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Why Pads Are So Uncomfortable?

June 02, 2024

Why Pads Are So Uncomfortable?

Pads are a common menstrual product used by many individuals during their periods. However, despite their popularity, many people find pads to be uncomfortable for various reasons. This article explores the different factors that contribute to the discomfort associated with wearing pads and offers insights into potential alternatives.

Key Takeaways

  • Pads are made from various materials that can cause skin sensitivity and allergic reactions.
  • Design and fit issues, such as improper shape and size, can lead to discomfort and chafing.
  • Absorbency and leakage concerns can affect daily activities and lead to anxiety.
  • Lack of breathability in pads can result in moisture build-up and increase the risk of infections.
  • Psychological and social factors, including body awareness and social stigma, can impact mental well-being.

Material Composition and Skin Sensitivity

Common Materials Used in Pads

Menstrual pads are composed of multiple layers, each serving a specific function. These layers often include a top sheet, absorbent core, and adhesive backing. The top sheet, which comes in direct contact with the skin, is usually made from synthetic materials like polypropylene or polyethylene. The absorbent core often contains cellulose fibers or superabsorbent polymers, while the adhesive backing uses various types of glue to ensure the pad stays in place. Understanding these materials is crucial for identifying potential sources of discomfort.

Skin Reactions and Allergies

Many women experience skin reactions, such as contact dermatitis, due to the materials used in pads. This is particularly common among those with sensitive skin. The adhesive layer can also cause irritation, especially when it comes into contact with the vulva or buttocks. Friction from the pad moving during activities like walking or running exacerbates these issues. 

Impact of Friction and Moisture

Friction and moisture are significant contributors to discomfort when using menstrual pads. The movement of the pad against the skin can cause chafing, while moisture from sweat or menstrual fluid can lead to a damp environment, increasing the risk of irritation and infection. Proper pad placement and frequent changing can mitigate some of these issues. 

Design and Fit Issues

Shape and Size Variations

Pads come in various shapes and sizes to cater to different body types and menstrual flows. However, this variety can sometimes lead to discomfort if the pad does not fit well. An ill-fitting pad can cause chafing and irritation, making it uncomfortable to wear for extended periods. Proper fit is crucial to ensure comfort and effectiveness.

Adhesive Problems

The adhesive used in pads is designed to keep them in place, but it can sometimes cause issues. If the adhesive is too strong, it can be difficult to remove the pad without causing discomfort. On the other hand, if it is too weak, the pad may shift during use, leading to leaks and discomfort. Finding the right balance in adhesive strength is essential for a comfortable experience.

Placement and Movement

Proper placement of the pad is key to avoiding discomfort. If the pad is placed too far forward or backward, it can cause a wedgie-like feeling or even lead to leaks. Additionally, movement throughout the day can cause the pad to shift, which can be particularly problematic during physical activities. Ensuring the pad stays in place is vital for maintaining comfort and preventing leaks.


Absorbency and Leakage Concerns

Absorbent Core Technology

The effectiveness of a pad largely depends on its absorbent core technology. Modern pads are designed with multiple layers to enhance their absorbency. However, the impact of pad design on user comfort and sleep quality cannot be overlooked. A comprehensive review of overnight incontinence solutions emphasizes absorbency, comfort, and skin-friendliness.

Leakage Risks

Leakage is a common concern among pad users. Uneven absorption can lead to leaks, especially during heavy flow days. Layering pads may result in uneven absorption, with the top pad absorbing most of the menstrual flow while the bottom pad remains underutilized. This uneven distribution can compromise the overall effectiveness of the pads.

Impact on Daily Activities

Leakage risks can significantly impact daily activities. Users often report feeling self-conscious and anxious about potential leaks, which can affect their participation in physical activities and social events. The advancements in odor control technologies have also been discussed, providing a more comfortable experience for users. 

Breathability and Hygiene

Ventilation and Airflow

Breathability is a critical factor in the design of menstrual pads. Proper ventilation helps to prevent moisture buildup, which can lead to discomfort and skin irritation. However, many pads fail to provide adequate airflow, creating a damp environment that can contribute to infections such as UTIs and thrush. Ensuring that pads are designed with breathable materials is essential for maintaining hygiene and comfort.

Moisture Build-Up

Moisture buildup is a common issue with pads, especially when worn for extended periods. This can create a breeding ground for bacteria, leading to unpleasant odors and potential infections. It is crucial to change pads regularly to minimize moisture accumulation. For those seeking alternatives, postpartum or period underwear for women offers a breathable option that can help reduce moisture-related issues.

Infection Risks

The risk of infections increases when pads are not changed frequently or when they do not allow for proper airflow. Bacterial growth can lead to conditions such as yeast infections and toxic shock syndrome. To mitigate these risks, it is important to follow the manufacturer's guidelines on pad usage and to consider products that offer better breathability. 

Psychological and Social Factors

Body Awareness and Discomfort

The physical presence of pads can lead to heightened body awareness and discomfort. This is often due to the bulkiness and the sensation of wearing an additional layer, which can be particularly bothersome during physical activities. Such discomfort can significantly impact one's daily routine and overall quality of life.

Social Stigma and Self-Consciousness

Social stigma surrounding menstruation exacerbates the discomfort associated with wearing pads. Many individuals feel self-conscious about the possibility of visible pad lines or leakage, which can lead to anxiety and social withdrawal. Nearly half of women (47%) would feel uncomfortable talking to their dad about period pain, and 49% wouldn’t feel comfortable confiding in them about pre-menstrual tension (PMT). This social stigma is more pronounced in older generations, with 48% of 45 – 54 year-olds feeling uncomfortable compared to 40% of 18 – 24 year-olds.

Impact on Mental Well-being

The combination of physical discomfort and social stigma can have a profound impact on mental well-being. The constant worry about leakage, odor, and visibility can lead to stress and anxiety. Over half (51%) of those aware of period knickers said their main concern around switching from disposable products is the fear of bad smells after not changing the underwear for several hours. This ongoing stress can contribute to a negative self-image and lower self-esteem, affecting overall mental health.


Alternatives to Traditional Pads

Menstrual Cups

Menstrual cups are a sustainable and cost-effective alternative to traditional pads. These flexible, medical-grade silicone cups are inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual fluid. Menstrual cups can be worn for up to 12 hours, making them a convenient option for women with busy lifestyles. They also reduce the risk of toxic shock syndrome compared to tampons. 

Period Underwear

Period underwear is designed with built-in absorbent layers that can hold menstrual fluid without the need for additional products. These undergarments offer a comfortable and discreet option for managing menstrual flow. They are available in various styles and absorbency levels, making them suitable for different stages of the menstrual cycle. Period underwear can be a game-changer for those seeking a more comfortable and eco-friendly solution. 

Reusable Cloth Pads

Reusable cloth pads are another eco-friendly alternative to traditional pads. Made from natural fibers like cotton or bamboo, these pads are washable and can be reused multiple times. They are available in various sizes and absorbency levels, catering to different needs. Reusable cloth pads are gentle on the skin and reduce the risk of allergies and irritation. 

By exploring these alternatives, women can find more comfortable and sustainable options for managing their periods. Each alternative offers unique benefits, making it easier to choose the right product based on individual preferences and needs.


In conclusion, the discomfort associated with wearing pads can be attributed to a variety of factors, including improper fit, breathability issues, and the potential for chafing and irritation. While pads offer certain advantages, such as ease of use and reduced risk of toxic shock syndrome compared to tampons, they are not without their drawbacks. It is essential for individuals to experiment with different brands, styles, and absorbencies to find the most comfortable option. Additionally, alternatives such as menstrual cups, period pants, and higher absorbency or reusable pads may provide more comfort and convenience. Ultimately, personal preference plays a significant role in menstrual product choice, and finding the right fit can significantly enhance comfort and overall well-being during menstruation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is wearing a pad so uncomfortable?

Pads can be uncomfortable due to several factors such as material composition, skin sensitivity, poor design and fit, lack of breathability, and psychological factors. Finding the right fit and type can help alleviate some discomfort.

What materials in pads can cause skin irritation?

Pads are often made from synthetic materials, fragrances, and adhesives that can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions in some people. Natural and hypoallergenic pads may be a better option for sensitive skin.

How can I reduce friction and chafing while wearing a pad?

To reduce friction and chafing, make sure to choose a pad with a soft, breathable top layer, and ensure it is properly positioned. Wearing well-fitting underwear can also help minimize movement and friction.

Are there any health risks associated with wearing pads?

Wearing pads can sometimes lead to health issues such as skin irritation, infections due to moisture build-up, and even toxic shock syndrome if not changed regularly. It's important to maintain good hygiene and change pads frequently.

What are some alternatives to traditional pads?

Alternatives to traditional pads include menstrual cups, period underwear, and reusable cloth pads. These options can provide different levels of comfort and convenience depending on individual preferences.

How can I improve my comfort while wearing pads?

Improving comfort can involve trying different brands and styles, ensuring proper placement, and changing pads regularly. Some people find that using pads with natural materials or added ventilation features can also help.

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