Posted by Prexus Swyftwynd
Being the thrilled blog owner of MiM, I get the joy of receiving many quote-on-quote, “embarrassing” emails from readers and contributors alike with their own experiences of menstruation, particularly events which often trigger question marks. One of the ‘events’ that have been brought up on several occasions involved girls who have questioned me about how they should deal with their periods when flying. Now I have to say, it’s a great honour for me to receive questions from females, because it shows that I am at least, a trusted source of information regardless of my gender and “lack of realistic experience of menstruation”. I’ve flown a lot throughout my life, both short-haul and long-haul trips and you can’t imagine how many times I have thought about the pains of how menstruating women have to deal with the extra “responsibility” of dealing with their periods while on a flight – passengers and flight-crew included. I’m sure a few of the period-loving guys who read my site would smile at the thought of a cute menstruating flight-attendant!
Menstruation, being on up in the air or on the ground should be handled in pretty much the same way. After all, there hasn’t been a commercial aircraft I’ve been that didn’t have bathroom facilities, therefore, you one can change their feminine hygiene product within a private space. Planes, while with much credit to those who clean them, are often filthy with germs so you should take even MORE care when it comes to personal hygiene, i.e. washing your hands thoroughly before touching sensitive areas of your body or handling any feminine hygiene products. To avoid a bathroom faux pas, ensure that as your enter the facility that you lock the door behind you. Most aircraft toilets are equipped to be quite obvious when the door is unlocked/locked, because when it’s locked properly, it is displayed on the sliding switch and the lights will be brighter than usual. Granted I will admit that unless you are in Business or First Class, your bathrooms are quite cramped, but it is more than sufficient space for most people to maneuver and change supplies. There is usually enough space for even someone to put one foot up on the toilet, spread, to insert a tampon , cup or sponge for those who prefer this position. Like any public facility, please do take extra care to dispose used products properly (in the bins, don’t flush) and clean up after yourself. While I personally won’t faint or puke at the sight of menstrual fluid or a half-open, hanging-from-the-bin pad – I’m not sure there are that many people who would appreciate such a sight.
I would say it’s always prudent to keep some feminine hygiene supplies in a carry-on throughout your flight, whether you think you will be getting your period or not (well, unless you’ve gone through menopause I guess), because shit happens right? If you know you are due for your period (or even started), then obviously the decision should come even easier. When planning for the number of supplies to keep handy, think about the time you will be on the flight and figure out the number of them you will go through in that period of time – try to account for your heaviest flow. Do remember that depending on the number of passengers and the frequency that they use the bathroom, it may not always be available to you on-demand. Don’t wait until one of those last-minute-about-to-leak times before deciding to change up. Also, expect that lineups at the bathrooms usually occur when: the plane has just stabilized and the seat-belt light goes off, before/after meals and right before landings. Working around those times will usually help you get into the facility quicker. If your period has already started, try going to the bathroom and changing before boarding. You can also do so before lift-off, but it’s usually frowned upon to clog up the aisles as people are coming aboard. If you “expect your period any time” you can also likewise put on a pantiliner or smaller pad ahead of time (or a reusable product of your choice). Remember that tampons should not be used prior to menstruation, despite the convenience and comfort.
Every woman’s body is different, so while I will say that for most women, their menstrual activities aren’t affected, there are also some women who experience heavier-than-usual flows when flying. However, some of these cases don’t necessarily have to do with “the period itself” – but that stress and anxiety may also cause changes in flow amounts. First time flyers, especially when it coincides with menstruating days can make the thought of flying stressful. Let loose, because stressing over the crimson tide will only make the matter worse! After all, think about female astronauts being in space, void of gravity and even they menstruate properly, so that should bring relief as to how much effect flying above the clouds will have on menstruation. Alternatively, there are pills that can delay or eliminate menstrual bleeding for the month, but in my opinion, it’s not the greatest choice because I really dislike messing with the body like that. If you’re the type that have heavy flow and really don’t want to deal with having to change and such, you can always use adult diapers (or if you’re the small girl, just baby diapers) that will probably absorb your entire trip worth of flow, if that’s something you’re comfortable with doing. Look on the bright side, you can even relieve yourself of urine and feces without getting up. I’m not sure how safe it is from a smell-standpoint though.
Now, fear not for the women who prefer not to carry any supplies with them or got surprized by their periods! Most plane bathrooms will usually have a stock of sanitary napkins in one of the bins or containers (See picture). Unless you’re one of those unlucky ones who get into a lavatory where some ladies needing the same products beat you to it, they are usually readily available. Suffice to say, the choice of products usually aren’t the greatest (only seen one airline that offered tampons as well) brands or sizes, but they will have to suffice until you get your hands on some better stuff yourself. However, now that I say that, I fly with Cathay Pacific a lot and I find that their choices of pads are quite exceptional, in fact, my most recent long-haul trip they had Kotex Whites (Hong Kong brand name) offered in the sanitary bin. As much as I was tempted to take one as a souvenir, I did also respect the fact that there might be a lady who needed this much more than I did, so I let it be. Worse-case scenario is that if they aren’t available, then you can always page a flight-attendant who can assist you with stocking it up. As much as a commotion that may make, it’s a better alternative than leaking at your seat and having to SIT in it for hours to come. You could always make the lovely toilet-paper pad to hold you up as well and inform a flight-attendant discretely and return to the washroom later to change into a proper product.
For those who are super-super cautious of leakage chances, you can wear disposable underwear (yes, they really do have them) or Lunapanties (I love them, despite not owning a pair, lol – It’s a great concept) to curb the fear. Just like ANY time on your period, being on a plane should be no different and making your period as comfortable as it can be! Heck, why not even consider Lunapanties with their inserts as a complete replacement for your period-traveling needs?! For the guys, if you really see a woman who seems to be in desperate need to get ahead of the line, do show a bit of sympathy by letting her take care of her business. Now of course, if you REALLY have to go, then take care of yourself as well first but try to speed it up a bit! I’m not sure if I’m just extra lucky, but there hasn’t been a flight I’ve been on where I had to stand in line for an extremely long time and there were probably at most, 3 people ahead of me. If you’re flying short-haul distance or flights that have stops, you can always disembark the plane (if permitted) to freshen up, including a more spacious area for you to change your products (or even buy some if you prefer certain brands/types).
Now we come down to the girls who are self-conscious about changing their products, especially disposable ones in the plane bathrooms. First of all, if you’ve never been on a plane, you’ll be happy to know that there’s a lot of “background noise” and even more-so when you’re inside the bathroom. Bathrooms are usually located at the front, mid-sections and end, where it is usually noisier due to engines, turbines and other mechanical things (I’m not a plane engineer, lol). Also, in each of these washroom sections, you can expect there to be the galley, therefore providing more “cover noise.” Rest assured, the likelihood of someone standing directly outside of the bathroom won’t hear your pad or tampon wrapper noise because there’s so many other distracting noises around them. For the extra shy, you can even flush the toilet and for your information, most toilet flushes on the plane are super noisy, enough to mask out a murder scream. Although the doors on the bathrooms are usually not thick, but I’m sure they have some kind of noise-proof material built within them, so the privacy you’d get in a plane bathroom may even be better than the stalls in a mall.
Just like how many girls take their bags to the washroom, period or not, you can always do the same when you’re on a plane – people don’t think much of it. Being on a plane doesn’t mean you have to act differently or treat your period as if it has suddenly become a monster. Your period should be handled in a similar fashion – with the goals of being comfortable, protected and hygienic! You should also not take risks that you might normally do, such as waiting last minute to change (due to lineups) and that your repercussions of leaking on a plane might be more devastating than when you’re on land. I have read about women who have been so stressed out about flying that they have super heavy flows, so I would really recommend having some of the heaviest absorbency pads/tampons handy, even if you normally have lighter flows. If you’re the parent, guardian or even a younger female yourself who has not reached menarche or who has not achieved a regular menstrual cycle, then being prepared will give you that extra peace of mind, for yourself or on behalf of another female party. Checking frequently is also an option if you’re already on your period and really want to keep an eye on your flow. With so many people on the plane, most people don’t even look up to see if it’s the same person going to the bathroom all the time. With most large aircrafts, there are usually an assortment of 3-4 bathrooms per section (different classes), so if you vary between them, other passengers will be none-the-wiser.
If you’re flying for the first time, all I have to say is that you’re much safer in the air, than on the road. Also, flying is a wonderful experience, that not everyone gets to feel for themselves. Consider yourself lucky, enjoy your flight and better yet, enjoy your trip. Just as I always say, love your period, even if it comes on your vacation because you can make the best of it!