It happens to the best of us – we fill our drawers, bags, pockets and cabinets with everything we need to prepare for our periods, but every so often we get caught out, just because it’s a couple of days early, we’re not at home and we’re wearing the wrong coat. Here’s what goes through our minds, once we’ve finished silently screaming “Noooooooo!”

1. WHY? Why am I so disorganised? My life would be so different if I remembered, and got up before 7AM to make healthy lunch salads, and liked herbal tea more than hot chocolate, and meditated. Why don’t I sew them inside the lining of my jacket? Like they probably did during the war?

2. Actually, what did they use during war time? Were they rationed?

3. Were they…knitted? I suppose they’d be quite easy to knit. You’d unpick your husband’s suits, while he was away fighting, making do, being brave on the home front…

4. Urghhhh. The chafing, though.

5. It’s probably not long until we can have them airlifted to us, by drone, the second we need them. I am not disorganised. I am merely evolving slightly ahead of technology.

6. Still, that would be a bit awkward, the sound of a very noisy drone flying overhead while you’re in the loo. Although the person pooing in the next cubicle might be grateful.

7. I can picture the lovely tampons in my bathroom. A whole, fresh packet, singing with availability and newness! Maybe I can teleport one here using the power of my mind. Like Matilda.

8. So I am not Matilda. Still, it is better to be slightly uncomfortable and not have magical powers than to have superhuman abilities, horrible parents and a headmistress who might lock me in a spiky cupboard.

9. Imagine getting your period in The Chokey. The period would probably be frightened back into your uterus.

10. I really fancy some of Bruce Bogtrotter’s cake, though.

11. It’s OK, I just need to do a crab scuttle to the toilets and use wadded up loo roll. Although didn’t that girl from Year 11 have a cousin who did that at a festival and got toxic shock syndrome?

12. Oh, no, she was the one who had six cans of Red Bull and tried to run up the side of a Portaloo.

13. I wonder whether I should get special knickers that would absorb the period, for emergencies like this.

14. Or a commode, like a Queen. If men had periods, Henry VIII would have invented something long ago that meant no-one had to get up or move for the entire week.

15. I’ll just check my pocket. I have 19 Polos, from six different packets, some old tissues and a broken bit of key ring.

16. Oooh, and a lip balm!

17. I don’t remember this lip balm, the packaging feels a bit odd. Actually, it feels a bit like…

18. Ah. Ahahahahahahaha! I knew I wasn’t that disorganised!

19. Quite glad I didn’t ruin the lining of my jacket, now I think about it.

@NotRollergirl

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. 

I was nine when I started my first period. Nine.

I was so young I was still making up dance routines in the playground and absent-mindedly picking my nose in public, but then one day the puberty gods decided I would be plucked from my innocent childhood and made to menstruate.

It was a weekend. I was sat on the upstairs loo while my mum hung out washing on the landing. I wiped after doing my business and there it was on the tissue: blood.

It wasn’t bright red like the normal blood I’d seen when I’d fallen over and grazed my knees. This was darker and definitely not wee, so it had to be my period. I pulled up my knickers, flushed the chain and walked out of the bathroom. “Mum, I think I’ve started my period,” I announced.

My mum did what any normal mum would do when a nine-year-old announces she’s bleeding from her vagina: she freaked out. Dropping the bed sheet she was folding, she hopped from one foot to another, spluttering, “OK… um… right… OK… um”. I shrugged, walked past coolly and reassured: “It’s alright, mum. I know what to do.”

I was too young to have had sex education at school, but luckily my mum had been spotting signs that my period was on the hormonal horizon. While she may have been useless on the day (bless her), she’d been super organised beforehand and prepared me for aunt Flo’s imminent arrival.

She later told me she’d noticed a white discharge appearing in my knickers when she did the washing, which is a sure sign your first period is about to start. (BTW: regular discharge is totally normal and part of a woman’s monthly cycle. It’s not gross and is nothing to be ashamed of. Find out more about it here.)

So when my period came, my mum had already given me “the talk”. She had put sanitary towels in my knicker drawer and performed an extremely detailed demonstration of how to stick a white-winged sanitary pad into the gusset of my age 9-10 knickers.

By the time I went back to school on Monday, I was a period pro. I skipped into the school playground with a packet of Always tucked away inside my backpack and that was that. The world kept turning and nothing really changed.

After a phone call from my mum, the school made a few changes to accommodate the “more mature” girls in my class (which is code for “those with boobs”). We got changed in the toilets for PE instead of the classroom, we could go to the loo in the middle of a lesson and we knew where the secret stash of sanitary products were.

People feel sorry for me for having “grown up so fast”, but in reality I was remarkably unfazed by the arrival of aunt Flo.

Puberty is a slow and steady experience for girls, unlike boys who seem to sprout overnight and get reaaaaally deeeeeep vooooooices all of a sudden. So I was used to “growing up”. I had boobs – not budding nipples but actual breasts that needed a bra – and had discovered my first pubes a year before.

Maybe I was too young to feel that shame and embarrassment that a lot of girls feel when they start their period. I was more interested in cartoons than how I looked, what boys thought of me or what was happening to my body. If anything I’m happy that I started so young, it meant that when my friends started I was a dab hand and could help them out.

Periods aren’t always easy, of course: sometimes you leak blood onto bed sheets or your pants (which is really easy to wash with cold water), the pain can be excruciating (hot water bottles are your friend) and it makes swimming awkward (you can still go, just wear a tampon and change it when you get out – you don’t want a wet string dripping in your undies).

I’d recommend using a period tracker app to log pain, flow and moods, so you know what is normal for your body. That way if you are worried or notice anything unusual speak to an adult you trust. The most powerful thing you can do for your health as a woman is get to know yourself.

But for the most part, you, like the other half of the population who menstruate, will be just fine. And if a nine-year-old can do it, I’m sure you can too.

@Brogan_Driscoll

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. 

Ladies, you can do anything you want. Want to be an astronaut? You got this. Want to be a DJ? Sure thing. Want to breed puppies so that you have a constant stream of puppies to cuddle? THAT SOUNDS LIKE THE BEST JOB IN THE WORLD.

Want to go for a swim when you’re on your period? Dive right on in.

Seriously?

Seriously. If you feel comfortable going for a dip when you’re on your period, there’s no reason why you can’t.

It’s actually an awesome idea, because exercise releases endorphins, which can help reduce the fatigue and cramps that sometimes come as an unwanted side order to your monthly visit from the uterus unicorn.

What if I TURN THE WHOLE POOL RED?

Ok, this is where tampons come in handy. Lots of people try them for the first time in order to go swimming, because they’re really the easiest way to prevent leaks. Just swap it for a new, dry one in once you’re out of the water. Bombs away!  

TLDR? Here’s the important stuff:
  • You can abso-freakin-loutely go swimming when you’re on your period. You might actually find that it helps reduce aches, pains and argghs.
  • Your best bet is to use a tampon while swimming, to keep leaks at bay.
  • If tampons are a no-go, try a menstrual cup – but pads aren’t your pal at the pool. Sorry!

But if you’re strictly a pad person, things can be a bit tricker. Pads are designed to absorb fluids, so wearing one in the water means it’ll become soggy pretty quickly, and won’t be able to do its job properly – or stay stuck to your bikini bottoms either.

So it’s tampons or nothing?

Keep your cossie on for the moment, because there are some other options.

If you don’t fancy tampons you could try a menstrual cup, which is inserted in the vagina and captures the blood rather than absorbing it. You just empty it out in the loo every few hours, and pop it back up.  

Or if your period is light and you’re happy to go with the flow, you could try wearing a dark coloured swimming costume to hide any small leaks or stains. Don’t believe people who tell you your period stops in water – that’s a big ol’ myth – but it’s true that many people find they can have a quick dip with no disasters.

BUT WHAT ABOUT SHARKS?

Nope, total lie. They can’t smell your period, we promise. (And especially not in a leisure centre in the Midlands).

So in conclusion: just because you’re riding the crimson wave, doesn’t mean you can’t play in the actual waves too. Pool party, anyone?

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. 

Whether you’ve been dreading it or totally desperate for it to arrive, your first period can feel like a leap into the great unknown.

Will it arrive drip by drip, or all at once in a river? Will I look different? WILL EVERYONE KNOW?

Unfortunately there’s no period crystal ball to tell you exactly when it will happen, or where you’ll be when it does (please not assembly). And like your first day of school or your first ever burrito, everyone’s first period will be memorable in a different way.

But here are some things you can expect.

Will I feel it?

Probably not. You might feel some wetness or stickiness in your pants, or maybe some slight cramps in your tummy – but there is no specific ‘bleeding feeling’ that announces your period is in town. Chances are you won’t notice at all until you next go to the loo.

What colour will it be?

This will be different for everyone too – but we can promise you this much: it won’t be blue.

Nobody really knows why olden days sanitary towel companies decided that bright blue liquid would be less scary than the real deal, but you can live safe in the knowledge that your monthly visitor won’t be a raspberry Slush Puppy.

More surprisingly, period blood doesn’t often look like the bright red blood you see when you fall over and cut your knee either. For some that first appearance will be a pink-ish colour, while many people’s first period is often closer to brown than red – which can come as a bit of a surprise. Fact: you will not be the first person to wonder if they pooed themselves without noticing.

Seriously.

Whatever the shade, don’t panic. Your reproductive system is just getting into the swing of things, and the colour will often become more red over time. But it will never, ever be blue.

How much blood will there be?

The amount will be different for everyone too. It could be a sticky discharge that only lasts a day or two, or ‘spotting’, which means bleeding lightly on and off for a few days. And some people’s first period might be quite heavy – but don’t panic, that doesn’t mean it will be heavy forever.

Your first few periods might be feel like a whole variety pack of changes, but things should settle down into a more predictable routine.

TL;DR? Here's the important stuff:
  • At least at the beginning, period blood will probably be more brown than red – but everyone is different.
  • Some people will have a sticky discharge the first time, others will have light, on-off bleeding and some might bleed quite a lot.
  • Your first period can last from anywhere between one and 10 days, and might not arrive again for a while.
  • You can celebrate however you like (we recommend a dance party).

How long will it last?

Your first period can last from anywhere between one and 10 days, and it’s also pretty common to have your first period and then not bleed again for a few months. Helpful, we know.

For the first year or so your periods might be a bit all over the place while your body finds its natural rhythm, but things should settle down into a fairly predictable pattern.

Will everyone know?

Nope.

Promise?

Honestly. You might feel like you’re walking around with a neon flashing ‘PERIOD! PERIOD!’ arrow above your head, but the truth is you look exactly the same as you did the day before. Nobody will know unless you choose to tell them. Or send out party invites.

But if you’re ready, it is a good idea to talk to an adult you trust. They can help you to get all the supplies you need – whether it’s pads, tampons, cuddles or a really big burrito.

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: Emma Block

If you’ve ever paid a visit to the ‘Feminine Hygiene’ section of the supermarket, you’ll know that there are more types of sanitary product than there are Kardashian/Jenner/Hadid siblings put together.

There are mini tampons and regular tampons and super tampons. Applicator tampons and non-applicator tampons. Pads with wings, pads without wings. Maxi pads, night time pads and unicorn pads that make your period look like a rainbow and turn your hair really shiny (ok, these aren’t a thing – but a menstruating gal can dream).

The whole thing is a bit overwhelming, and let’s face it, there’s enough risk of shopping errors during your period as it is (how’d those eight bags of Minstrels get there?) without sanitary gear adding to the confusion. But never fear, we’re here to break it down for you.

So seriously, what’s the difference?

Pads (also known as sanitary towels or sanitary napkins) are made of absorbent material that you stick, via an adhesive strip, to the inside of your underwear. Some have extra material on the sides called ‘wings’ that you can fold over the edge of your knickers to make sure your pad doesn’t slip around while you’re busy slaying all day.

Tampons are also made of absorbent material, but compressed into a small cylindrical shape and inserted into your vagina like a fancy plug. There are a few different types of tampon: Some tampons have applicators, which help guide the tampon into place, whereas others you can insert with a clean finger. Tampons may take a bit of practice to get right, but when they’re inserted correctly you shouldn’t be able to feel them at all (like, AT ALL).

Many girls start out using pads because they’re a bit simpler to use and then progress to using tampons when they want to exercise or go swimming. Others swear by pads for every occasion, all their lives. And some start with tampons and never look back. All these options are totally safe, it’s just important to work out what’s right for you and your body.

TL;DR? Here’s the important stuff:
  • Pads (AKA sanitary towels or sanitary napkins) are made of absorbent material that you stick, via an adhesive strip, to the inside of your pants.
  • Tampons are also made of absorbent material, but compressed into a small cylindrical shape and inserted into your vagina. Some tampons have applicators, whereas others you can insert with a clean finger.
  • Try a few different options so you can find a product that you’re comfortable with and an absorbency that works for you. Dassit.

Riiiiiight, but which one should I use?

Figuring out your sanitary wardrobe can be overwhelming – but DO NOT PANIC. All this choice is actually a good thing, as it means you’re more likely to find a product or a combination of products that works for you.

The best way to decide is to shop around. Try a few different options so you can find a product that you’re comfortable with, with the absorbency powers you need right now.

You might want to use different products for different times of your cycle. A lot of people find their period is heavier during the first few days and then tapers off, so you might want to use a more absorbent ‘super’ tampon or pad for those days and then a regular tampon or pad for the rest of your period – or mix it up with tampons for heavy days and pads for lighter days. Think of it like pick ‘n’ mix, for your period.

(You could also buy some actual pick ‘n’ mix, while you’re at 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: Manjit Thapp

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

So you’ve seen the unboxing videos and now you want to know where you can get your own bettybox?

We totally get it. They’re awesome. Luckily, you can subscribe to your own right here!

What is bettybox?

Sometimes periods can get you down. The blood. The cramps. The maths involved with remembering how often to change your pad or tampon. The fear you’ll be caught short by a surprise visit. But that’s what bettybox is for; making periods a little less scary, and a bit more wonderful.

bettybox is a subscription service that is delivered to you once a month. Our beautifully designed box comes with all the sanitary products that you need for the month, and you can choose if you want pads, tampons or a mix of both – complete with a cool little pouch for your school bag, to make sure you always have supplies.

And if that wasn’t amazing enough, there’s a whole section of bits and bobs for you to treat yourself with – like bubble bath, socks, nail polish, face masks and fun shaped paper clips. And chocolate, obvs. Each month, a whole new treasure trove of goodies, delivered straight to your door.

What’s in the box? 

8k9a3432

Each month’s box is packed full of amazing bits and pieces to help ease your period woes. As well as your pads, tampons (or both), it contains goodies such as…

Conscious Chocolate
Burt’s Bees Soap Bark & Chamomile Deep Cleansing Cream
Tea Tree 
Vitamasque
Jewellery Box Bow Earrings in rose gold or silver
Trifle Cosmetics Body Lotion in buttercream
Tinc Pom Pom Pen
Lottie London Blush Crush (in shades Zayn, Justin, Harry, Nick)
Carmex Lip Balm
Creative Nature Goji Goodness Raw Flapjack Bar

To can get your hands on your very own bettybox, order yours here! Choose the delivery date nearest your period to make sure you’ll always be covered. And you can cancel at any time, so no need to worry if you – or your uterus – decide to take a break…

 

Pads are the flat pumps of the period world – reliable, timeless, comfortable, and easy to stash in your handbag.

We know that pads don’t sound particularly glamorous. Less so when your mum calls them ‘sanitary towels’ (ew). And even less so when signs urge you not to put ‘sanitary napkins’ (ew, ew, ew) down the loo.

But trust us, they’re cooler and cleverer than they look. Their sticky strips hold them to your underwear, so they don’t move around during the day and risk staining your knickers – and lots of modern pads have fancy design features to lock in fluids, prevent leaks, neutralise odours and make you a nice cup of tea.

Ok, not the last thing.

How should I use them?

It’s pretty common for most girls to start with pads and then experiment with tampons when they are more comfortable with their period.

But some people are Team Tampon from day one, others are Team Pad their whole life, and a lot of people switch between the two depending on their flow or their mood. It’s just about finding out what works best for you.

Which ones should I use?

Pads come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

Most pads have a little droplet icon on the packet to indicate how absorbent they are (these icons are usually blue rather than red, which make them look more like tears than blood, but that’s a battle for another day. There are sometimes tears, tbh).

Maxi pads are great if you have a heavy period or want to wear a pad overnight. While they might look intimidatingly large, they are highly absorbent which means that you don’t have to worry about leaking on your nice sheets.

TL;DR? Here's the important stuff:
  • Pads come in a whole range of absorbencies, from thin ones for a light flow to maxi pads for heavy days, and night time.
  • If you have a very light period or just want some extra protection with a tampon, maybe try a pantyliner.
  • Wings are extra material on the sides that you can fold over the edge of your knickers to make sure your pad doesn’t slip around.
  • It’s good to change your pad every three to four hours during the day, to avoid leaks and keep everything comfy.

Unlike tampons, there’s no problem with wearing a higher absorbency than you need, although thinner pads will probably make you feel more comfortable and less like you’re wearing a nappy.

It might sound a bit pad-antic but we promise, it’s worth finding the best fit for you.

Wings or no wings?

Wings refer to the extra material on the sides that you can fold them over the edge of your knickers, to make sure your pad doesn’t slip around. Some people manage fine without them, but you might find the pad moves around or bunches up a bit – which can be less than ideal while you’re busy slaying all day.

So spread your wings and you will fly. Not your pad.

How often should I change my pad?

It’s a good idea to change your pad every three to four hours. If you have a heavy period, this will avoid the chance of leakage and put your mind at ease – and even if you have a light period, a fresh pad will probably just feel more comfortable. Comfort is queen, guys.

And pantyliners?

While the word ‘panty’ might make you want to vom (us too), don’t hold this against pantyliners. They are exactly like a regular pad, just thinner and smaller, which makes them incredibly useful as an inbetween option. Like the flip-flops of the period world! But less noisy.

Very light period? Pop on a pantyliner. Worried your tampon will leak? A pantyliner can give a bit of extra protection. Last few days of your period a bit unpredictable? Try a pantyliner! Find you have a lot of discharge? Pantyliner.

Impossible geography homework? Pantyliner.

No, wait.

Where do I start?

Be pad-venturous*! Don’t feel you have to stick with the first type of pad your mum/friend/school nurse hands you – try out some different types to see which one you love best.

*yes, that was another pad-related pun. We have no shame – and nor should you.

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. 

A new month means a new bettybox.  We asked bettygirl Lauren to have a look through October 2016’s bettybox and let us know her opinions. Spoiler alert: she’s a big fan of the salted caramel drinking fudge.

This month’s box contains:

Squirrel Sisters Cacao Orange snack bar 

AA Skincare Frankincense & Rose Cleansing Gel

NPW Beauty Junky Shea Butter Mud Mask

Sass & Belle Biscuit Box

Sass & Belle Biscuit Nail File

Maybelline Colour Show Nail Polish

Benecos Natural Kajal Eyeliner

Fudge Kitchen Salted Caramel Drinking Fudge

Ombar Centres Coconut & Vanilla (we used these in our banana pops tutorial!)

Want to get your hands on a bettybox? Watch this space, sign-up is coming soon!

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. 

Hey, you learn something new every day! Or at least, in the case of me and my uterus, every month.

Here are the most important lessons I have learned while getting to, um, grips with tampons…

1. Don’t use tampons for the first time when you’re in a hurry

1) giphy-1

Puberty arrived for me when I turned 12, right at the end of the summer holidays. I was the youngest in my class, and when I returned to school for the autumn term, it seemed that everyone was an old hand at this period lark whereas I was still very much a novice. So when I felt that familiar tickle in my abdomen during Double French, a month after I got my first period, I wasn’t prepared with sanitary towels, and had to scuttle off to the loos clutching a tampon my friend gave me instead.

I had never used a tampon – only pads – but I found myself shivering in the freezing Victorian toilet, looking at this weird cotton pen-like thing, thinking “well, how hard can it be?”

Thirty seconds later I discovered exactly how hard when (and I swear this is true), not being able to see what I was doing – or even knowing what it was supposed to feel like – almost inserted the tampon into my bottom.

I went back to class with a rolled-up wad of loo paper in my knickers instead, and a face red with embarrassment. Also I limped a bit.

2.  Always read the instructions

2) giphy-3

Even though I’d studied the diagrams of the reproductive system at school, I still sort of thought that the vagina was a straightforward hole-tunnel affair, and that putting a tampon in would be like popping a cork in a bottle.

But, as I stood there with one foot on the toilet seat and my tongue poking out of my mouth in concentration, I was really glad I’d taken the time to unfold the gigantic instruction sheet and pore over it like an Ikea instruction manual. Otherwise I might not have realised that you need to angle the tampon towards the small of my back, or to consciously relax, and I might have ended up with a tampon in the bum again.

3. Don’t get frustrated if it’s not comfortable

3) Brave-Frustrated

Sometimes your vagina isn’t lubricated (slippy) enough and the tampon feels too rough. Sometimes you haven’t put it in far enough and it leaves a weird, heavy weight inside you. Sometimes the string gets squashed against your flesh. Sometimes the stars just aren’t aligned right.

Don’t worry that you’re not doing it right, or that something scary is up – just take it out (slowly!), relax, and try again later.

4. Always match the tampon to your flow

4) giphy-9

Sometimes when you go to the dentist for a procedure they’ll ask you to take a mild painkiller beforehand, in case you need pain relief later. Do not take this approach with tampons – it doesn’t matter if your flow starts off light and then gets heavier, always use the lightest possible option for your type of flow – otherwise it can feel uncomfortable until you start producing a heavier menses, and puts you at risk of toxic shock syndrome.

Also, it’s no fun walking around with a grimace on your face all day. No fun at all.

5. Don’t panic if it gets stuck!

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Ok, there have been times when I’ve gone to pull the string out and nothing’s happened. It’s like there’s a team of vagina-gnomes in there holding fast to the other end, just to mess with me.

Whenever this happens, images start flashing through my mind – me, going ashen-faced to the hospital A&E; me in stirrups while a team of doctors point between my legs and laugh; me, in the Guinness Book of Records as The Woman Who Had a Tampon Inside Her Her Entire Life.

Then I take a few deep breaths and remind myself that my vagina is basically a big muscle, and sometimes muscles just… contract. Sooner or later I relax, and then the tampon comes out.

6. Always take more than you need

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My best friend is incredibly smooth with her period. She doesn’t get period pains and can switch her tampon quicker than I can blink. I am not like her.

Often, I am clumsy, which means that when I’m fishing around for a new tampon in my bag, three others fall into the toilet itself. Sometimes the one I insert comes straight out with the applicator when I take my hand away. Occasionally, because I pack my bag early in the morning when I’m still essentially asleep, I find that instead of a tampon, I have brought a banana.

My point is: always take extra tampons, because you might be an idiot like me.

7. There’s no shame in a pad

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After all is said and done, tampons aren’t for everyone, and for a lot of people they don’t fit all situations. Often, at the beginning and ends of my period when my flow is light, I’m not lubricated enough (hiya) to use a tampon. Sometimes, you have bad cramps and your entire lower half feels inflamed and there is nothing you want to do less than introduce a tampon into the mix. Sometimes sanitary pads are simply a better option, so find some that you like and keep a stash around for when tampons don’t quite cut the mustard.

8. Don’t put them in sideways

You probably know this one already. And obviously I did! I mean, I never tried it! That would be stupid! Don’t listen to anyone who says that I did!

Ha ha ha!

Seriously though.

@orbyn

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

My first period arrived the day before my twelfth birthday.

My mother and I were at my grandparents’ house, debating how to spend my birthday itself. “Would you like to go bowling, darling?” asked my grandmother, for something like the eight-hundredth time. “No Granny,” I replied, screwing up my face. “A restaurant?” suggested my mother. “We could go somewhere with curly fries.” “No,” I moaned.

I’d done bowling and curly fries for my eleventh birthday. Why couldn’t my family understand that turning 12 was so different from being 11? When I turned 11 I was still watching cartoons in the morning, like a baby. Now I was almost 12 I had graduated to hanging out with boys (well, a boy. His name was Daniel, we talked about bikes, and he had the. Most. Amazing. Hair).

“I’m going to the loo,” I sighed. As I sat on my grandparents’ ugly yellow toilet, I felt inexplicably glum. I was itchy and irritable, my eye sockets ached and, for the last couple of days, I just hadn’t been able to rustle up a smile.

And why was I even on the loo, anyway? Did I need a wee or a poo? I needed something – the twisted, weighty feeling in the front of my lower abdomen was telling me that much – but I couldn’t tell what. I’d been feeling sort of like I needed a poo for a couple of days now – even after I had had a poo, and that morning it had been a little difficult to do up the fly of my jeans.

I could feel something wet falling into the toilet from between my legs, but it felt… gloopier than wee. I looked down at the pants pulled down between my knees, and saw a dark red line of something that looked like treacle all the way down the gusset. At first I didn’t know what it was, and then –

“Blood!” I thought, panickingly.

“Blood,” I thought, a bell of familiarity clanging somewhere in my head.

“Ohhhhhhhh, blood,” I thought, with a satisfying sense of things falling into their proper places. That’s what was happening! I’d got my period! That’s why I was bloated and tired and irritable! I’d heard about that – that was called pre-menstrual syndrome, and I’d had it! I’d been pre-menstrual! And now, well, now I guess I was mid-menstrual!

“Muuuuuum!” I called, unravelling half the loo roll in my excitement. “Muuuuuum, can you come in here please?”

Here’s what I wanted to happen: my mother would come into the bathroom, I would quietly inform her of the situation, and she would quietly take me out to buy new pants and whatever sanitary products I needed completely without fuss. This was entirely probable – my mum knew how to play pop songs on the guitar, and was everyone in my brownie troop’s favourite Brown Owl for years.

Here’s what actually happened: my mother came into the bathroom, I quietly informed her of the situation, and then she RAN AROUND THE HOUSE SHOUTING “MY BABY IS A WOMAN!!” AT THE TOP OF HER VOICE while I was still on the loo, with my pants around my knees, shouting “Mum! Mum, stop it! You’re embarrassing me.”

About five hundred years later, my mother and grandmother came into the bathroom. “I”m so sorry, my darling,” said my mother. “I wasn’t prepared for this. But your grandmother…” she trailed off.

“I’m afraid it’s been a while since I had a period, my love,” my grandmother told me. “I do have this, though!”

She held up what looked like a belt and a neck brace. “Stand up,” she told me, and – to my total horror – fixed the belt around my naked waist then slapped the foam neck-brace-thing between my legs and hooked it onto the belt in front and behind. THEN she brandished the largest, whitest, most flowery pants I had ever seen, and made me step into them. Then she pulled up my jeans and, in a satisfied voice, proclaimed, “There. Perfect.”

Flabbergasted, I looked in the mirror. I looked like I was wearing a fully-inflated paddling pool under my clothes. “What is this?” I asked.

“A sanitary towel,” my grandmother told me.

“They’ve, er, changed a bit since your day, Mum,” my mother commented, but I barely heard her. I was too busy staring at my reflection and thinking that this was the worst day of my life.

Luckily, my day improved. My mother took me out to buy sanitary products – I stayed in the car, refusing to be seen in my paddling pool – and she returned with very discreet, paper-thin pads you just pressed into your pants and no one was any the wiser. I got some new pants, too. Score.

And my birthday? I spent it bowling and eating curly fries after all. Because you can’t do all your growing up all at once.

@orbyn

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