Everything you need to know about pantyliners

What is a pantyliner anyway?

If you’ve ever been caught with a sudden heavy flow while wearing just a pantyliner, and you didn’t immediately break into a cold sweat of panic, you are a brave and fearless woman, and we’d like to shake your hand.

If you’re not sure why facing a heavy period flow with just a pantyliner as your only line of defence is a very brave (and very bad) idea, you, like many other women and girls, are probably confused by the distinction between menstrual pads and pantyliners.

We get it. It is confusing.

Pantyliners are literally smaller, thinner pads, but their absorbency and purpose is quite different to the type of menstrual pad you want to be wearing on the second day of your period. Menstrual pads (which are larger, mostly have wings, and higher absorbency) are specially designed for heavy flow days when you’re menstruating.

Pantyliners, on the other hand, cover you (and your panties) on those light flow days at the start and end of your period, when you’re spotting, and for any other kind of fluids you may experience throughout the month – that includes cervical fluid or discharge, post-sex discharge, spotting, and even urine from light incontinence.

What are those fluids exactly?
Discharge, breakthrough bleeding, spotting, and implantation bleeding

Is it just us, or was discharge a majorly overlooked topic in our pre-teen period talk and life orientation? This is probably why pantyliners have been such a mystery for so many of us.

Since it’s rarely spoken about, it’s pretty likely that at some stage of your life, you’ve been concerned about the consistency, colour and frequency of your vaginal discharge (or the fact that it’s ruined countless pairs of your favourite underwear!).

We’re here to tell you it’s a completely normal part of having a vagina, and it can actually give us important insights into our menstrual cycles.

It changes during the month

You’ll most likely experience white discharge leading up to the days when you ovulate. Why? As if our vaginas weren’t magical enough, they also tell us (through our discharge) when we’re fertile, which is super helpful if you want to conceive.

Ovulation may cause slight pain and discomfort (sharper pains are known as Mittelschmerz), breakthrough bleeding or a clear, stretchy discharge. It’s your own built-in fertility tracker.

After ovulation, discharge changes again, sometimes turning brown just before your period arrives. This is a mixture of oxidised blood and cervical fluid, and nothing to worry about if it’s a common occurrence for you. Remember: Healthy discharge is mild-smelling and can range from a clear to white, to brown, or even light yellow in colour.

Mid-cycle bleeding (or spotting) is any light bleeding that occurs outside of your normal period. This can occur for a number of reasons, many of which are not cause for concern, while others can be a sign of a problem. The most common causes are contraceptives such as hormonal birth control, implants and injections. Stress and medication can also cause this kind of breakthrough bleeding.

What to wear when you’re expecting

If you’re trying to fall pregnant, you’ll be interested to know that light pink discharge or spotting a couple days after you ovulate may, in some cases, indicate implantation bleeding. From this moment onwards, pantyliners are a lifesaver, as the increase in oestrogen that’s necessary to maintain your pregnancy may cause a lot more discharge, more frequently, too.

You might want to call your doctor if:

If you experience heavy spotting or breakthrough bleeding that concerns you and is out of the ordinary and accompanied by any other symptoms or pain, it’s best to chat to your doctor.

Frothy, grey or green discharge can indicate infections like Bacterial Vaginosis (or BV) or an STI, while a cottage-cheese texture could be caused by a yeast infection. Pungent-smelling discharge may be a sign of a hormonal imbalance or inflammation.

Either way, it’s never a bad idea to get this checked out, so if you’re at all concerned, make an appointment with your doctor or gynae.

Our everyday advice?

Pantyliners are a great bridge between your period and the other days in your menstrual cycle, acting as a catch-all for breakthrough bleeding caused by hormones or an oral contraceptive, as well as other fluids. Depending on what’s more comfortable for you, try our Everyday Freshness thick or thin pantyliners to protect your underwear from pesky discharge stains and to avoid feeling damp and uncomfortable.


Change your pantyliners every 3-5 hours, or more often when moist or soiled. Always try to keep your vaginal area dry to prevent any irritation.

Flo Time
Pantyliners and menstruation

Hey, it’s everybody’s favourite unexpected visitor! Not really. Some women have periods that arrive like clockwork but if yours likes to fluctuate, wearing a pantyliner on those unsure days is a reassuring protection against surprise spills. Simply pop a pantyliner into your underwear around the time you’re expecting your period, and it’ll absorb unexpected flow, giving you enough time to get a pad or tampon, if you need it.

It’s a good idea to become aware of what your usual cycle is (because we’re all individuals), and to know what usually throws yours off, whether it’s travel, certain medications or stress. If you feel concerned about any sudden changes in your menstrual cycle, or uncomfortable or even painful sensations accompanying your period, it’s best to seek medical advice.

It may be nothing, but since inconsistent periods and discomfort can indicate conditions like endometriosis or PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), it’s wise to get it checked out, just in case. (But don’t worry, these are treatable conditions with the right diagnosis and treatment plan.)

On the heavy flow days of your period, tampon and menstrual cup users often like the reassurance that comes with wearing a pantyliner as an extra line of defence from leaks. Some women also simply prefer to use pantyliners at the start or end of a period, as they aren’t as bulky as pads, but still offer enough absorbency for the lighter flow. We recommend our Extra Protection pantyliners for this purpose.

I think I just peed a little
Managing light urinary incontinence

Worried that you pee a little when you get a case of the giggles or when you sneeze? Don’t worry – it’s normal – and it’s not something that only happens to older or pregnant women.

However uncomfortable, it’s common to leak sometimes when you laugh, sneeze or exercise. While people who have been pregnant or given birth (either vaginally or through a Caesarean section) are more likely to have weakened pelvic floor muscles that lead to light urinary incontinence, it can also happen in a different life stages for a number of reasons. If you experience light incontinence, try a pantyliner from our Extra Protection range when you exercise or during the day for that confidence-boosting protection, just in case.

BTW, chat to your doctor if this has started suddenly, is very heavy, is causing you intense discomfort or disrupting your life in any way.

A final word

Everyone talks about managing periods, but we don’t talk enough about managing everything else the rest of the month. Pantyliners accommodate you at every stage of your menstrual cycle, not just on the days you’re on your period. With the right pantyliner, you can feel comfortable and confident, all month long.

We’re all different and the Lil-Lets range of pantyliners is designed to help you choose what works for you, based on the absorbency you need, and the shape you prefer. Check out the full range here.