Woman sitting down with underwear pulled down showing blood stain. Holding fresh period pad and wrapper on her thighs.

First time using a sanitary pad or towel? Confused about the best way to use them? Don’t sweat it. We’ve got you covered with everything you need to know about getting started with sanitary pads and how they work.

If you’ve just started your period, then one of the first things to consider is working out how to use a sanitary pad! If you are a little unsure about using them, then our guide is here to explain all the ins and outs. 

Let’s learn together how to use sanitary pads so you’re totally prepared.

How do sanitary pads work?

Sanitary pads (also known as towels) work by absorbing your menstrual flow as it leaves your body. They have a soft absorbent side that lays next to your vulva, and a sticky side that allows it to stay in place stuck to your usual underwear. Most towels can hold for a few hours and you’re supposed to the change them to a fresh one throughout the day. 

You can wear any type of underwear you like when on your period (although thongs and strings may lead you to consider tampons instead), yet many people prefer their comfiest pairs during this time to better deal with any pain or bloating.

Where to get sanitary pads

You can buy period products in all sorts of places including the supermarket, the chemist and the corner shop. Period towels are quite popular because of how simple it is to use them, so you will be able to find them easily. They are usually placed with other health products, sometimes under a sign for “Sanitary Protection” or “Feminine Care”. 

If you’re struggling to afford period products for whatever reason, then there are also ways of getting them for free such as through charities, healthcare providers or even your school. Try searching online to see what’s available in your local community. 

Remember that if you’re ever in need of a pad but are unable to go and buy some, it’s absolutely fine to ask the people around you. Maybe a friend can spare one or two! If you’re at school, then they often have some pads for students to use too – just ask your teacher or head to first aid for help. It can sometimes feel a little embarrassing to bring up your period at school, but remember that your teachers will be happy to help you get what you need. Periods are a natural thing that happens to many people, including some of your teachers themselves, so there is nothing to be ashamed about.

What different types of period towels are there?

There are lots of different pads to choose from. Some have wings (like our freshness and protection ultra regular towels with wings), which means they have extra tabs at the sides that wrap around your underwear to ensure a tighter grip. While these are great and can make you feel more secure, some people prefer pads without wings. 

There are also different towel absorbencies available – words or a symbol on the packet will tell you how much blood they can hold. If your bleeding is light, you can use a light absorbency. A more absorbent pad will be better on days when your bleeding is heavier (which is totally normal too) or at night. 

For the nights of your period, go with a night towel so you don’t need to worry about interrupting your sleep to change. Night sanitary pads are specially designed with extra-comfortable padding to absorb fluid and cushion your V-Zone throughout the whole night. 

If you’d like to learn more about sanitary pads along with other ways to deal with your period such as tampons, period underwear and menstrual cups, then we have a whole guide on all the info you could need on every aspect of a period and the period cycles.

How to put on a sanitary pad

So you’re on your period and you’re ready with the pad you’ve chosen. What comes next?

  1. First, go to a place where you feel comfortable putting on your pad. This might be in the bathroom at home, in your bedroom or in a toilet cubicle in your school.

  2. Make sure to give your hands a wash before you start.

  3. You’ll see that the pad is stuck onto the protective external wrapper that keeps it clean and ready to use. Peel the pad away from this wrapper.

  4. Pull down your underwear and place the sticky side of the towel facing down on the middle part known as the gusset (the bit of fabric that usually touches your vulva). If you’re unsure which is the front and back of the towel, you can check the instructions on the pack. Usually there is a shape drawn on its surface that helps you figure it out.

What happens if your towel has wings? Then you only have to follow a couple extra steps.

  1. Start by peeling off the protective strip behind each wing.

  2. Then wrap the wings around your underwear so they’re stuck facing away from your body. They might overlap, which is completely fine too.

And that’s it!

  1. Once you’re happy with the position of your towel, you can go ahead and pull your underwear back up. It doesn’t matter if the pad isn’t placed perfect the first time or it ends up slightly wonky! You can always test how it feels then readjust. The towel should feel comfortable to wear to the point where you can barely feel anything.

How to change and throw away sanitary pads

Once you’ve mastered the steps to put on a sanitary pad, then changing it shouldn’t cause you any problems! All you need to remember is to change your pad roughly every 4 hours during the day depending on your flow. If you’re unsure if it’s time, try checking when you go to the toilet: if your towel is starting to look full, it’s probably a good idea to switch to another. 

To change your towel, all you need to do is peel it off your underwear, pop the used pad into the bin (never down the toilet!) and replace it with a fresh one. 

You can use the wrapper of your new pad to bundle up your used one before throwing it away. With Nana’s Roll.Press.Go technology, just roll your used pad in the easy-to-use wrapper from your fresh towel and seal it by pressing the sides. This lets you get rid of your used towel hygienically and discreetly, keeping it securely sealed and ready to be binned whenever you get a chance. 

Using a sanitary pad shouldn’t mean getting your knickers in a twist! It just takes a bit of practice but there doesn’t have to be anything secretive about it. At the end of the day, menstruation is a natural and normal process, so we should talk openly about it. Consider taking any questions you may have to members of your family, friends or just someone you trust. After all, it’s likely many of them have some experience with periods too! You can also find more useful information in our articles all about your first period.

Medical disclaimer

The medical information in this article is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult your doctor for guidance about a specific medical condition.

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