Menstrual Health

Menstrual Health

We are committed to supporting, uplifting, and empowering all those who menstruate to ensure physical, mental, and academic well-being. The purpose of this page is to highlight important resources on and around campus that promote menstrual health and equity, and provide accurate information about menstruation and menstrual products. Menstrual equity for all -- period!

What is menstrual equity, and why is it important?

Menstrual equity is ensuring that menstrual products are safe, affordable and available to all people who menstruate. 

From the Student Period Poverty Report, written by the Free the Period student coalition at the University of California:

Out of 170 written testimonials collected from UC students, 55.3% reported that unexpected, heavy, or irregular periods made it difficult to always have menstrual products on hand when needed. 54.7% cited their period as the cause of them missing school or work. (1)

Students face a wide range of academic barriers when they lack access to menstrual health resources: 

  • Financial burden: 1 in 5 US teens struggle to afford menstrual products or have not been able to afford them at all. (2) With 47 percent of UC students food insecure, (3) students may be forced to choose between nutrition and menstrual health. (4) 
  • Health risk: Students who cannot find a menstrual product during the school day wait longer than the recommended 4-6 hours to change their pad or tampon, increasing risk of infection and Toxic Shock Syndrome, a potentially deadly condition. (5)
  • Missed class: 1 in 4 menstruating students in the US report having missed class due to lack of access to menstrual products. (6)
  • Stress, anxiety, and public shame: 43 percent of menstruators have been “period shamed,” and 1 in 10 menstruators said that this shaming occurred in the classroom. (7) Students report that the fear of bleeding through their pants, or of peers seeing their menstrual products, takes a toll on their mental health.

  • Knowing Your Body
  • Try to pay attention to your body, and notice if you are bleeding more or less than usual. If something isn’t normal for you, then it is important to talk to a healthcare provider you trust.

    Tracking Your Cycle

    Tracking your menstrual cycle can help you to know your body so that you can bring up any concerns to your medical provider. Here are some apps that can be used to track your cycle:

    Spot On (Planned Parenthood)

    Apple Health


    Finding a Medical Provider

    All UC Davis students, regardless of insurance, can access sexual and reproductive health services at SHCS. Click here to learn more about primary care providers at SHCS.

    For trans and non-binary students:

    SHCS Gender Care Team - The Gender Care Team is a group of providers at SHCS who have interest and specialized training in addressing the needs of trans patients. The Gender Care Team supports trans patients by connecting them to resources (such as hormonal therapy), and supporting self-defined well-being as determined by the patient.

    Sacramento Gender Health Center has a list of resources for Transgender healthcare

  • Menstrual Hygiene

  • Questions about hygiene are common! We support having open conversations about our bodies and destigmatizing menstrual health and hygiene.

    Try to pay attention to your body, and notice if you are bleeding more or less than usual. If something isn’t normal for you, then it is important to talk to a healthcare provider you trust.

    To help avoid the possibility of infection, try to wash the outer pelvic area daily with unscented soap and water. Replace any absorbency products at least every 4 hours.

  • If You Use Hormones

  • Hormones affect different bodies in different ways. Not everyone uses or wants to use hormones, and that's okay! For those that do choose to use hormones, here are some resources that may be helpful.

    Testosterone and the menstrual cycle (Clue)
    The pill and your period (Clue)
    Heavy Periods and Birth Control (University of Colorado)

    Wanna know more about hormonal birth control? Check out SHCS’ I Love Birth Control campaign! 

  • Toxic Shock Syndrome

  • Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a collection of symptoms that can arise from certain bacterial infections and can affect many different parts of the body. 

    How can someone acquire TSS? | Since tampons were redesigned in the 1980s, TSS has not been common. Risk factors include using super-absorbent tampons, surgical wounds, local infections, recent childbirth, miscarriage, or abortion, and using insertive menstrual products for prolonged periods of time.

    How can someone prevent acquiring TSS? | Regularly changing or cleaning your menstrual products and washing your pelvic area are great ways to prevent the onset of TSS.

  • Gender and Menstruation

  • Menstruators can be any gender. For many menstruators who are trans and non-binary, monthly bleeding might trigger dysphoria. Remember that your identity, feelings, and experiences are all valid, and you are amazing! Here are some resources that may help you to take care of your physical and mental well-being during this time. 

    What it’s like to get your period when you’re trans (Clue) | This article showcases testimonials from transgender and non-binary folks about menstruation. It includes lived experiences and advice on dealing with gender dysphoria and menstruation. 

    Gender Affirmation Closet | Housed at the UC Davis LGBTQIA+ Resource Center, the Gender Affirmation Closet offers free gender-affirming clothing and accessories to UC Davis students.

    Gender-Inclusive Restrooms on Campus | An interactive map to help you find gender-inclusive restrooms on the UC Davis campus.

    Trans Resource List | The UC Davis LGBTQIA+ Center has provided a resource list that may help support the physical and mental well-being of our transgender and non-binary campus community. 

  • Know Your Flow

  • Menstrual products are often sold in several different categories -- including light, medium/ “regular,” and heavy. We recognize that everyone’s body is different, and sometimes a person’s flow does not fit neatly into just one of these categories. With limited and vague size options available, it can be difficult to find which size product is right for your body. Use the following legend on the Absorbency Method / Product Guide below to choose the product(s) that work best for you and your own body! And of course, make sure you wash your hands before and after changing products to keep yourself and others healthy.


Menstrual Concerns and Conditions
  • Is my menstrual pain normal?
  • Mild to moderate cramps for one or two days during your menstrual cycle are usually normal. However, painful periods that impact your daily functioning aren't normal. If you experience painful and intense menstrual cramps that can feel debilitating and interfere with your everyday activities, you may have treatment options.

  • What are some of the possible causes of severe menstrual pain and heavy bleeding?

  • Dysmenorrhea is a medical condition that causes severe pain and cramping while menstruating. It can develop on its own (primary) or as a side effect of a condition like endometriosis or PID (pelvic inflammatory disorder). 

    Endometriosis causes uterine tissue to grow outside of the uterus, and can be extremely painful and debilitating. Endometrial pain can present as painful menstrual cramps that may go into the abdomen (stomach) or lower back, pain during or after intercourse, diarrhea or constipation during a menstrual period, fatigue or low energy, heavy or irregular periods, pain with urination or bowel movements during a menstrual period, or spotting or bleeding between menstrual periods. Individuals with endometriosis may have some of these symptoms, all of these symptoms, or none of them.

    Fibroids are also a potential cause of pelvic pain and can make periods heavier than normal. These symptoms can be normal, but if they are severe or worrisome, please see your healthcare provider.

  • Are severe mood swings, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and lack of control the week before menstruating normal? 

  • These symptoms could be related to premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). PMDD is a chronic medical condition that is a much more severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). PMDD needs attention and treatment. Lifestyle changes and sometimes medicines can help manage symptoms. 

    Psychological symptoms of PMDD may include: irritability, nervousness, lack of control, agitation, anger, insomnia, difficulty in concentrating, depression, severe fatigue, anxiety, confusion, forgetfulness, poor self-image, paranoia, emotional sensitivity, crying spells, moodiness, or trouble sleeping.

  • I have missed periods, irregular periods, or very light periods.

  • Irregular periods accompanied by excess body hair, including the chest, stomach, and back (hirsutism), weight gain (especially around the belly/abdomen), acne or oily skin, or male-pattern baldness or thinning hair can be a sign of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a condition in which the ovaries produce an abnormal amount of androgens -- sex hormones that are usually present in small amounts in people who have a uterus.

  • Can I receive academic accommodations through the Student Disability Center if I have painful, disruptive periods?

  • Students experiencing endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and/or related symptoms that rise to the level of a disabling condition may be eligible for accommodations through the Student Disability Center. Please call 590-752-3184 or email and ask for an Inquiry Appointment to learn more.

Myth Busting
  • “Will using tampons make me lose my virginity?”
  • The concept of “virginity” is subjective; not everyone uses the same definition! If you don’t think that using tampons or any other menstrual products affects your perception of virginity, then it doesn’t. 
  • “People who use tampons are sexually promiscuous” 
  • Not true! Nothing about your menstrual cycle makes you “promiscuous,” so neither does your choice in menstrual products.
  • “I have to use menstrual products”
  • Nope! Some people choose to free bleed!
  • “I have to buy menstrual products”
  • You can find free menstrual products on campus. One resource you can use is the UC Davis Sexcess Map.
  • “Everyone who menstruates gets premenstrual syndrome (PMS).”
  • Every person’s body is different. Some people experience a lot of PMS, and others experience little or none at all. And that’s okay!
  • “Periods are gross.”
  • Periods are a natural process and nothing to be ashamed of! If you menstruate you are not “gross”; you are strong, powerful, and amazing!
  • “Only women menstruate” or “all women menstruate.”
  • Not all people who menstruate are women, and not all women menstruate! Gender is a spectrum, and all bodies are different. We respect and support everyone who menstruates (and everyone who doesn’t!).
  • “You will get TSS if you use tampons.”
  • Since tampons were re-designed in the 1980s, TSS cases are typically pretty rare. Using tampons does not guarantee getting TSS -- in fact, it’s possible to get TSS without using tampons at all. Changing tampons and other menstrual products regularly along with menstrual hygiene will protect against TSS.
  • “Menstruating makes you less fertile.”
  • Menstruation alone won’t make anyone less fertile. People who ovulate are born with more ova than will be expelled over the course of a lifetime. Additionally -- while uncommon -- it is possible to get pregnant while menstruating! Check out Planned Parenthood’s Menstruation  fact guide for more information. 
  • “I’m gonna lose so much blood that I pass out.”
  • This is a common question! According to Flo, a person who menstruates will typically only lose 2-3 tablespoons of blood per cycle/month. It is also totally normal to have heavier days and lighter days over the course of your cycle. If you are worried about whether your menstrual bleeding is too heavy, then talk to your provider!
Absorbency Method / Product Guide

Choose the product(s) that work best for you and your own body! And of course, make sure you wash your hands before and after changing products to keep yourself and others healthy.

Method / Product


Flow Level

Potential Benefits

What to Consider

Free Bleeding



  • Available and accessible to anyone all the time because it doesn't require any specific products -- just yourself and a willingness to free bleed!
  • Good for overnight
  • Can be messy
  • You may need to wear dark-colored clothing if you want to conceal your bleeding

Period Underwear

$10 - $45/pair

Light to Medium

  • Available in different underwear styles and absorbency levels
  • Reusable and environmentally friendly
  • Can be worn as a back-up with another absorbency product
  • No need to worry about carrying menstrual products
  • Many different brands
  • Some companies offer them as boxer-briefs that may align more with one’s gender
  • Can be expensive
  • Needs to be washed and dried regularly, often requires multiple pairs per cycle
  • Not commonly available in brick and mortar stores; may have to purchase online



Light or spotting

  • Good for when you have spotting or a light flow
  • Can be used with tampons to catch any leaks
  • Thin and often comfortable
  • Not good for use alone when your flow is medium or heavy

Pads (one-time use)




  • Good for overnight use
  • No need to insert anything
  • Sold in variety packs or according to your flow level
  • Does not work well with thongs or boxers
  • Can sometimes leak more than insertive methods

Pads (re-usable)

Varies, but generally $10-$20

Can be cheaper if you make your own.

  • Reusable and environmentally friendly
  • Good for overnight use
  • No need to insert anything
  • Do not work well with thongs or boxers
  • Can sometimes leak more than insertive methods




  • Can be used while swimming
  • Can use with any kind of underwear
  • Sold in variety packs or single size according to your flow level
  • Requires comfort with insertion
  • Needs to be changed every 4-6 hours; otherwise may increase risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome 
  • Not recommended for use overnight because you should consider changing every 4 hours

Menstrual Discs



  • Can be used while swimming
  • Available in disposable or reusable/eco friendly options
  • Can use with any kind of underwear
  • More flexible than menstrual cups
  • Can be worn up to 12 hours, depending on your flow
  • Can be worn during sex
  • Disposable
  • Requires comfort with insertion
  • Typically only sold according to one flow level

Menstrual Cups

$20 - $40/cup


  • Can be used while swimming
  • Can use with any kind of underwear
  • Reusable and environmentally friendly
  • With proper care, and depending on the model, cups can last up to 8 years
  • Can be worn for up to 12 hours
  • Can wear overnight
  • Requires comfort with insertion
  • Have to make sure they are made of medical grade silicone and that you buy from a trusted brand


  • 11. Convenience survey of 170 UC students conducted by #FreeThePeriod; 90 responses from the UC Davis campus and 80 from petitions circulated amongst UC students. 2. ibid. 3. University of California 2018 Undergraduate Experience Survey 4. “Women Forced to Choose Between Food and Menstrual Products,” DePaul’s Center for Journalism Integrity and Excellence, 5. State of the Period. 6. State of the Period, white paper authored by PERIOD and Thinx, survey conducted by Harris Analytics. 7. Siebert, Valerie. “Nearly half of women have experienced period shaming,” New York Post. 8 Lau, Chloe. “Campuses should provide free menstrual products to students,” The Daily Californian.