will often clog the plumbing.

Pads come in all shapes and sizes, and include the following:

Panty liners. These are generally the smallest and thinnest of pads. Panty liners are often used with a tampon or at the end of the woman’s period when flow is minimal. Panty liners are often marketed for everyday use between periods, but it is not necessary to use any feminine protection product if there is no vaginal flow or discharge.

Mini pads. These pads are slightly bigger and thicker than panty liners and may be used for the same reasons as panty liners.

Maxi pads. These pads are bigger and longer than mini pads and can be used any day of menstruation. Maxi pads may come in several forms as well. ‘Overnight’ pads are longer and have one end that is wider than regular maxis. This provides extra protection during the many position changes that occur during sleep. ‘Long’ pads are longer to provide extra protection at the front and back. ‘Thin’ maxi pads have an extra absorbent core and are thinner than regular maxis, but provide the same protection.

Winged pads. These are pads with flaps attached to the sides. The ‘wings’ fold around the sides and underneath the woman’s underwear between the legs. Wings provide extra leakage protection.

Tips for Moms-to-Be

  • Check with the hospital where you will be delivering to find out if post-partum feminine protection products are provided or whether you need to bring your own.
  • If you need to bring your own supplies to the hospital, bring a box of either long or overnight maxi pads. Keep another supply of these pads at home.
  • Following childbirth, whether vaginal or Caesarean section, you will have a flow of blood and discharge (called lochia) from the vagina for two to six weeks as your uterus sheds and renews its lining. The flow starts out bloody and very heavy, and then lessens over the next week or so. After a time the flow turns yellowish white.
  • Avoid the use of tampons and Instead™ softcup for about six to eight weeks after childbirth to allow for complete healing of the vagina.
  • If you’re in the store and unsure about what product to choose, please feel free to ask the pharmacist for advice.

Plus-size pads. These pads are being marketed to women who are size 14 or over. The pad is longer and wider than a regular maxi. They are about the same length as an overnight pad and have about the same width as the wide end of an overnight pad. The manufacturer claims they cover 30 per cent more panty than a regular maxi. It should be noted that plus-size maxi packages have fewer pads in them than the overnight and long maxi packages but cost the same.

Scented pads. Most pads are unscented but some scented or deodorant versions are available. These scented products are not recommended, as there is an increased risk of irritation or allergic reaction to the perfume.

Non-menstrual uses for pads. Maxi pads are also used for postpartum (after having a baby) bleeding. During this time, the flow is usually very heavy, and long or overnight maxi pads are most commonly used. Some women may also use pads to protect their clothing if they have trouble holding their urine (urinary incontinence). There are more effective products on the market for managing this concern. Ask your pharmacist for advice. As well, my three-year-old daughter assures me that maxi pads make great pillows for dolls.

Internal protection

In Canada there are two basic types of internal feminine protection products on the market: tampons and the Instead™ Softcup.

Tampons. Tampons are small, cylindrical bundles of absorbent cotton or cotton-like material that are inserted into the vagina to absorb the menstrual flow internally. Depending on the brand, the tampon may come with a plunger-type applicator made of cardboard or plastic to assist with insertion. Cardboard applicators are flushable. Plastic applicators are disposable but not flushable. Some brands of tampons are made for insertion without an applicator. A cord is attached to the tampon to assist with removal.

Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)

TSS is a rare illness caused by certain types of the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. Women who use tampons have a greater risk of contracting TSS. These bacteria are commonly present in the area outside the vagina as well as in the vagina.

The bacteria may multiply in the vagina, and produce a toxin (poison). This toxin may be absorbed into the bloodstream through tiny scrapes in the wall of the vagina caused by tampon insertion and removal.

Symptoms of TSS include sudden high fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches, rash, dizziness or fainting when standing up. If these symptoms occur in a menstruating woman, she should seek medical help immediately. If she is wearing a tampon, she should remove it. TSS can progress rapidly. It can be fatal if not recognized and treated quickly and properly with antibiotics and other supportive measures. A woman can reduce her risk of TSS by using the lowest absorbency tampon possible, by changing it regularly, or by alternating pads with tampons. The higher the tampon absorbency (and the longer it is left inside the vagina), the greater the risk of TSS. Women who have had an episode of TSS should avoid tampon use for at least six months.

Tampons should be changed approximately every four to a maximum of eight hours. Tampons come in a range of absorbencies, from light to regular to super-absorbent. Some brands also make a slimmer version. These may be more comfortable to insert for some women, especially first-time tampon users.

As a general rule, the lowest absorbency tampon that meets the woman’s needs should be used. Regularly using a higher absorbency tampon on a day of light menstrual flow can increase the chance of vaginal irritation and dryness. It also increases the risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS). Women who have recently given birth or had vaginal surgery should not use tampons until they have completely healed (usually six to eight weeks).

Instead™ Softcup. This product came on the market in 1996. It is a soft plastic cup that is inserted into the vagina and fits into the space just below the cervix (the narrow lower end of the uterus). When inserted correctly, the tip of the cervix is inside of the cup. Instead holds and collects the menstrual flow but does not absorb it. The cup is made from a non-irritating, non-latex, plastic material. This product can be used on any day of menstruation and can be left in place for up to 12 hours. It is disposable but not flushable. The manufacturer claims it does not interfere with physical activity, does not cause vaginal dryness, and can be even be used during sexual intercourse. Instead is not a method of birth control, even though it is similar in appearance to a diaphragm. Women should not use this product if they use an IUD or if they have had an episode of TSS. Women who have recently given birth, have recently had a miscarriage or abortion, or have been diagnosed with a tilted uterus, should consult their doctor before using this product.

Feminine deodorants and towelettes

Cleaning the area around the vagina is easy and simple. Regular genital hygiene requires no more than washing the external genitals regularly with mild soap and water. A mild genital odor is common and normal. Genital towelettes are disposable wipes marketed for feminine genital hygiene. These towelettes are no more effective than mild soap and water and may cause irritation in some women.

Aerosol feminine deodorant sprays are marketed to control genital odor, but may also cause irritation in some women. Deodorant sprays may also mask the odor from an infection in the vagina and cause the woman to delay seeking treatment. Use of these products is not recommended.

To douche or not to douche, the question answered

Vaginal douching means to put liquid into the vagina with an applicator like a syringe. Some women feel they need to douche to cleanse the vagina, control odor or reduce genital itching. However, the vagina is self-cleansing and usually does not require extra care. There is no benefit to regular douching. Douching may mask symptoms of infection in the vagina and cause a woman to delay seeking medical treatment. Douching may also disrupt the normal bacteria present in the vagina and lead to increased risk of irritation or infection. The vagina normally has a slightly acid environment. Douching may change the acid level of the vagina, which could lead to increased risk of certain types of vaginal infection. If a woman still feels it is necessary to douche, plain water is the safest liquid to use. Commercially prepared disposable douches are available but again, douching is not required or recommended for regular hygiene of the vagina. If a disposable product must be used, vinegar and water solution is the best alternative to plain water as it maintains the acidity of the vagina. Scented products should be avoided. Douching is not recommended in pregnancy and is not an effective means of birth control.

Mystery solved . . .

Whatever your needs may be, if you need help in this area please don't be embarrassed to ask the pharmacist. Hopefully the next time you're in the feminine hygiene aisle, it won't seem quite so mysterious.

FAMILY HEALTH is written with the assistance of
Alberta College of Family Physicians
FAMILY HEALTH is written with the assistance of
Alberta College of Family Physicians
While effort is made to reflect accepted medical knowledge and practice, articles in Family Health Online should not be relied upon for the treatment or management of any specifid medical problem or concern and Family Health accepts no liability for reliance on the articles. For proper diagnosis and care, you should always consult your family physican promptly. Copyright 2012, Family Health Magazine, a special publication of the Edmonton Journal, a division of Postmedia Network Inc., 10006 - 101 Street, Edmonton, AB T5J 0S1  [CH_FHd02]
Safeway Med Advisor / Safeway Pharmacy logos
Safeway Med Advisor / Safeway Pharmacy logos