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Best maternity pads 2023 for post-birth tested by new mums

Heavy post-birth bleeding is common and you're going to need ultra absorbent maternity pads. Here are the top performers starting from 7.5p per pad

10 best maternity pads

It doesn’t matter whether you have a vaginal birth or give birth by caesarean section, you’re likely to experience some postpartum heavy bleeding, known as ‘lochia’. And, talking bluntly, you’re going to need maternity pads to soak up the blood. We’re not talking normal sanitary pads, these are big, absorbent, almighty pads.

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Lochia can happen directly after birth (as if we haven’t been through enough!) and can last for a matter of days or may continue as a light flow for up to 6 weeks. Bleeding will be heaviest in the hours immediately following birth, where you’ll most probably need to change your pad every hour or two.

We’ve used recommendations from parents as well as our parent testers to bring you our pick of the best maternity pads, with both disposable and resuable options to suit a range of budgets.

Best maternity pads at a glance

  • Best for softness and sensitivity: Natracare Natural Maternity Pads, £2.59 for 10
  • Best for high absorption: Abena Premium Maternity Pads, £4 for 14
  • Best budget buy: Tesco Maternity Towel 20 Pack, £1.50 for 20
  • Best for attractive design: Boots Maternity Pads, £1.29 for 10
  • Best reusable maternity pad: Cheeky Pants Cloth Bamboo Night/Maternity Pad, £6.50 for 1
  • Best for secure wings: Always Ultra Night, £1.99 for 10
  • Best for night-time: Tena Lady Maxi Incontinence Pads, £2 for 6
  • Best for long term use: Bloom & Nora Bloomer Reusable Sanitary Pads, £21.50 for 3

How do maternity pads differ from regular sanitary pads?

You’ll find – especially when the bleeding is at its heaviest – that maternity pads tend to work better than ordinary sanitary towels as they are longer, softer and more absorbent, though as the lochia lessens you might be able to switch to regular pads.

Additionally, the fine mesh on sanitary towels has been known to irritate postpartum stitches – and you certainly won’t want any stitches getting caught in the mesh.

Unlike menstrual bleeding, using tampons is not advised as they can increase the risk of infection immediately after birth.

What to look for when buying maternity pads

From reusable to eco to pads with wings, maternity pads come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and materials. You may find that you prefer to purchase a couple of styles, to suit your needs as and when your flow changes.

Material – Maternity pads are slightly different to regular sanitary pads, as they don’t have the plastic coating on the inside layer. This is done to avoid irritation of any vaginal stitches. Pads made from softer materials – the kinder on your sensitive parts the better – came out favourably when we spoke to mum testers.

Size – Maternity pads are available in different sizes, some are longer in length than others and some are made thicker in density to be more absorbent. Not surprisingly our testers also favoured those that were extra-wide and extra-long for maximum coverage and security. Thicker pads are suitable for heavier blood flow and can be worn at night too, and you can then move onto thinner ones once your flow is lighter.

Comfort – Another difference in comparison to sanitary pads is that maternity pads have more of a cushion feel when worn. They are not designed to be super sleek and undetectable, their first priority is to be comfortable when worn and absorb as much blood as possible. This comfort level is also important if you have any stitches.

Style – The main two styles are wings are no-wings. Winged pads have flaps on the side that fold under and stick to the centre of your knickers. Those without wings simply stick along the centre of your knickers. The key thing is that it feels secure for you – and this may be influenced by the knickers you wear too.

Disposal – Many maternity pads are single-use and disposable but it’s also possible to buy reusable ones. The reusable ones are made with cotton fabric and can be washed several times.

Do you have to buy special maternity knickers?

After giving birth, you are not going to want to wear your best knickers. If you have very heavy blood flow, they may get ruined. Some hospitals may provide you with some paper-based single-use knickers or alternatively you can buy your own disposable maternity pants. You may also want to buy cheap, large and comfortable pants (that you don’t mind disposing of afterwards).

Is postpartum bleeding similar to a period?

Lochia tends to be bright red and heavy, particularly in the hours following birth. The bleeding comes from the uterus, mostly from the spot where the placenta was attached. After that, it tends to look slightly more pink and watery. By weeks two or three, it can appear brownish.

Clots are also completely normal, but they should be no larger than a 50p piece. If you’re worried at all by any large clotting or unusual bleeding, call your GP or health professional.

Bleeding may be heavier if you’re breastfeeding as this can encourage the release of the hormone oxytocin, which causes the uterus to contract. The contraction of your uterus encourages blood and tissue to be released – when this is happening, you may experience sensations similar to period pains.

The best maternity pads according to new mums…

Suitable for first days/heavy blood flow

1. Natracare Natural Maternity Pads, £2.59 for 10 (25.9p per pad)

– Best for softness and sensitivity

Disposal: Single-use biodedgradable & compostable | Wings: No | Awards: MadeForMums Awards 2020 Gold – Best new mum toiletries

Made from organic cotton with no plastics, dyes or chlorine the Natracare Maternity Pads proved great for sensitive skin for our parent tester Emma. “These were the first maternity pads I’ve used that didn’t irritate my sensitive skin.” Praising them for being gentle on her skin and very comfortable, Emma also found they stayed in place – thanks to the sticky backing.

The pads are 100% compostable – great if you have a home compost. If you don’t, you’ll need to dispose of these with your normal rubbish, but these plastic-free pads will slowly bio-degrade. These eco-credentials scored highly with our parent testers, with Ali praising them for being “soft, biodegradable and environmentally-conscious”.

Available from: Holland & Barrett and Amazon

2. Abena Premium Maternity Pads, £4 for 14 (28.6p per pad)

– Best for high absorption

Disposal: Single-use | Wings: No |

Made in Denmark, these pads offer a high degree of absorbency (800ml liquid absorbed per pad) and are specifically designed for heavy postpartum bleeding. They’re designed with a fast absorption layer as well as odour and leak protection but don’t come with wings.

“The Abena maternity pads were extremely absorbent but never became uncomfortable,” explained our MFM parent tester Natalie. “I found the adhesive strip to be really sticky so there wasn’t any movement. All in all they were exactly what I wanted and needed.”

Available from: Amazon

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3. Tesco Maternity Towel 20 Pack, £1.50 for 20 (7.5p per pad)

-Best budget buy

Disposal: Single-use | Wings: No |

While these pads are some of the cheapest on the market, our parent tester Amy found Tesco’s maternity towels to be soft and secure, despite not having wings. “I loved the fit of them and how comfortable they were,” explained Amy. “They weren’t too bulky but still gave me the protection that I needed after having both my boys.”

Parent tester Kirstie commented “I liked that they were big enough to do the job but not so big you felt like you were wearing a nappy! Also, I have sensitive skin and they didn’t irritate my skin.”

An added bonus is these pads being sold by a leading supermarket chain as opposed to a niche retailer, so they should be easily available.

Available from: Tesco

4. Boots Maternity Pads, £1.29 for 10 (12.9p per pad)

-Best for attractive (and discreet) design

Pack of 10 Boots maternity pads

Disposal: Single-use | Wings: No |

While you shouldn’t always judge a product by its packaging, these nicely packaged pads regularly feature in hospital bags and are often reviewed favourably by mums. As well as lovely packaging, these pads from Boots come with  soft cushioning but again, like the Tesco pads they don’t come with wings.

“I found these absorbent and comfortable,” explained MFM parent tester Lucy Rebecca. “They were also a decent size so prevented leakages well.” While MFM tester Hannah commented, “They were comfortable, effective and seemed great value for money.”

Available from: Boots

Suitable for lighter blood flow

5. Cheeky Pants Cloth Bamboo Night/Maternity Pad, £6.49 per pad

– Best reusable pads

Cheeky Pants Cloth Period Bamboo maternity pads

Disposal: Reusable | Wings: No |

From the makers of Cheeky Wipes – the eco-friendly reusable wipes – Cheeky Pants Cloth Bamboo night/maternity pads are also washable and reusable. Plus, they look great. Available in a number of patterns, designs and sizes, the Cheeky Wipes maternity pads feature 4 layers of protection and are free from bleaching and other chemicals that may cause rashes or irritation.

As with other reusables such as period pants, breast pads or nappies, while the initial outlay is more costly than for disposables, they can be used as resuable sanitary pads afterwards and put aside for any further pregnancies. You can also try them out first as Cheeky offer a 90-day trial that means you can return them if you don’t get on with them.

MFM tester Emma said, “I was really impressed by the Cheeky maternity pads after I had my son; they had plenty of length to protect against leaks and were more absorbent than the disposable pads I got from the hospital. The bamboo fabric was nice and comfy against my skin too. I was worried about having to wash them, but there was so much baby laundry anyway – we used cloth nappies too – I could just chuck them in the machine with the nappies and they came out looking good as new. After plenty of use the first time round, they’re still in good condition and seem well made and sturdy.”

Available from: Cheeky Wipes

6. Always Ultra Night, £1.99 for 10 (19.9p per pad)

– Best for secure wings

Disposal: Single-use | Wings: Yes |

While these are actually sanitary towels rather than maternity pads, Always is a brand loved by so many mums, and their Ultra Night pads are frequently used and recommended by postpartum mums. They’re a brand many women trust to use during their periods, and their absorbency levels – and the fact the ‘ultra’ ones come with wings – means many of you have found they do a great job after you’ve given birth, too.

Always Ultra Nights also contain odour neutralising technology and a liquid-locking gel to help absorb fluids. One of the key features is their thinness – they measure 3mm in depth. Our parent tester Cait said, “I found Always Night to be absorbent and yet are not as bulky as most maternity pads. They’re way more comfortable.”

Available from: Boots, Tesco and Amazon

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7. Tena Lady Maxi Incontinence Pads, £2 for 6 (33.3p per pad)

– Best for night-time

Disposal: Single-use | Wings: No |

A leading brand when it comes to incontinence, Tena Lady pads prove a popular choice over regular maternity pads or sanitary towels due to their ultra-absorbency and reliability.

The pads have elasticated sides and are designed to instantly absorb liquid and prevent odours. Home tester Nirali said, “I actually got a sample from Tena and really liked them so I ended up getting my husband to buy them for the first few days. I found them much softer than the hospital pads with disposable underwear. There were no leaks and it felt like I had one less thing to worry about when dealing with a newborn.”

You do pay for the absorbency though – they work out to be more expensive than most other disposable pads on the market – but can be a trusted solution for night-time use.

Available from: Boots and Amazon

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8. Bloom & Nora Bloomers Maxi Reusable Sanitary Pads, £21.50 for pack of 3 (£7.17 per pad)

– Best for long-term use

Disposal: Reusable | Wings: No |

Just like the job in hand, maternity pads notoriously aren’t that pretty. But Bloom & Nora has created a range of eye-catching, reusable maternity pads that are sure to make the task of catching postpartum blood flow that bit more bearable.

In addition to being “bright, colourful and perfectly sewn”, MFM tester Beverley found them to be practical as well as pretty, she commented, “The pads are very effective and absorbent. Poppers keep them securely in place throughout the day. The accompanying waterproof wash bag is the perfect storage solution if you’re using pads when out and about.”

Overall, with well-made environmentally-friendly and reusable maternity pads still few and far between on the market, these are a strong contender for your hospital bag and beyond if you’re looking for a a great sustainable option.

Available from: Bloom & Nora and Babipur

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How did we choose our best list?

We worked with a number of mums to feedback on maternity pads that they had used just after giving birth. We also tested a number of pads with brand new mums as part of our Awards process. 

When testing maternity pads we considered absorbency, materials, style, comfort, method of disposal and value.

Our Best lists are compiled by qualified and experienced parenting journalists. They rely on a number of sources, including our independent reviews, testing undertaken during the MadeForMums Awards, and feedback from our home testing panel and Top Testers Club. Each year thousands of products are put through their paces by hundreds of parents across the country on behalf of MadeForMums, to ensure we’re bringing you honest and true reviews and recommendations.

Our list is not an ordered ranking from 1-10, instead it is a carefully selected group of tried-and-tested products, each of which we believe is best for a different situation or requirement. We don’t just tell you what is best, we help you discover what is best for your family.

About the author

Kayleigh Rattle is a freelance writer specialising in food, travel and parenting. She’s a member of the Guild of Food Writers and former deputy editor of Great British Food magazine. She’s also a regular reviews writer with bylines in the Evening Standard, Independent, BBC Good Food and more.

When not writing, Kayleigh can be found looking after her snack-loving toddler, or spending time by the sea.

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