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When you have your period, you have to take extra hygienic precautions. Let’s cut to the chase: it’s a major hassle. But it’s also really important.

Women have two basic options for period hygiene: the tampon or the pad. The pad is usually made of layers of absorbent cotton that are placed in the panties to soak and absorb menstrual flow. The tampon is either made of cotton or rayon, and it is inserted into the vagina to absorb the menstrual flow. With both, you need to change often to keep yourself clean, and to prevent vaginosis or other infections. Most professionals recommend alternating between pads and tampons for the most effective hygiene, and to prevent infections or TSS. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, you should change your tampon and pad every four to eight hours. If you decide to use tampons, you should use the right absorbency for you. A super or super-plus absorbency is fine for early on in the period, when your flow is heavy. But you might want to change to a slimmer absorbency when the flow becomes lighter. If the tampon is dry, uncomfortable, if you experience vaginal dryness or if the tampon shreds, you should try a different absorbency. Using a tampon that is too absorbent for you might cause vaginal dryness, ulcerations, or contribute to TSS.

Some women decide to use the “cup” as an environmentally friendly hygienic device. This is an acceptable choice, but you should be extra careful about cleaning the cup. It can lead to yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis if not cleaned properly or changed often enough.