Being sent into the feminine hygiene aisle if you’ve never had a period can be a bit like losing your virginity – overwhelming and uncomfortable with a strong likelihood of screwing it all up.
But this doesn’t have to be the case. Buying pads and tampons is as normal as buying toothpaste when you get down to it – they’re both necessary for our bodies and overall hygiene, the only difference is that sanitary products are needed for around half of the population, rather than all of us. Seriously, think about it.
So next time your girlfriend, sister, mum, friend or otherwise needs you to pick up some stuff up while you duck out to get some milk, breathe. Periods are a natural function of the human body. Don’t be weird. Don’t make them regret assigning someone to line and/ or plug their muffin.
Ahead, we break down everything you’ll need to know when being handed this very important task of looking after someone’s box of goodies.
Do I buy pads, tampons or liners?
It’s likely they’ll tell you what their preference is rather than keep things vague like, “Can you please get me some sanitary products?” or, “Would you mind picking up some stuff for my period?” If they do they’re probably a sociopath who likes to see people suffer and burn, so it might be an idea to cut them out of your life. (After you’ve gone shopping for them and Aunt Flo, of course.)
In the off chance the words “pads” or “tampons” aren’t mentioned, just ask what kind. Some cushioning for your undies or a bullet for your cooch, love? Maybe both? Some prefer a combo throughout the cycle to account for flow or comfort during certain situations, like sleeping or swimming. Let’s break it down.
Tampons: Tampons absorb menstrual flow internally. We insert them into our vaginas (no, it doesn’t get us off) so that any menstrual blood is soaked up before it has a chance to leave our bodies and wind up on our brand new jeans. They fit snugly up in our bits, so much so that we can’t even feel them. They need to be changed every 4-6 hours regardless of flow, which is handled by pulling on the string. Chill, it doesn’t hurt us.
Pads: Pads absorb the menstrual flow externally, and I can’t even begin to tell you how important it is that you don’t shame anyone for using pads over tampons. It’s their choice, and you’ll find many people use pads for sleep regardless of day-to-day preference. The Libra Extra Goodnights are a good example – while to the untrained body they might appear to be uncomfortable nappy-like apparatus, they’re absolutely not, designed to fit our contours and cover every movement.
Liners: Liners are generally used when expecting our periods, or at the end of it as a precautionary measure. Plenty of us even wear them in conjunction with a tampon just to be extra careful, like if we have a heavy period or are wearing white bottoms. (Honestly, if I get my period on my wedding day I’m giving up and wearing red. The jig will no doubt be up.)
Should I get regular or super?
Flows are completely different across the board. Flow is essentially how much blood comes out during menstruation, but it ain’t no waterfall. Sometimes flow can be light, sometimes it can be heavy (but not like, several-bags-of-groceries heavy), and sometimes it can be both depending on which day of the cycle we’re on.
This is where the “regular” and “super” specifications come in, and no, these have nothing to do with the size of our vaginas – it refers to the level of absorbency. (Fun fact to whip out on a night out with da bois: for pads, absorbency isn’t determined by the thickness, but rather the length.)
To figure out the absorbency level of a product, the below colours on the pack are a quick cheat sheet:
Blue = Regular. For light to medium flow days.
Pink = Super. For medium to heavy flow days.
Purple = Goodnights. Ultimate overnight coverage.
How many should I be buying?
A period, on average, lasts 4-7 days which means the rumours are true – we are damn super humans who shall not be undermined. Pads and tampons should be changed every 4-6 hours, meaning we use around 15 products per period. That’s usually 2 x packs, depending on what you’re buying.
Put gently a la tampon insertion, you can’t screw this part up. The thing about periods is, after a nice three-week hiatus they’re back in action. So if you overstock? They won’t go to waste like that time you invested feelings into a dingbat, don’t worry.
Oh, and while you’re at the shops, you may as well add something else to cart. PMS is absolutely real and causes hormone fluctuations – the levels of the hormones oestrogen, serotonin and cortisol in the body shift – which result in cravings.
So get the flipping chocolate thank you.
If your period questions were not answered, head over to Ask Gemmah. Disclaimer: the responses will not be from a physician.Image: She's The Man