If you have been using disposable pads, you can use those pads to give you an idea of what to look for with cloth pads. By measuring the disposable pads to get an idea of the length you’d like, and comparing how the length and shape of the disposable pads worked (or didn’t work) for you, you’ll get an idea of what shape and size may be suitable for you.
Pads should be long enough so that they feel comfortable and provide the coverage you need for the way your blood flows. Some people have flows that go straight down into the pad, some people have flows that come out the front (pubic bone area) and some have flows that go up the back (up the “butt crack”). So we are all different. Ideally your pads should be long enough so that there is spare space at the ends, rather than the blood covering right up to the edges. You want some safety space!
Think about how well your current pads work for the length? Are they are right length or would you like shorter or longer pads? If necessary get out a ruler or tape measure and measure the pads you have and estimate how much shorter/longer you would like them to be.
Longer back or longer front
Some cloth pads are made with the wings in the centre of the pad – so that the distance to the front end or the back end of the pad is the same. Some pads are made with offset wings, so that the back end (or the front end) is a longer distance from the wings. This is because the pad wings need to sit directly down from your vagina (pads tend to always slide back to that spot if you move them anyway). So if you need more coverage at the front or back, it’s usually not possible to just move your pad to where you need it – you would be better to buy pads that have a longer back or front section so that you get the coverage you need while the wings stay in the centre crotch.
Pads described as “front-bleeder” pads are specifically designed with a longer and more flared front end, for those who need extra coverage there. Sometimes these pads have a very short back section by comparison. Most pads with a longer and wider end are designed for that end to be at the back, but if they fit at the front, then by all means wear them that way. If you’re unlucky enough to need coverage at both the back and the front, then you may need a very long pad to cover the distance needed.
Cloth pads (with wings) need to snap securely around the crotch/gusset of your underpants. If they don’t then they can slide around and even end up upside down! So you need to consider not only what width of pad will feel comfortable for you, but also how well it will fit into your underpants. (See also Underpants & Slippage) To avoid pad-wedgies and to give more coverage at the back, you can choose pads that have a more curved/hourglass sort of shape, rather than being straight – The flared ends provide more coverage while leaving the centre crotch area narrower.
If you’ve ever leaked off the edge of a pad, where has that happened? – This might tell you what sort of shape you need. If you leak off the centre crotch area, then you may want a winged pad with wider “wrap” wings rather than narrower “tab” wings. If you leak off the front or back, then you’ll need a long pad, perhaps with a flared end for more coverage. If you leak off the sides towards the back you may like a pad with a wider back section.