Gone on the pill because your skin is playing up, or your periods are reaaaaally heavy? It can be a bit of a lifesaver, tbh. But if you’ve still got a load of questions about how it affects your body, or what happens to your monthly flow when you’re taking it, look no further. Here’s everything you NTK…

The pill stops you ovulating

The most common way the pill works is by stopping your ovaries from releasing an egg (ovulation). You’ll probably remember from biology that periods happen each month if an egg is released but not fertilised, so when the pill stops your ovaries from releasing an egg each month, it technically means you don’t get periods at all.

There’s usually still a bleed though (sorry!)

Even though you don’t get a real period, you’ll still experience monthly bleeding that’s similar to having your period. It’s officially called a “withdrawal bleed” but, whatever you want to call it, your fake period is usually lighter, more regular, and less painful than a normal period.

When you first go on the pill, you might also get a bit of spotting (bleeding between periods) but this should settle down. If it doesn’t, speak to your nurse or GP.

The type of pill will affect if/when you bleed

There are two main types of contraceptive pill: the combined pill, which contains a mixture of the hormones oestrogen and progestogen, and the progestogen-only pill (POP, or mini pill), which – as the name suggests – only contains progestogen.

On the combined pill, you’ll take a hormone pill every day for three weeks, and then have a seven-day break. Your bleed happens at some point during that break, when your body is withdrawing from the hormones.

If you’re taking the most common type of combined pill (brands like Microgynon, Brevinor and Cilest), you won’t take any pill at all during your hormone-free week – so remember to start your next pack on time at the end of it. Some types of pill are known as every day (ED) pills. They work in the same way, but you take dummy pills (placebos) during your hormone-free week.

On the POP, you take a pill every day and don’t have a break between packs. Some (but not all) types of POP prevent ovulation, but the effect on your period can vary a bit more than with the combined pill.

The pill can also help with PMS and those pesky pre-period breakouts

Again, it depends on the type and how your body reacts to it, but the pill can help to reduce PMS symptoms like mood swings and acne breakouts. Unfortunately, it can also cause those things as its own side effect, so there’s a bit of trial and error involved in finding the pill that works best for you.

“We would normally start with a simple combined pill and see how you get on for at least three months,” explains Sue Burchill, Head of Nursing at sexual health charity Brook. “Because you’re introducing hormones, your body is more likely to react at first, so your skin or PMS may get slightly worse, but these side effects may well improve.” If the side effects don’t settle down after three months, do go back to your nurse or GP about trying another option – your body might react horribly to one brand but get on absolutely fine with another.

You can use the pill to control your periods

The best thing about your hormone-free week is always knowing when your period’s going to show up. No more being caught out without a tampon or pad! For me, it usually starts on the fourth day of my pill break, and finishes on the day I start my next pack – but it might be totally different for you.

You can also use the combined pill to avoid bleeding at all, by taking two or more packs back-to-back, without the usual break in between. Don’t want your period putting a downer on your winter holiday, or sabotaging that gymnastics competition? Just start taking your next pack as soon as you’ve finished the previous one, and you basically get a free pass on that month. “It’s fine not to have a period every month,” Sue says, although you might still get a bit of spotting, or breakthrough bleeding, when running the packs together.

This method can also be handy if you’re forgetful about taking the pill every day. “If you miss pills, your body’s not going to know what’s going on, so it can be easier to remember if you run packs back-to-back,” Sue explains. “It’s absolutely safe to do this and there are different regimes you can follow to manage it. Your doctor or nurse will explain which one to use.”

If in doubt, ask an expert

Hormones are complicated, and everyone reacts differently, so make sure you talk through the options and side effects with a nurse or GP, either at your local surgery or sexual health clinic. “Do not just use your friend’s pills!” says Sue. “Your doctor or nurse will ask questions to make sure you’re safe, but remember that it’s a confidential service where you can get information and advice,” she adds. If you’re concerned about anything – from abnormal bleeding to long-term side effects – get it checked out.

For more information on the pill, visit Brook.org.uk or go to your local GP surgery or sexual health clinic.

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

1. Like a tiny man is busking in your uterus and has fashioned your fallopian tubes into guitar strings, so he can gently pluck them… constantly. Day and night. The same tunes, again and again.

2. Like someone’s replacing the cheese on their spag bol for your uterus and is ferociously grating it with all the strength they have because WHY NOT, EH.

3. Like some douchebag has snuck up on you and punched your uterus hard square in the face, then run away with plans to come back in approx. 10 minutes and do it again.

4. Like your P.E. teacher has decided that today’s dodgeball session will take place in your uterus and the whole school is playing.

5. Like an overenthusiastic orchestra conductor has mistaken your uterus for the Royal Albert Hall, is waving his arms incredibly dramatically, causing an absolute ruckus and EVERYTHING IS JUST A BIT TOO MUCH.

6. Like your uterus has gained actual sentience and is trying to claw its way out of your body for the great escape to freedom.

7. Like the douchebag from earlier has come back and given your fanny a bruised black eye. THROBBING. WHY THE THROBBING FANNY?!

8. Like it’s raining and the kids next door have decided to play Swingball in your uterus (instead of spending hours on YouTube like normal kids).

9. Like someone’s wringing out your uterus like a flannel.

10. Like your nan’s tied your fallopian tubes into a pretty little bow for her cat.

11. Like a Brownie group are camping in your uterus but have had too much sugar on their first night away from their families and are screaming, ‘KOOKABURRA SITS IN THE OLD GUM TREE’ while running around playing Tag and you’re just weeping.

12. Like your uterus is about to do a bungee jump and is shaking with nerves so much it might actually fall out.

13. Like someone is using your ovaries as stress balls.

14. Like you’ve got those really weird pins and needles in your foot where it’s super numb but if you try and move it a fraction then it suddenly vibrates and feels SO WEIRD.

No?? Just me?

Oh. 

@louisejonesetc

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Hailey Hamilton

Pads are great. They’re comfy and easy to use and they even make great post-it notes if you’re desperate. But sometimes they slip to the back, or try and make a great escape down the side of your knickers. There have been a few instances when they’ve decide to go completely AWOL (like when Mexican singer Patricia Navidad was performing on a Mexican TV morning show and her pad exited her pants stage left).

Which begs the question: will your tampon ever get all commitment-phobic on you and decide to run off without so much as a ‘thanks for having me’..?

WELL, WILL IT?

Nope! The good news is tampons love commitment. If anything, they’re a bit needy.

Those babies won’t budge until they’re good and ready, unless you’re willing to wrestle them out of there.

So they’ll never leave me?

Your tampon is held in place by the walls of your vagina, so if you’ve inserted it correctly (i.e. pushed it all the way up) you can rest easy knowing it will never slip out as a surprise. If it ever feels too heavy or as though it might slip out, that probably means it’s time to change it for a fresh one.

However, if you’re on the loo doing a strenuous number two, you might notice that your tampon wiggles down a bit, or in some cases, joins the party that’s going on in the bowl. While it can be a bit of a shock, this is completely normal, so don’t panic.

If you’re not normally a flusher, we recommend making an exception in this case.

Ew. Is that all?

That’s all. So get up on stage and strut your stuff. Your period should never stop you from being your kickass self.

Image: Clueless

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Periods, you’ve gotta love them. They have the ability to make us cry, rant and fall asleep for 12 hours straight…sometimes all in the same day. But hands-up if you feel kinda different when you come on? Like your usual chilled self has gone on her holibobs, leaving you with Little Miss Who-The-Heck-Is-This?

But before you think it’s weird to have a whole new ‘period personality’ for few days a month, we’re telling you, it’s normal. You can blame hormones for the randomness.

Curious to find out what your main mood is when you’ve got your period? Take our test below.

1. When raging hunger strikes, what are you nose-diving into to satisfy your cravings?

2. Soooo, you leaked on your school skirt. Do you…

3. Which of these animals do you identify with most when you’re on your period?

4. What does PMS stand for?

5. You’re on the bus journey home, feelin’ all tired. What’s playing in your headphones?

6. You’ve got your period and it’s just you, the sofa and a mountain of munchies. What do you watch?

7. Your brother/sister/annoying friend asks “Are you on your period or something?” How do you reply?

8. What are your go-to period pants?

9. When was the last time you had a really good cry?

10. Finish this sentence. “Tampons and pads…”

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Amber Griffin

Let’s go back to basics! What actually is a period? Here are some answers you will probably get from your over-sharing aunt and your weird school nurse:

“It’s when you become a woman.” Bleurgh.

“It’s a miracle.” Oh please.

“It’s your body’s way of showing it’s ready for a baby.”

WHAT?! Doesn’t my brain get a say? I CAN’T EVEN REMEMBER WHERE I PUT MY MATHS HOMEWORK.

Breathe. Here’s the actual science.

Period blood isn’t like the blood that comes out of your body when you cut your elbow making an awesome save in football, or graze your knee tripping over a doormat. We call it ‘blood’ because frankly that’s less hassle than referring to it as ‘menstrual fluid and womb lining’, but that would be a bit more accurate.

Over the course of your menstrual cycle, progesterone causes the lining of your uterus to grow thicker with extra blood and tissue, making it extra cosy and snug in case a fertilised egg shows up and wants to become a baby.

TLDR? Here’s the important stuff:
  • Over the course of your menstrual cycle, progesterone makes the lining of your uterus grow thicker with extra blood and tissue, in case a pregnancy occurs.
  • If it doesn’t, as your hormone levels fall, the extra blood and tissue fall away and leave your body as your period. Wooo.
  • Just because your body is technically ready to have a baby, it doesn’t mean you have to be ‘a woman’ anytime soon.

If that hasn’t happened by about the 21st day of your menstrual cycle, your hormones will decide it’s time for their monthly clean-out. Then the lining of your womb comes away and leaves your body through your vagina. The bits of tissue can make things look less like tomato ketchup and more like chutney, if you get our drift….

Part of getting your period is your body showing that it’s able to have a baby. So if you are going to have sex and don’t want a tiny screaming person to take care of nine months later, you need to make sure you always use protection (condoms are also pretty crucial for preventing the spread of gross diseases).

But obviously, just because your body is ready, it doesn’t mean the rest of you is anywhere near. After all, you’ve still got your maths homework to find.

Moral of the story?

Don’t let your over-sharing aunt and your weird school nurse freak you out. But if you’re confused it’s a good idea to talk to an adult you trust, even if it’s just to ask about what products they use.

Also, we give you full permission to roll your eyes at anyone who says your period is a miracle. I mean, it kind of is – but there’s no need to get sappy about it.

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Kate Forster

Every month or so, I start eating like an uncontrollable beast who has just awoken from 100 years in hibernation. 

I’m talking second breakfasts, constant inter-meal snacking and supersize dinners with all the trimmings (and by trimmings, I mean chips). And I can’t lie, I start to freak out. I worry that this ravenous hunger will never leave me and that if I continue to eat at this rate, I’m destined for a future as the world’s largest woman.

But then… then I get that pang; that little twitch in my lower abdomen giving me a head’s up that my period is on its way. And suddenly I remember that this always happens, that a few days before my period I am always hit with the most unquenchable hunger. Then I chill the hell out.

Me Want Food 30 Rock gif

You see we’ve all heard of pregnancy cravings (which seem to involve eating pickles with everything), but we rarely talk about period cravings – even though many women encounter them on a monthly basis. As well as just wanting to eat EV-ER-Y-THING for a time, I also get really seriously into cheese. And chocolate. Toasties, cheese on toast, thick chocolate milkshakes and really dense, sticky brownies are my go-to treats – things I usually eat as occasional treats suddenly become essential parts of my diet.

And it’s not just me. I asked around my friends, and everyone agreed that their eating habits changed around the time of their period. Unsurprisingly, chocolate featured pretty highly on a lot of people’s period craving charts, but some of the foods were a bit more leftfield. Not one but two people got back to me saying they craved all things tomato – from plain old tinned tomatoes to baked beans and even tomato & basil pasta sauce straight out the jar – while another friend said she became a crazed carnivore, always fancying loads of bacon, sausages, steak and, I quote, ‘ALL THE CHICKEN.’

But what do these cravings MEAN? Is there any rhyme or reason to them, or are they all just random? And are there any dietary dos or don’ts we should know about? To find out, I spoke to Gaynor Bussell, a dietician and registered nutritionist specialising in women’s health.

First up, Gaynor confirmed that period – or PMS – cravings are totally normal. She explained: ‘Cravings can be one of the symptoms of PMS, and due to changing hormone levels this can happen from two weeks before the period (known as the luteal phase) to the time when the period really gets underway (which could take a few days from when it first starts). Calorie requirements increase for many during this time of the month, and so there is an increase in hunger which may drive cravings.’ Phew.

Mindy Project McDonalds gif

So the hunger is normal, but what about our food choices? ‘Nobody really knows why certain foods are craved and cravings do vary, with some preferring savoury while some crave any carbs,’ Gaynor explained. But when it comes to chocolate, Gaynor told me it’s all about that feel-good feeling: ‘Chocolate has always been associated with comfort, regardless of PMS. This time of the month is associated with increased depression and anxiety so comfort food may be craved.’

Finally, I asked Gaynor for her period dietary tips. Unsurprisingly, seeing as she’s a nutritionist, chips and chocolate brownies didn’t feature too highly. Instead, she advised: ‘A healthy diet throughout the month has been associated with less PMS symptoms. Being generally active too can help reduce symptoms. It is also believed that having regular meals throughout the day that that are made up of low energy release carbs, such as pasta, seedy bread and oats, can help even out swings in blood sugars and hence avert cravings. And in general, you should avoid consuming too much junk food – especially foods and drinks that give you quick energy/sugar boosts which may be followed by crashing lows. These are known perpetrators of PMS.’

So, as ever, it seems that a healthy, active lifestyle with the odd treat is the way to go. I’ll try to remember that next time I’m dunking chips in a chocolate milkshake with a side of double-cheeseburger…

@MissSisiG

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Manjit Thapp

You’ve been counting down to your fortnight in Florida for weeks. Your jazziest bikinis are packed and you’ve primed your mum in the art of taking a good Instagram photo. So why, oh why, does your period have to come just as you’re about to jet off?

While you’d rather be surfing any wave other than the crimson one, rest assured it’s happened to us all at some point, and these are all the things you know if you’ve had your period on holiday…

It always arrives unexpectedly

You weren’t supposed to come on for another eight days, but somehow that little sadist decided to arrive early, landing on exactly the morning you’re getting on a flight to paradise. This was not part of the plan.

Your handbag full of tampons being searched is the most cringe thing ever

It’s like airport security want to embarrass you in front of all the fit groups of boys.

Plane paranoia is real

A nine-hour flight = how many tampon changes?! And there’s nothing like the fear of falling asleep only to wake up having bled through your trousers, and onto the seat, then having to work out how to get to the bathroom without everyone seeing the big red stain on your bum. It’s never actually happened to you, but y’know, it could.

White swimwear is a no-go

You bought it to enhance your tan and had visions of yourself running down the beach like a Victoria’s Secret Angel. However, the minute your period arrives, that white bikini is banished to the bottom of your suitcase. Sigh. Maybe next year.

Tampon strings are the enemy

Sure, you’re forever grateful to the inventor of tampons for enabling you to hit the pool on your period, but why do the strings have such a habit of popping out the side of your swimsuit? And then there was that time you decided to trim it with scissors and almost ended up in A&E. Never again.

You’re fearful of diving and cannonballs

Ever since your friend told you about their cousin’s tampon shooting out when they jumped into a swimming pool, you’ve always used the ladder, as boring as that may be.

Cramps are somehow always worse in the heat

“WHO IS USING MY UTERUS AS A STRESS BALL?!”

But holidays do seem to make your period go away faster

Time flies when you’re having fun!

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Amber Griffin

Not that we’re mad into maths or anything, but our lovely friends at Action Aid have come up with pretty much the best equation ever to exist: girl + sanitary towel = superhero.

With many girls around the world (and some even in the UK) missing school because they can’t afford or don’t have access to pads or tampons, the international charity are on a mission to raise awareness and help these young women in need.

Because if you’re armed with period supplies you can stay in school, learn, grow, become empowered and totally kickass – your period should never stand in the way, right?

To find out which badass sanitary superhero you are, take Action Aid’s quiz below!

You’re buying sanitary towels or tampons, and notice a friend/colleague/neighbour at the till as you go to pay. Are you embarrassed?

Everyone has a period horror story. Which of these scenarios does yours involve?

Have you ever run out of sanitary towels/tampons and had to improvise?

Euphemisms for periods exist around the world. Which of these euphemisms would you use to describe your period?

How do you feel when you’re on your period?

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Action Aid/Katie Edmunds

I was 12 and wearing cream Eeyore pyjamas when I got my first ever period.

I really loved them – comfy, cropped shorts with a frilly seam and a matching strappy top embroidered with my favourite moody A A Milne character. But even Disney wasn’t enough to keep adulthood away, and on a hot summer night during a family holiday in which I discovered my love of French petrol station hot dogs, it came.

Being 12 is so great, but it’s a time when everything changes, and that can be disorientating. That summer I’d just finished my first year at secondary school and it felt as if everyone expected me to behave both as a kid, and an adult. And that’s how I saw myself too.

On the adult days I practiced walking in heels on the driveway and couldn’t wait to start earning my own cash so I could buy my friends amazing birthday presents, instead of relying on my parents for a fiver every month.

On the kid days, I wanted to roll like a human sausage down every grassy hill I saw, and watch cartoons next to the biscuit tin after school.

Being 12 – and most of your teen years, let’s be honest – is an age when you’re on the cusp of adulthood, but then childhood sneaks in and pulls you back like an elastic band. You want to buy your favourite chocolate on the way home from school, but the law says you’re too young to earn money. You want to hang out all night with your friends but your parents have set a curfew.

You want to wear your favourite cream frilly pyjamas, but you get your first period.

Back to that morning in France. The story of my first period actually starts the day before, at a market near the villa my family and I were staying at. I was checking out the anklet options when a rush of nausea came over me really quickly, and I fainted. I was prone to fainting during my teens (something I eventually grew out of, though that doesn’t stop me carrying a packet of chocolate digestives everywhere I go ‘just in case’).

My Dad and stepmum – one by the arms, the other by the anklet-less ankles – picked me up like a table and carried me across the road while I wet myself, leaving a humiliating trickle of urine as we went. I was a human wee snail.

It sounds scary but, in reality, I came around about 30 seconds later. Other than the fact that my favourite denim miniskirt now smelt of wee, and my sister wouldn’t stop moaning about how the sarong stall was going to close any minute, I felt fine. My parents and I put the faint down to the hot weather and we all trotted back to the car.

The day continued as planned; we got back to the villa, jumped in the pool and my siblings and I proceeded to make up a water-based musical inspired by The Little Mermaid, complete with a crab dance that we still sometimes crack out at Christmas. The faint was forgotten.

Until the next day when I woke up and went to the loo as always. That’s when I pulled down my PJ bottoms and saw it; my period had soaked into the pyjamas and was all over my inner thighs, making them sticky (but not a spot on the white bed sheets – must have been beginner’s luck). There was a lot of it. Some was bright red, other patches were brown and dry. I was one of the first among my friends to get their period, and neither of my three sisters had started yet. I began to panic.

Without thinking, I whipped the PJs back on and wrapped a towel around my waist. Palms sweating, head spinning, I began racing – thighs glued together to keep the period in, using only my lower legs to move, like a cartoon – around the villa to find my stepmum. I’d seen her pack sanitary pads before we left but had no idea where she kept them… I mean, I’d never even owned pads before. Like a menzies detective, possibilities filled my mind. Did she keep them in her handbag? Knicker drawer? THE FRIDGE?!

After turning the cutlery drawer upside down and finding nothing, I turned to plan B: find an adult. I went to see my sunbathing sisters – chilled and enjoying their period-free lives – who told me that our parents had gone to the supermarket and didn’t know when they’d be back.

So I did the only logical thing I could think of. I grabbed a snack from the kitchen (Lays crisps, holiday staple), locked myself back in the bathroom and sat on the loo, waiting for my period to slowly drip into it. Like the olden days, when women simply had to sit on buckets until it stopped.

Now, I’ve never bungee-jumped off a 100ft bridge in the middle of a snowstorm wearing a short dress and no knickers, but I imagine the feeling when it’s over isn’t dissimilar to the relief I felt when I heard my parent’s keys in the door. I called for my stepmum and summoned her to my period throne.

She wasn’t scared. In fact, she was super calm. It was all going to be ok – she gave me a hug and a pad, and stroked my head while I cried about not being able to swim for the rest of the holiday.

Later that afternoon I’d held a welcome party for my period cravings by polishing off my third cheese and ham baguette, and was sat with my legs dangling in the nice cold pool. I felt like everything was going to be ok.

And it really was totally fine. Fine. When my brother pushed me into the pool, oblivious to the fact I was wearing the second sanitary towel of my life, the pool didn’t turn into tomato soup. The landlord didn’t try to kick us out the villa because I’d unsuccessfully flushed a sanitary towel down the loo (don’t try it, never try it). And I didn’t even leak through the white linen trousers I wore to get ice cream at lunch. I survived.

Now, when I’m expecting my period, I either sleep in black knickers so that I don’t stain another fabulous pajama set, or wear a pad to bed. What was the lesson my first ever period taught me? That there’s nothing that can’t be solved by switching your Eeyore pyjamas for the toy instead.

And always go to the sarong stall early.

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Katie Edmunds

Change is good. Change is natural. Change is a part of life.

Even Taylor Swift wrote a song about change.

Fine, it’s possible she’s not singing about changing your tampon, but someone really should. Without being able to see what’s going on or feel what’s happening, it can be hard to know exactly when you need to change it.

So here are some guidelines to help you learn the ropes (or strings).

How long are we going to be hanging out for?

Generally you should change your tampon every 4-8 hours. Even if you forget everything else in this article, remember the golden rule for tampons:

THOU SHALT NOT LEAVE A TAMPON IN FOR MORE THAN EIGHT HOURS.

If you leave it in for any longer than that, you could put yourself at risk of developing Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), so always keep an eye on the time.

TL;DR? Here's the important stuff:
  • Never leave a tampon in for more than eight hours.Your tampon should be easy to remove. If it feels dry or ‘stuck’ it probably means it hasn’t been in for long enough or you need a lower absorbency.If you go to the loo and find that the tampon string is wet with menstrual fluid, you’re definitely ready for a change. If this happens a lot, try a higher absorbency tampon

Your tampon should be easy to remove. If it feels dry or ‘stuck’ it probably means it hasn’t been in for long enough and you can wait a bit longer before removing it. If you find that you’ve had it in for eight hours and this is still happening, you might want to try a lower absorbency tampon – particularly towards the end of your period when things tend to lighten up.

However, if you go to the loo and find that the tampon string is wet with delightful menstrual fluid, you’re definitely ready for a change. If you find that this keeps happening after only having your tampon in for a few hours, you might want to try a higher absorbency tampon.

Um… why am I leaking?

There are a few reasons you might still be experiencing leakage, even with a tampon in. Your tampon may have absorbed as much fluid as it can and is unable to carry any more menstrual blood. If this is happening frequently, you might want to try a more absorbent tampon.

Another option is that you haven’t inserted your tampon quite right. The technique can be tricky to get right when you first start using tampons (and on the odd occasion later in life too, tbh) – but don’t worry, you’ll be a pro in no time. Generally, if a tampon is inserted correctly, you shouldn’t be able to feel it. If you feel any discomfort, it’s possible the angles are a bit wrong, so pull it out gently and insert a new tampon. Voila!

Everyone’s vagina is a different size and shape, so it’s possible that tampons won’t be able to absorb 100% of your period. If this is the case, you might want to wear a pantyliner as well, in order to save your knickers from pesky stains.

Basically, there is one golden rule when it comes to tampons. Repeat after us:

THOU SHALT NOT LEAVE A TAMPON IN FOR MORE THAN EIGHT HOURS.

It’s like T.Swift says:

(At least three times).

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

There’s a strange, unofficial law of puberty that says all the big, life-changing, gross-out experiences have to happen to you on holiday.

Sometimes on Guides camp, during sports day or at the incredibly posh wedding of a distant relative – but mainly, usually, on holiday. Because hey, even the sneaky gremlins of adolescence love a day at the beach! It’s just a shame they have to gatecrash your jolly hols rather than packing off on their own.

Picture the scene: I am 12, and on holiday with my family. In Belgium. Normally this would be enough trauma to be going on with, but because the universe is sometimes the actual worst, I also had my period.

Not my first period – that had arrived in a dramatic mudslide of brown goo one day at school, followed by a sticky five hours walking around concerned I had pooed myself without realising – but an early one Before they had settled into a reliable routine; when my period was still turning up unannounced, like a neighbour who won’t take the hint and then stays and eats all your best biscuits.

Up till now I had been welcoming. I had rolled out sanitary pads like a red carpet each time my uterus lining decided to drop by. But now – now, I was on holiday and I didn’t want a period, thanks. I wanted to go swimming. And I couldn’t do it with a big white lilo in my pants.

So there were two options: either give up and mooch about by the pool all week like a sad, bleeding fun sponge – or find another type of sanitary soaker-upper. As MC Hammer might have said while breakdancing on my achey uterus, STOP! Tampon time.

My mum was a long-time tampon fan, and only too happy to hand over a box for me to have a go. They were non-applicator, because that was the type she’d always used, and so it was that I found myself, quite literally, in at the deep end. Squatting, as per the box instructions, in the holiday chalet bathroom, boldly going to parts of my body that no finger had ever gone before.

First I unwrapped a tampon, gave the string a cautious yank. It looked like a make-up applicator, or a tiny friendly mouse puppet. I took a deep breath, did my very best full plié (if all those years of ballet classes hadn’t turned me into a modern day Anna Pavlova, they could at least give me the thigh strength to ram a tampon in successfully), and prodded it in the vague direction of the blood. In went the tip. Easy! Like plugging a leak. Or that song, about the guy with the hole in his bucket.  

I stood up, triumphant. I was a tampon-wearer! I was a vaginal victor! I was… nope, I was in pain.

Ow. I moved around, testing things out. OW. Owwowwoww. I sat down. OWW. Was this… right? Surely not. How was I meant to swim if I could barely walk? The leaflet said I shouldn’t feel it at all. My mum never said it would hurt. All those carefree ladies on the adverts leaping through meadows and riding horses while wearing white trousers didn’t look like they were wincing every time they took a step. Were they grinning through gritted teeth? Were ALL women? WOULD I BE FOREVER CONFINED TO A LIFE OF FANNY PAIN?

No, my mum confirmed when she found me whimpering in my swimsuit, drowning my sorrows in a packet of Belgium’s finest paprika snack nuts. It was not supposed to hurt.

It was, though, supposed to be inside my vagina – properly inside, rather than the place I had lodged it, hanging halfway out as though my labia was smoking a little white cigar. For that tampon to do its best tamponing, she explained cheerfully through the bathroom door, it needed to be completely hidden where the sun didn’t shine.  

I had to boldly go further. I yanked it out by the string, unwrapped a fresh one and took another deep breath.

With two more attempts and a lot of what can only be described as ‘tampon yoga’, I discovered with wonder what so many girls had discovered before me: that your vagina, like the TARDIS, is far bigger on the inside than it appears. It goes all the way back! And up! My first tampon had been sat in the doorway when there was a whole… corridor to conquer!

Finally, it was in. Actually in. And once that third-attempt tampon settled into its proper home, I realised that it wasn’t a lie – I couldn’t feel it. At all. Nothing to see here, folks, just a girl totally in control of her menstrual fluids!

Not even going headfirst down the flume with a swimsuit wedgie could diminish my aura of physical achievement. It might not have made the photo album or the ‘What I did on my holiday’ essay, but it was a golden memory nonetheless. I was a tampon-wearer! A vaginal victor! Yes.

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Hailey Hamilton

Your period can be a tricky customer. Even those of us with cycles as regular as clockwork will probably experience at least one jolly menstrual surprise in our lifetimes – and we can only hope that when that happens we’ll have a trusty tampon or sanitary pad lurking about our persons.

But we spoke to 21 people who weren’t so lucky, and were forced to improvise with whatever was around them. Such as…

1. A pair of bikini bottoms

“My period arrived unexpectedly at university, when I had nary a toilet roll to my name. I did, however, have a pair of bikini bottoms in my drawer from a recent holiday, and figured they must be absorbent. So I climbed into them and dashed into town to buy some tampons. Turns out bikini bottoms aren’t as absorbent as all that, and I had to tie my jumper around my waist to hide the spreading stain in my crotch. I was only wearing a T-shirt underneath and it was a the middle of winter, so yeah, I always carry tampons now.”

2. A bit of a nappy

dancing-bby

“I got my period while wheeling my baby brother around John Lewis, so I nipped into their baby-change loos and tried to rip up one of his nappies while he looked on, nonplussed. Do you know how hard it is to rip up a nappy, though? Really, really hard. I hurt my arm doing that, and the worst part is that I can’t tell anyone about the injury because it sounds so stupid.”

3. An ENTIRE nappy

“Didn’t know what to do, so shoved a whole nappy into my pants and walked with a very wide stance for the rest of the day. Really absorbent, though!”

4. Folded-up paper towels from a restaurant bathroom

“I was in a long queue for a busy loo, and when I got to the end I yanked loads of paper towels from the dispenser, then ran into the cubicle. When I came out I’m sure everyone in the queue knew what was going on, because no one would meet my eye.”

5. McDonalds napkins

“I wasn’t loving it :(“

mcdonalds

6. Newspaper

“Do NOT recommend! SO uncomfortable!”

7. A sock

“I was caught short on a night out, and there was no loo roll in the toilets. Cue some improvisation and one slightly cold foot on the walk home.

The sock was discarded afterwards.”

8. A PAIR of socks

“I was on the train from London to Penzance with absolutely no sanitary items (although I did briefly consider my empty crisp packet), so I used one sock for half the journey and the other for the other half. Immense sock-and-sanitary-towel shopping spree when I got to Penzance. Immense.”

9. My little sister’s Winnie the Pooh flannel!

“I felt so bad, but I had a really heavy flow and folded-up toilet tissue just wouldn’t have cut it. I have since replaced her flannel.”

winnie-the-pooh

10. Travel tissues

“They are already handily folded into rectangles! Then I lined my pants with the plastic tissue packet to prevent the tissues leaking, and felt like a genius.”

11. Cotton wool and Sellotape

“Double-sided the tape in the gusset of my pants and stuck the cotton wool on top of it. Lasted for hours! Felt like Bear Grylls or something!”

12. A bath sponge

“Thought I was being clever by choosing the most absorbent item in the bathroom. However, it was shaped like a starfish and made me look as if I was smuggling bunnies in my leggings. Although I maintain that it was absorbent.”

spongebob3

13. Some gauze from a first-aid kit

“I stole it from work, praying that no one would have a serious cut later that day on my floor of the office.”

14. One of my mother’s fancy linen napkins from Christmas Day 🙁

“As a side note, it should be made law for all mothers to have spare tampons in the bathroom when their children come to visit.”

15. Breast pads

“These are meant to be used by breastfeeding women in case of random spills, but when my period came without warning I snuck one from my sister’s stash and put it in my pants. Felt weird, but worked.”

16. A pair of incontinence pants

“(Don’t ask)”

17. A folded-up pizza menu

“(Don’t ask either)”

pizza

18. My boyfriend’s T-shirt, folded up

“He was wearing a jumper but it was his favourite T-shirt, and he was awfully nice about it.”

19. A strip of cardboard packing from an Amazon parcel

“Not recommended for long periods! (Pun not intended).”

20. Kitchen roll

“Really reliable and surprisingly comfortable, although I’m not sure how hygienic it was after being out in the kitchen the whole time.”

21. A leaf

“I got my period while camping. Luckily it wasn’t a nettle or poison ivy leaf.”

leaf

Don’t let this happen to you! Leaves and newspaper aren’t viable or comfortable alternatives.

Get yourself a bettybox – which comes with all your pads or tampons for the month, plus beauty samples and other treats, and a lovely drawstring bag to keep on you at all times. Or, I guess, always wear socks…

@orbyn