Interlabial Pads: What the heck are they?

Fialuna's Complete Guide to the Interlabial Pad

So you’ve been researching cloth pads or perhaps you’ve recently started using them and you’ve come across a product called interlabial pads. Your first thought is “Interlabial wha-hut-ha????” as you start scratching your head. Well, they are exactly what they sound like. They are a small “pad” which is often in the shape of a petal that fits in between your labia. They can be made of any material, but are usually made from breathable and absorbent cloth such as cotton. They should hold about 2-5ml of fluid.

If you are interested in learning more about interlabial pads then keep reading. We will cover their history, how to use them, fold them, wash and care for them. Plus, we will discuss their pros and cons, if they are right for you and where to buy them.

If you'd prefer to watch a video about interlabial pads, we made one here.

History of the Interlabial Pad

A search of the European Patent Office Espacenet, shows a patent for the interlabial pad published as early as 1969 and 1970 by Johnson & Johnson. With a subsequent publication by Kimberly Clark in 1986. The Kimberly Clark patent publication describes… 

“An interlabial pad as provided having a cylindrodially-shaped central portion and oppositely disposed flaps. The method for forming the interlabial pad involves folding a pad blank along the central longitudinal axis and gathering and attaching the blank at spaced-apart portions below the fold line to form a cylindrodially shaped central member with flaps depending radially there from.”

A disposable interlabial pad called the Padette and later renamed the inSync Miniform and produce by The A-Fem Medical Corporation was available for sale in in the 90s and late 2000’s. According to the Museum of Menstruation, the inSync Miniform absorption pad “fits between the small lips of the vulva & as alternative to menstrual tampons for light days & spotting.” They were apparently made of rayon with polypropylene, but are no longer commercially available.

There are currently no commercially available disposable interlabial pads, but there are a number of companies now producing reusable cloth interlabial pads including Fialuna.

Kimberley Clark Interlabial Pad

Why use an interlabial pad?

There are a number of reasons you would want to use an interlabial pad.

Stop Channeling

Interlabial pads can help direct your menstrual flow and stop what is often referred to as channeling – when your menstrual flow channels through your labia or buttocks to the front or back of your pad. When placed between the labia and over the vaginal opening, the menstrual flow is slowed and stop before it has the opportunity to “channel”. This is one of the main reasons to use an interlabial pad. If you bleed to the front or back, you should definitely give these a try.

Slow your flow

Another thing interlabial pads are useful for is to help slow your menstrual flow. So if you tend to “gush” rather than trickle, an interlabial pad can slow the flow which in turn allows your pad more time to absorb the flow. This is useful for cloth pad users as sometimes a gushy flow means your cloth pad could leak because your flow was not absorbed quickly enough into your cloth pad.

Extra protection

If you have a very heavy flow, the interlabial pad offers even more protection as they will absorb about 2-5ml of fluid. You could use them in conjunction with a tampon or menstrual cup as well as a pad.

Use as back-up

If you are using a menstrual cup or tampon and are concerned about leaks, you can use an interlabial pad as a backup instead of a pantyliner.

Discharge

Because interlabial pads can be used instead of a pantyliner, you can use them to protect against vaginal discharge.

Light incontinence

If you suffer from light incontinence from things like coughing, sneezing or laughing, an interlabial pad can absorb small amounts of leakage.

How do you use and care for interlabial pads?

Before using your interlabial pads, you will need to wash them several times. This is because they are made from cotton and they require washing to make them absorbent. They should reach maximum absorbency after about 5 washes. It’s helpful to wash them in a mesh laundry bag so that they do not get lost in your machine. You do not need to dry them between washes when preparing for use.

You can store your interlabial pads however you like, but it’s useful to keep them in a small bag or wetbag as they are quite small and likely to get lost if you don’t.

To use the interlabial pad, you fold it and place between your labia and over your vaginal opening. If you are using them to protect from light incontinence, you must ensure you are covering your urethra. There are few ways to fold an interlabial pad and you can experiment with different folds to find which one works the best for you. Here are a few to try:

Fold Lengthwise

In this instance the pad may be completely between your labia or it may fold over the outside of your labia.

interlabial pad folded lengthwise

Roll Lengthwise

With this fold the pad should be completely inside your labia.

interlabial pad rolled lengthwise

Fold Widthwise

When you fold widthwise, the sides of the pad will probably sit on the outside of your labia.

interlabial pad folded widthwise

Roll Widthwise

Again, with this fold the pad should be enclosed by your labia.

interlabial pad rolled widthwise

Origami Fold

With this fold, you end up with a flap that will lie flat outside of your labia with the rest enclosed by your labia.

interlabial pad origami fold

Change your interlabial pad regularly. We recommend changing when at full capacity or every 4-6 hours. When you are finished, place the interlabial pad in a wetbag or with your laundry and wash as normal at up to 60 degrees. You can wash interlabial pads with your cloth pads or with your normal laundry. As with cloth pads, it is a good idea to rinse your interlabial pads until the water runs clear before putting in the washing machine. If you want to avoid staining, you should thoroughly rinse your interlabial pads under cold water immediately after use.

Interlabial Pad Pros and Cons

While interlabial pads are without a doubt a great product for many, there are a few pros and cons to using them.

Pros

  • Eco-friendly. Since they are reusable, you can use them over and over again.
  • They are small and discreet and offer an alternative to a pantyliner.
  • They are inexpensive. If you are looking for a reusable option, they are less expensive than cloth pantyliners.
  • If you are on a really tight budget or happen to be good at sewing, you could make your own interlabial pads by hand and with material from old pajamas or anything made of 100% cotton.
  • Internal protection may be more comfortable for active people. If you are really active, a pad or pantyliner may not be as comfortable as interlabial pad.
  • Extra layer of protection for those with a heavy flow.
  • Safe to use. No risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).

Cons

  • You have to remember you are wearing one when using the toilet as they can fall out and into the toilet easily.
  • If you are using them as a backup or with a very light flow, they can absorb the moisture from your skin. You can always wet the pad first to avoid this.
  • You may not find them as comfortable as other options (very much an individual preference).
  • Some people’s anatomy (small labia) may not hold them in position very well

interlabial pads in a flower shape

Buying Interlabial Pads

The number of interlabial pads you’ll need will depend on your flow and what you require them for. We recommend a pack of 10 as a starting point as this will last about 3 days without washing if you use them during your period. If you are using them for discharge or occasional light incontinence, you may get away with using about 2 per day. 

You will want to make sure you are purchasing a breathable interlabial pad. They are normally made from cotton, but is a good idea to check. Fialuna’s interlabial pads are made from 100% organic cotton so they are not only breathable, but being organic means they are from a more sustainable source.

Are interlabial pads right for you?

Interlabial pads are not the most popular form of period protection. However, they are a very good, inexpensive alternative to cloth pantyliners and offer an extra layer of protection for those with a heavy flow. They are definitely worth trying.

If you are interested in giving interlabial pads a try, you can buy them from our shop here.

Have you tried using interlabial pads? What did you think of them? Have you even heard of this product before? Please share your thoughts below.

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