Sanitary towels and tampons

Should I use tampons or sanitary pads?

Whether you wear pads or tampons is definitely a personal choice. Pads are easy to use and most girls prefer to use them at first. Although tampons take more time to get used to, they are ideal if you like to do activities such as swimming. Most women like to use a combination of different sanitary protection depending on what activity they are doing, what underwear they want to wear or what their period flow is like.


How should I dispose of used towels and tampons?

At school or in other public places you should use the sanitary bins that are provided in the toilet cubicles. Wrap your used towel/tampon in some tissue before putting it in the bin as this makes it more pleasant for the next person. At home, speak to your parent/carer about the best place to dispose of your towels/tampons. Even towels that are advertised as “flushable” can cause problems in the drains so it is advisable to dispose of them in the household waste bins. Tampons can usually be flushed down the toilet.


Can virgins use tampons?

Yes! Your virginity is not affected by your choice of period protection and certainly not by inserting tampons, so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t use tampons before you’re sexually active.


What should I carry my towels/tampons in?

Put them in a little bag (you could buy or make a small purse, or use something like a small pencil case) that will stop the wrappers from coming off – this will also stop other people from seeing them in your school bag.


How do I choose a sanitary towel?

Sanitary towels are designed to absorb your menstrual blood. Your choice of pad depends on how heavy your period is. Some designs have “wings” to help stick the pad securely to your pants. There are also sanitary towels especially designed for night time.


What about during PE? Will other people notice?

Most of the girls in your class will be starting their periods in the next few months or years so there is no reason to be embarrassed. You can wear another pair of knickers over the top of a pair containing a towel to make you feel more secure, or try using a tampon on the days when you have PE.


Which tampon should I use?

Like sanitary towels the tampon you need depends on how much menstrual blood you lose. The heavier your flow the higher absorbency you will need. Selecting the right absorbency might take a bit of practice but, as a guide, a tampon should be able to absorb period blood for about 4 hours. If a tampon needs to be changed before 4 hours, a higher absorbency tampon should be used. Alternatively, when you remove a tampon if it feels a little uncomfortable and has lots of white fibres still showing, choose a lower absorbency. The absorbency you need changes through your period, flow is heaviest during the first three days and lighter afterwards. Always choose the lowest absorbency tampon suitable for your flow.


How often should I change my sanitary towel?

During the day you should change your sanitary towel about every 3-4 hours but there are specially designed night time pads available which do not need changing during the night.


How often should I change my tampon?

Wash your hands before and after you change a tampon.

You should be using the lowest absorbency tampon for your flow and changing the tampon about every 4 hours.


How do I use a tampon? Will it hurt?

Not if you insert the tampon properly. If you are tense, the muscle at the bottom of your vagina constricts making it uncomfortable to insert a tampon. Relax, take slow deep breaths and guide the tampon upwards and backwards towards the small of your back. If you still feel discomfort, it may be that you haven’t inserted it far enough. To remove the tampon, relax and gently pull it out using the withdrawal string. Using tampons gets easier with practice but only practice during your period.


Can a tampon get lost in my vagina?

A tampon cannot get lost in the vagina. If you accidentally left one in from your last period you might experience localised inflammation, causing a discoloured vaginal discharge and a bad smell. You may also be at risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome.


Can the withdrawal string break on a tampon?

This is really unlikely! But on the small chance that it does break, it’s usually easy to reach the tampon with your fingers. If you really can’t do it yourself, you should see your doctor as soon as possible and definitely on the same day. A tampon should never be left in your vagina for more than 8 hours.


How long can I leave a tampon in?

Tampons should be changed regularly every 4-6 hours. They should not be left in your vagina for more than 8 hours as this could increase the risk of tampon-related Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).