Lots of things in life are complicated. Conjugating french verbs. Contouring. Heart surgery.

Luckily for all of us, tampons don’t have to be one of them.

Made of absorbent material, compressed into a small cylindrical shape and inserted into your vagina like a fancy plug, tampons come in two main species:

Applicator vs non-applicator tampons

Applicator tampons have a cardboard or plastic mechanism that slides out, clicks into place and helps guide the tampon into place, like the satellite GPS of sanitary products. Because of the applicator, they can look intimidatingly long when they’re in their packaging, but don’t worry – most of that will end up in the bin, not your body.

Non-applicator tampons are just like applicator tampons… but usually shorter, a little wider and, you know, without the applicator. You just insert these bad boys with a clean finger, no equipment required.

Tampons may take a bit of practice to get right, but when they’re put in correctly you shouldn’t be able to feel them at all (like, AT ALL).

The best way to work out whether you an applicator or non-applicator type of gal is to try out both, and see what works for you.

Let’s talk absorbency  

Tampons tend to fall into four main houses.

Lite – these are the Hufflepuff of tampons. People often overlook them, or underestimate their abilities, but they’re actually really approachable and great for those who are new to the tampon world. Perfect for the light beginning and end of a period, or times when you’re only bleeding a teeny tiny bit.

Regular – these are the Gryffindor of tampons. They’re popular and heroic and they often take on more than they can handle. They’re all-round great sports. But just because they get all the glory, it doesn’t mean they’re always the right tampon for you.

Super – these are the Slytherin of tampons. They’re ambitious guys who know how to get a job done. They might seem a bit intimidating, but when needed they should still slither-in fairly easily… if you know what we mean.

Super plus – the Ravenclaws of tampons, super plus won’t be outdone by anyone thank you very much. Like a teacher’s pet in a History of Magic class, these guys absorb everything. Just remember to Expelliarmus every 4-8 hours to avoid a Moaning Myrtle situation.

How do I know which one to use?

Luckily there’s a sorting hat in your pants – all you need to do it listen to it. Most people start with lite or regular tampons and then adjust the size they use depending on their flow.

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. But if 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.

On the other hand, 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 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. Simple!

Or as the French would say… simple. Oh.

If you’re not sure what kind of sanitary product will work best for you, check out our tampons vs pads article.

Image: Manjit Thapp

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.)

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


But holidays do seem to make your period go away faster

Time flies when you’re having fun!

Image: Amber Griffin

We’ve all been there. You’re desperate for a wee and when you pull down your knickers, you see that pesky tampon string and wonder ‘do I really have to take that out? I swear I only just put that thing in!’

Great news, guys – you don’t have to.

So I can wee with a tampon in?

Yup! Your wee comes from your urinary opening, the urethra, while tampons are worn in the vagina. Basically, while everything is happening in the same general area, they are completely separate.

The worst thing that could happen is some wee getting on the string. Healthwise this isn’t an issue, just wash your hands afterwards – but you were going to do that anyway, right? Right.

And… um… pooing?

Again, this is really a matter of your personal preference. There is a risk that some fecal matter (poo, basically) might end up on your tampon string, which isn’t ideal from a bacterial perspective, but just gently move your string forward before you wipe in order to avoid a code brown.

TL;DR? Here's the important stuff:
  • You can definitely wee and poo with a tampon in. You have three holes down there (vagina, urethra and anus).
  • Some people prefer to change their tampon every time they go to the loo but there’s no health-related reason why you shouldn’t wee or poo with a tampon in.
  • Just do whatever makes you more comfortable.

When you’re doing a number two, your tampon might sometimes get a case of FOMO and slide slip out a bit too. If this happens, you can push it back up or pull it out and pop a fresh one in. Whichever suits you.

But while I’m in there…

Of course, if you feel like it, you can change your tampon every time you go to the loo. Two birds, one stone. But it can be uncomfortable to remove a tampon if it hasn’t been in there for long (not to mention a waste of a tampon), so remember that there’s no need to change it unless you want to.

So now you can do your number ones and twos without worrying that a third wheel will get in the way.

Image: Getty/Katie Edmunds

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?

Image: Action Aid/Katie Edmunds

Periods are pretty much unavoidable. And tbh I like to think of them as a healthy sign that everything is working as it should down there. That aside, there’s no denying it can be a pain in the arse when you’re lapping up the sun a million miles from the safe haven of your local Boots.

If you’re planning a big trip, here’s some top tips on how to survive your period while living out of a backpack.

Be prepared

This section can be broken down into two parts informally known as ‘pads’ and ‘pants’ – a girl’s two best friends when her period decides to say hello.

Firstly, pads: this may seem obvious but whatever your sanitary go-tos, make sure you stock up. Despite living the dream there are times when travelling can be tough and you’ll really crave your home comforts. Particularly when your period strikes. As you’ll most likely be a long way from your favourite duvet and Netflix series, my advice is to make sure you have a load of your favourite tampons and pads on hand to make it all a bit more comfortable. They’re light and don’t take up much space so raid your local stores and build a stash fit for a queen. Of course, periods are universal, so you’ll always be able to pick up supplies somewhere but if you’re anything like me and your period can make you just a little grouchy… you’ll be thankful for the assortment of supplies at your fingertips.

Pants: everyone has their trusty pair of period pants. I’ll be the first to hold my hands up and say my collection is vast. Once again it all relates back to achieving maximum period comfort. No one wants to be squeezing into a cute pair of lacy pants mid-period bloat. When it comes to comfy knickers, the more the merrier. You’ll thank me later.

Be educated

Hunting for ‘le tampon’ or ‘el sanitary towel’ could be a waste of valuable tanning time. My advice would be to locate the nearest pharmacy in each town you visit. That way, a few days before you come on you can stock up on everything you’ll need. From pads to paracetamol, a pharmacy will see you through. They also tend to have pretty good snack sections… just saying.

It’s also never a bad idea to learn some phrases to explain period-related symptoms or sanitary products in general. This will help avoid awkward incidents in which you and the pharmacist have to play a game of period charades. Re-enacting period cramps in an Argentinian supermarket in front of a queue of gawking strangers was really not how I pictured my acting debut…

Be chilled

Girl, you’ve done this whole period thing a hundred times before so don’t let a change in location get to you. So your period arrives unexpectedly, no problemo, just carry on as normal. When you’re away for a long stretch you’ll have plenty of time for a few chill days, so if you’re feeling groggy just rejig your schedule and spend the first day of your period relaxing in a hammock at a hostel. When you’re constantly on the move you can easily become tired, so having a much needed pamper day will give you the chance to rejuvenate and catch up with friends, family and those all-important z’s.

Although our bodies tend to be pretty intuitive when we’re changing time zones, the weather and other factors can definitely mess with your cycle. No one knows your body better than you do. If your period is late don’t be alarmed, Mother Nature may simply just be taking her sweet time to catch up with your new, adventurous lifestyle. If the problem continues, don’t be shy, just talk to the local pharmacist.

Be bold

A menstrual history lesson revealed that some women were forced to remain bed-bound during their period. But a lot has changed since then, honey. You may never get to experience these wonderful places and things again, so put on your trusty period panties and face the day head on. Trekking the Amazon rainforest will still be amazing, period or not, trust me, I’ve been there. Do not, I repeat, do not let your period stop you from having fun.

Image: Katie Edmunds

Don’t say you haven’t thought the same! No seriously, shh.

“There is nothing as satisfying as perfectly wrapping up your used pad in the wrapper from the new one. Look at that! I’m an artist.”

“ATCHOO! Was that a sneeze or… pants Niagra?”

“One of these days I’m going to leak so bad that I owe someone a new sofa.”

“Uber, but for a robot to come and change your tampon so you don’t have to get out of bed on a Saturday morning.”

“If I tense my muscles and try really hard, could I, like… speed up my uterus? Get it all out a bit quicker?

“If I had the choice, would I rather have all my year’s period in one go?”

“Or even… my whole LIFE’s period. In one go. Imagine! You could go away to a special place to get it all over with, somewhere nice with loads of pillows and hot water bottles and warm baths. A period spa.”

“Actually a period spa is a fantastic idea. All the towels and dressing gowns could be red! One of the treatments could just be a beauty therapist patting your head for an hour and saying “there there” while you whimper.”

“Do you think women who do bell ringing in churches are extra good at getting their tampons out?”

“What if other girls are taking their bags to the toilet for some other cool reason I don’t know about?”

“Do Americans call full stops ‘periods’ because they make everything feel like it’s the end?”

“Why has nobody invented a bra made from something softer for when your boobs hurt? Like… I don’t know, feathers? Marshmallows?”

“Mmm, marshmallows.”

“Would it actually be easier to just sit here on the loo for five days? I could have pizza Deliverooed to the toilet!”

“There we go, another business idea. A period delivery app, that just does cookie dough and chip butties and all the orders come with a pre-filled hot water bottle.”

“I wonder what a cramp looks like inside. Is it like, a whole load of my uterus wall just falling away like a waterfall?”

“Do periods make a noise? If I listened really carefully would I be able to hear it, like a stomach rumble?”





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:


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:


It’s like T.Swift says:

(At least three times).

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.

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


“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 :(“


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.”


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.”


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)”


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.”


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…


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.


Tampons. Perfectly practical items, with mysteriously magical properties. No matter how organised, tidy or careful you are, they have a tendency to escape their packaging and turn up under sofa cushions, in forgotten pockets and for me, once, in a vintage gilt lipstick case that had belonged to my Nan.

We can’t stop it from happening, so we must find the beauty and wonder in the unexpected – it’s like Blue Planet, if it all took place in a suburban high street chemist. Here are 11 times when we’ve all wondered “How did that get THERE?”

In the pockets of the slightly musty fleecy anorak you were about to take to the charity shop

You’re pretty sure you weren’t even having periods, last time you wore this. There is a photo of you taken in 2005 where you’ve accessorised it with a Bratz lunchbox and a grazed knee.

In the carrier bag that has been wrapped around another carrier bag that contains the exploding Thermos full of soup that you hoped to eat for lunch.

Urghh, it’s as if the universe wants you to eat sandwiches forever. On the plus side, having a random absorbency aid in the mix probably limited the damage you’ve done to your schoolbag.

In your bra

It’s a good idea in an emergency, and then a terrible idea when you forget until you get ready for bed and discover that the scratchy lace you’ve been moaning all day about is actually pointy cellophane.

In your trainers

Tampons are secret fitness fiends, and have a mysterious ability to roll into the toe of any sports shoe. We think it’s their passive-aggressive way of reminding us that a little exercise will ease the cramps.

In the book you’d put down somewhere and forgotten about

“This book is brilliant! I mustn’t lose my place. I just need a bookmark – but there are no receipts in my pocket. Not even a bit of tissue… oh, wait! I can use this tampon that’s been in my bra!”

In the middle of the floor of the bus

Everyone is looking at it. No-one is going to take responsibility for it. Someone is trying to edge it out of the way with their foot before a naughty boy spots it and yells “IS THAT YOURS? ARE YOU ON YOUR PERIOD?”

In the drawer where your family keeps old keys, screwdriver heads, bits of string and manuals for things that were thrown out three years ago

This drawer never, ever contains what you’re looking for, but it always has at least two tampons at the bottom, no matter how often you take them out and throw them away. It also contains an instruction manual for the tampons.

In the bag you ‘borrowed’ (without asking) from your sister

The only thing to do is to take a dignified breath, compose yourself and say “What do you mean, I stole your bag? I think what actually happened is that you stole my tampons.”

In your pencil case

But only when someone you fancy or are keen to befriend asks to borrow a highlighter. “Help yourself!” you say cheerfully, before spotting it and praying they assume it’s a novelty rubber.

In your wallet

“And will you be paying by cash, card or menstrual hygiene product?”

Under your heel

You’re pottering about in your bedroom, doing some relaxed admin, sighing at your floordrobe and putting socks in the washing basket to be productive. Suddenly there’s a twinge in your ankle and an unwelcome pressure on your sole, as you’re forced to grab the wall so that you don’t fall over. Less than two inches of cotton can, under the right circumstances, floor an entire human being.

This really should be used in a Bond film as a plot device.