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What Pad or Tampon is Right For Me? Thick, thin, wings, no wings – I’m confused!

I remember getting these questions regularly when I started my blog, from younger girls who hadn’t started their periods yet and from ones who recently began menstruating. Suffice to say, I’m deeply touched that girls would reach out to me, as a male, to seek such advice. I hope they always get answers from me which are helpful and act as a guide, directing them to good sources of information such as sisters, parents, guardians, relatives or close female friends who can provide more anecdotal guidance than I would be able. I haven’t gotten a question like this for a while in my daily life, because almost all of my god-sis’ or close female friends are already well into becoming experts on their own periods. The “what pad or tampon is right for me?” question probably was last asked by my youngest god-sis about 4 years ago already! The reason why I decided to write about this topic, isn’t necessarily to answer inquiries from females about how to pick their products (as I believe my reviews and highlighted articles have achieved much of that already), but rather, because a male friend of mine has opened up to the idea of wanting to learn. The other day, he approached me, asking about my knowledge on menstruation. While he does not know the extent of my “enjoyment” of menstruation, he came to me because he’s known I’ve been involved in a few serious relationships before and no doubt, has had to deal with period issues at one point or another. So for the guys, this article may be right for you!

So my friend, being the geek he is (like me, heh) – it was very hard for him to wrap his head around how girls pick their feminine hygiene products. To him, how can different products be so unique that it makes you want one over another? He knew that different classes and models of cars offer a variety of features, performance and such, but how can he apply this to pads and tampons – it’s confusing for him! I must’ve spent a good hour just educating him about the basics of periods, why it exists, what the function is, how often it happens, etc. let alone go into details about pads and tampons yet. After he got grounded on what menstruation is all about (and probably puked a bit in his mouth as I noticed changes of expressions whenever I went into details), I began to explain to him the two common types of menstrual protection, pads and tampons. For the sake of not exploding his brain or turning him off the conversation, I started to go over the differences between disposal tampons and pads. Pads were either affixed to a sanitary belt or put onto panties to absorb menstrual flow as it exits the body, versus a tampon which is inserted into the vagina where menstrual flow is absorbed before it exits the body. Pads when filled, are removed from the panties, rolled/folded up and then disposed in the garbage. Tampons are withdrawn from the vagina and then thrown in the garbage or flushed down the toilet. In his words, “I didn’t even know pads existed – I only hear about tampons.” and as you can see, his innocence when it came to the existence of various options and their most basic method of functionality. Unfortunately, these menstrual protection terms are sometimes even used interchangeably.

Then he began to ask me, “How do girls know which pad or tampon is right for her?”

I told him that many girls often are introduced to their first brand and type of pad or tampon by an educator, parent, guardian or sibling. It’s quite common to find in households, that the females within the household share common brands and types of products they use. To be honest, out of my group of girls, I’ve only seen one who has a very different product lines as compared to her sisters and mom. There’s nothing “wrong” with that, however, from my experience, if the mother in a household uses brand X, then the rest of the girls will likely begin and continue to use brand X as well. However, picking a product is all a matter of personal preference and unless you have an over-controlling Asian mother, whether a daughter chooses to use pads, tampons or whatever brand is usually up to them. For some of the more adventurous girls, they may reach out to other types and brands of products through her friends or through her own willingness to experiment with different products. Some girls however, are forced to search for new products if their flow demands that they switch or should they have a particular reaction to the product they’re currently using. I do know a few of my girls suddenly began having allergies to products they’ve been using for years and had to switch products afterward. Allergies may be one or a combination of companies changing the composition of their products or over time, a girl developing sensitivity to one or more of the elements within the product. Just like buying a TV, we often hear from others which one they think is “the best” – then we find out for ourselves whether that’s true or not! Just likes pads and tampons, most people make decisions based on what they hear, see and perceive. It’s almost impossible to learn whether a feminine hygiene option is right until trying it!

Here’s where it gets difficult for him – trying to understand all the different attributes which separate one product from another. So then he asked me, “What is it about those wings I keep on hearing about? If thin pads are so much more comfortable, why do thick pads exists?”

Disclaimer: Not my hand.. or pad...

So for a guy who didn’t know the existence of pads and the difference between pads and tampons, I didn’t find it shocking to hear this question. I knew that the concept of “wings” to him would be beyond his grasp, does it help make a girl fly? I explained to him that wings were meant to help keep the pad in place and conform to the shape/movement of the body and panties and that it also acted as a last ditch effort to prevent menstrual flow from leaving the side of the pad. I happened to have a pad with wings in my car, so I opened it up for him to take a look and of course without panties, I couldn’t demonstrate to him the application of wings underneath the crotch area, but I managed with a bit of visual description to give him an idea that wings extend from the side of the pad is is wrapped around the crotch of the underwear, that way, it secures itself against the panties and allow movements and shifting to synchronize with the pad in place.

He was already furrowing his eyebrows at me because who would’ve thought of something like “wings” on a sanitary product? He asked me if there were more “attributes” of a pad or tampon that makes one competitor’s product different from another… I sighed and told him, “yes, lots” and he rolled his eyes at me. Of course having the mindset of a keep, I actually used a very laughable analogy to explain all the attributes of pads to him in relevance to an RPG game. I told him since he’s so familiar with RPG’s, think about that a character is made of many “attributes”, strength, dexterity, intelligence, constitution, willpower, etc. and compare that to a pad with lengths, thickness, absorbency, width, wings, etc. He nodded in agreement with my very geeky analogy.

Length of a pad, what is it for? Well the length of the pad denotes how long the coverage area between your belly button to your lower back. Essentially, longer pads are usually designed for women who have heavier flows and thus, allows the pad to catch flow more easily and to disbursed it over a larger area. Sometimes, longer pads were designed for larger sized women, such as when the Always Maximum Protection pads were marketed, they were labelled for extra heavy flows and for women who were “size 14+”. Shorter pads are usually designed for lighter days and with longer pads designed for overnight use or heavier flows. In Canada, companies usually use “slender, regular, long, overnight, etc.” terminology to denote the length of the pad. In Asia, it’s common to use metric measurement such as “mm” or “cm” to denote the lengths rather than a generalized label of the length.

Width of a pad is similar to length in the sense that it’s a measurement of how much side-to-side coverage there is and is usually dependent on the flow-purpose of the pad. Some brands keep their widths the same and simply make pads longer to make a “regular” into an “overnight” pad. Some brands such as Stayfree (which I’m a big fan of) will make pads designed for heavier and overnight use with a larger width, as menstrual flow will often go to the edges during the night when one is sleeping, rather than day-use where most people are sitting or standing or at least in a position where the flow will drip right into the center of the pad and stay there. Remember that width can sometimes be compensated for in the event of pads with larger wings.

Absorbency usually defines the capacity of menstrual flow that a pad is capable of absorbing and in Canada, the absorbancy falls in-line with the length and under the description of “slender, regular, long, etc.” depending on the manufacturer. Either way, absorbency is not standardized like tampons are for pads. A “regular” absorbency pad by one company may not absorb the same amount as “regular” from another. Absorbency often varies depending on the technology used in the pad, some of which are proprietary. For instance, the big 3 companies in Canada that sells pads, Stayfree, Kotex and Always have various lines of products with different technologies. Stayfree has a new Thermocontrol line, Kotex has the Micromax core in their U by Kotex line, and Always has the Infincel beads in their Infinity line which different from their standard lines. I usually refer to these as the “premium lines” – a description which I adopted from Asia pads and tampons. Even comparing absorbency of a “regular” sized Always pad in their original line versus a “regular” sized Always Infinity pad, the Infinity one will absorb a lot more! Absorbency is very hard to define for pads because there’s just so many other factors involved.

Wings and No Wings, this is always confusing to explain to guys about why any girl would want to use pads without wings. Let’s face it, us guys drive all different types of cars, some people like spoilers and some do not. Likewise, not every girl needs to like wings on their pads, as much as it might sound contrary to not want something that helps. Wings can sometimes cause irritation and let’s not forget that wings aren’t always helpful. For some women, their body is much more attuned to pads with no wings and they feel that their pad already conforms well to their body without the assistance of wings. These are all legitimate personal choices! Furthermore, let’s not forget there’s a cost-savings here because pads with wings will usually either, a) cost more, or b) come fewer in a equivalent sized pack as compared to ones without wings.

Thin or thick? Naturally, one would like to assume that thin pads is always more comfortable and such is not the case. Thick pads sometimes can provide a comfort, like a pillow and also provides a closer body fit. Thick pads usually absorb better than their thin equivalency, however, with better technologies offered, sometimes thin pads can even outperform thick ones. Suffice to say, thick pads still offer a peace-of-mind to some women, therefore, thick pads should not be overlooked at being outdated or “not cool”. Feminine hygiene is a personal choice which is meant to provide both menstrual protection AND a feeling of security as psychological wellness matters too, especially during sensitive period times! Thin pads because of how paper-like they are often make more noise when walking, usually squishing and scratching noises. Thicker pads usually don’t have this problem, but then again, this is on a brand-to-brand basis. Thick pads for some can pose an uncomfortable feeling and usually anti-pad users will say they “feel like diapers” and sure enough, thick pads can get in the way of physical activities because the feeling of the pad is “always there.” Thick pads often will show bulging through tight pants and such, so there is a lack of discreteness if that is important. Thick pads usually are used at home and at night though for that reason when you have your own privacy and where “showing” is less of a concern.

By now, his eyes are already rolled back into his skull because as short as it was for you to read this on my blog, the conversation was a lot longer. I had to then tell him that now we’re done talking about pads, let’s move onto tampons!

Tampons in general have fewer attributes per se than pads.

Absorbency for tampons in Canada and the US have standardized amounts of menstrual flow they are designed to absorb in a single tampon and are as follows:

  • Junior absorbency – less than 6 grams (Approximately 5 grams equals one teaspoon.)
  • Regular absorbency – 6 to 9 grams
  • Super absorbency – 9 to 12 grams
  • Super plus absorbency – 12 to 15 grams
  • Ultra absorbency – 15 to 18 grams

Of course even between standardized tampon absorption amounts, girls often find their experiences with various brands to be quite different. Because tampons have the potential to cause TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome), absorbency ratings are regulated to protect users. Using the lowest possible absorbency to meet the needs of one’s menstrual flow is the best option. Absorbency doesn’t necessarily define the length or width of the tampon, but does influence it. On the same note, because tampons are worn internally, designers of tampons must create them in such a shape, size and way where it’s comfortable and is easy to insert/withdraw.

Expansion is something that is not usually talked about, but is something that’s integral to how well the tampon performs when inserted into the vagina. Tampons can expand in various “shapes” when inside the vagina, width-wise, length-wise or into “flower” type shapes, which help conform to the inside of the vagina. Think of a tampon as a plug and you will realize that the way tampons expand impact how well the tampon catches menstrual flow and whether “gaps” between the tampon and vaginal wall will occur, thus allowing flow to leak past the tampon. Expansion however, can equally cause discomfort so that’s why finding a tampon that has an expansion method which matches one’s body and still provides expected protection is integral.

Applicator or non-applicator tampons pose an impact to the environment and sometimes to the sanity of the girl. Girls who live by applicators usually have one of two reasons, 1) they don’t want to have their fingers so close to their bloody vagina or 2) feel it’s easier to insert. Because applicators add an extra piece of the overall size of the tampon, applicator tampons need to be sold in larger boxes/packages (yes, even the compact sized ones) and add additional trash to our landfills. However, some just can’t get over the idea that their fingers would need to become very intimate and close to their vagina and is unsanitary/unhygienic, therefore non-applicator tampons scare them. I have had real-life experiences with inserting both non-applicator and applicator tampons and honestly, I have preference towards non-applicator tampons no problem.

Type of applicator usually falls between 2 materials, cardboard and plastic. Both cause an environmental impact, however, cardboard because it’s usually biodegradable, has less environmental impact. Plastic however is often known to “glide in” much smoother. However, plastic applicator tips are often flanged to allow the tampon to be pushed through and thus, pinching is known to happen. Pinching already sucks when it happens on your hands, let alone when it’s in a sensitive area such as the vagina! Applicators can also sometimes have features and designs on it which assist in insertion, easy-to-hold grip/shape or compact form. The purpose of an applicator is to allow a tampon to be “planted” directly into the vagina. The applicator plunge is pushed, the tampon exits into the vagina and settles in, then the applicator is withdrawn from the body. The result is a string sewn into the center of the tampon which allows for withdrawal and the string stays outside the body. Some women like to tuck the string between the legs, labia or even inside their vagina.

I noticed that after all this information, I think that his mind was already at the tip of exploding. It’s a lot of information for a guy to stomach at one time, especially because he was the mild and shy type and to listen to my repeat of “pad”, “tampon” and “vagina” it made his face flush red. There were times I had to repeat myself so he understood concepts surrounding tampons and how applicators worked and such. I was more than happy to show him as I happened to have bought a box of U by Kotex Click tampons in my trunk. Seeing the visual really helped him grasp the idea of tampons and what the differences are between pads and tampons. One last thing I touched-base on because I knew talking about disposal pads and tampons already gave him the shivers at the thought of menstrual fluid (and that when pads and tampons are soaked up, the flow is actually less than it appears) saturating a pad and tampon. An average menstrual flow isn’t all that bad in terms of actual amount, but when we visually see a soaked pad and tampon, it almost looks like a someone’s arm was cut off by a saw! I skimmed through alternative pad and tampon options such as menstrual cups and cloth pads and by then, I could see the air of discomfort rising in him. With that, I stopped but then there’s still much for ME to learn about reusable products which I want to do before writing more about them.

Recently, I’ve been very fascinated with Lunapads and really want to make a donation AND purchase a set for testing and perhaps for my interested girls or bebe! So there you have it guys, if you ever wonder how much that girls have to think about when choosing a product right for them, you realize why the aisles are so damn big and complex! Hopefully though, you will also realize that it’s not a trivial matter at all and that picking the right product really helps a girl get through her day accident-free and with a peace-of-mind! If you’re not afraid of your own menstrual flow, I’d REALLY recommend you switching to reusable products because they’re great for the environment, economical, healthier for your body and comfortable because they use REAL cotton and not synthesized materials!

Looks of Disgust, Jealousy or Perversion?

For those of you who are avid shoppers and have access to a Walmart, you would know that this past week was Walmart’s anniversary. As such, they featured many low-price products and paired with back-to-school and back-IN-school sales, they attracted many shoppers of all ages and gender. As I was walking through Walmart, it was almost like wading through the streets of a busy night in Hong Kong, pushing through throngs of people to get at the “sale bins”. Clearly Walmart was prepared, because many of the sale items were constantly available as I watched the associates fill the shelves again and again as the masses of people stepped away, revealing gaping holes where products used to sit. Of those sales, Walmart featured an assortment of Always pads, liners and Tampax tampons for $2.87/ea – however, with a limit of 6. Obviously if you have those families that have many females in the house, whether living with relatives or with many daughters, girls had stacked boxes and packages at the checkout counter. Let’s face it, a family with 3 girls (let’s just say a mother and 2 daughters), that’s already EIGHTEEN packs of pads/tampons that they would be eligible to buy within the limits.

I swear, while the prices of pads or tampons haven’t decreased, it seems like the quantity of them slowly get chipped away. For instance, the original Stayfree line had more pads per package than the current Thermocontrol series, even though the overall pricing structure hasn’t changed. I can understand developing newer products and technology costs money and that shoppers may be turned off at a price hike, but let’s not assume people buying stuff are blind. We know that every package, there’s a few less before and the price of the package is still the same. That morning, when I got to work, I noticed my Brandsaver coupons had arrived, one of which was a 75-cents off any Always product. Given that the only other sale of Always products I’ve seen so cheap was $2.77 (only on 2 days of the week though), I figured $2.87 -0.75 would be a pretty good price to pick up some pads and tampons. Since the other day I only recently stocked up a variety of pads to revisit and tampons to have one of my girls test for me, I was not in need of them. But as usual, I always have my girls and girlfriend in mind and since bebe isn’t a big Always fan, I decided to check up on some of my other girls to see if they needed a restock!

While I always feel comfortable when it comes to being in the feminine hygiene aisle or that I’m a part of my girls’ purchasing decision, I never flaunt my status loudly. Again, I love the fact my girls allow me to be part of their menstrual lives, so in public I never make a huge deal out of it. I also respect the general public where I know that menstruation and purchasing products is a very taboo thing, particularly when there’s a male presence. Therefore I still try to ensure that the people around me aren’t affected by undue pressure or embarassment. I picked up my cell phone while standing in front of the Tampax bin and quietly, but audibly asked one of my girls if she needed tampons. A few heads turned and because this was in the open-floor and not the aisle (because they were in bargain sections, not in the usual feminine hygiene “corner”), there were young, old, male, female and everyone in between who took a double-take to what I said over the phone. I know I’m Asian, but I also didn’t shout in my phone, but in such a tight environment because of such a busy day, people were close enough to hear. I remember my exact words, “Hey [friend’s name], I’m at Walmart right now and I noticed they have some Tampax Supers on sale… the umm.. cardboard ones, are you interested in me getting some for you?

The looks I received, I couldn’t quite make out the thoughts running through people’s heads. I know that people depending on upbringing, age and culture, all see male-participation in menstruation very differently. I know for one thing my dad would go with my mom to buy these products, but would not carry them and would often tell my mom to stop swinging her bags if they had pads in them, because it would attract too much humiliating attention. Likewise, the older guys in my family would definitely not even be present to buy such products or even recognize the existence of feminine hygiene supplies. For me, periods are something to be loved, cherished and an opportunity for us guys to show a bit of care and extra pampering. Suffice to say, my friend said she was actually running low and would love it if I could buy a few boxes for her and she’d pay me back. While some finished looking, others pretty much watched me and listened in on the entire conversation I had over the phone… perhaps they were interested in why I seem to have no gripes about buying tampons so openly or that I would be the one to initiate an offer to my friend if she needed some. I smiled and said, “Sure. After I get them, I’ll drop them off in an hour or so, is that ok?” and then the call ended. I picked up 4 boxes, cradled them in my arm and walked around for a bit more before going to checkout and getting in my car.

Throughout that time, I asked myself, when people looked at me, was it a look of disgust, jealousy or even perversion? There’s been a few times when I’ve had female sales clerks or cashiers, that they seemed pleasantly surprized seeing my proactiveness or just willingness to carry around pads/tampons without sheltering them. On the occasion where the staff are feeling brave, they’ve even commented on how “lucky your girlfriend or wife must be” even though there are times I were buying them for myself, for one of my girls or whatnot. Surely, I know bebe appreciates that I can openly purchase these products with her and that she never needs to be afraid to ask me to buy them, or buy them in my presence. Ask yourself, the last time you saw a guy buying feminine hygiene products: what were your thoughts? Was it, “ewww, that’s so gross…” or “Aw, that’s nice of him…” or “Gee, I wonder what he does with those..”

If you’re an Always or Tampax fan and have access to a Walmart, the sale ends in 2 days so get them quick!

Scented Products – Pads, Tampons, Liners, Wipes & Sprays. Why?

So now it sucks that I have to point out this brand in particular, but, it’s right-on-topic with what I want to speak about. Being an avid fan of periods, perhaps I may not be as bothered by the idea of menstrual fluid, the sight, smell or even presence of it – but others may be, whether male or female. I can understand the fear that some girls may be self-conscious about their own smell or might even feel disgusted about their own smell that they would consider using scented products. This doesn’t just have to do with scented tampons or pads, but there is also quite a market out there of women who feel that they need to “feel fresh” by using things like vaginal wipes or sprays. My question is, “is it really necessary?”

Yes, our body does not emanate the most beautiful smells. Even those who use fragrance soaps and perfume – let’s face it, WE do not naturally smell good, we are only masking our own natural body smell. Suffice to say, it doesn’t mean we should discard hygiene and let ourselves smell like crap, but our body, especially our sensitive areas like our pubic region don’t need to smell like flower petals. Furthermore, we all know that these scents are just chemicals, so why on earth would we even consider putting chemicals near our private areas? If you don’t wash your face regularly with acid, then you probably wouldn’t want to stuff a scented tampon in your vagina. Sure, the chemicals in those aren’t as harsh as acid, but the bottom line is… that they’re still chemicals.

For many women who still continue to use conventional feminine hygiene products, disposable pads and tampons – they’re already subjecting themselves to many foreign materials and using scented products is just like adding salt to a wound. I’ve managed to persuade most of my girls who uses scented products to stay away from them or for ones who are self-conscious to only use scented products when they feel that their period smell may be exposed easily. We all like to smell good, I’m not sure how many people on this world enjoy smelling bad if they had a choice, but scented feminine hygiene products aren’t the way to go. Honestly, even a pad or tampon that has been worn to the maximum and leaking, menstrual fluid smell would still be minimal. As a female, ask yourself, how many people would even be close to your vagina? Unless you work in the sex industry or as a stripper, would there be that many people close enough to your vagina where they’d be able to smell you? It’d be perhaps, your partner or at least someone whom you are comfortable enough to be so intimately close to – so is covering up the smell that important?

 

 

Let’s consider scented tampons for a moment. A tampon goes inside the vagina and stays there until it’s withdrawn and then thrown away. Please feel free to justify the reasoning of why a scented tampon is necessary because once you pull it out, it goes right into the garbage or down the toilet. Would the smell of menstrual flow for the 2 seconds prior to disposal be so bad where it’d be necessary to have a scented product? Also, I’ve seen my fair share of scented products and really, even the most scented product isn’t enough to completely mask the smell of the menstrual fluid. Don’t believe me? If you have the guts, try it yourself. Scented pads are pretty bad because the pad is already rubbing against your pubic region the whole day and with tampons, it’s sitting inside your body for up to 8 hours a day, times the number of tampons you use per day. We may enjoy the idea of our outer regions smelling good and thus, we use heavily scented soaps or feminine wipes, but why does the inside of the vagina need to smell good? Douching has been a long-standing practice, especially for some cultures or backgrounds – but did you know that douching should be something that’s done only on the recommendation of a doctor? Douching can be bad for the vagina because it may upset the delicate pH balance of the vagina.

As I mentioned, I don’t know of too many of my girls who use scented products so for those who do or have used them, for what reason do you prefer scented products? I know some products don’t come with a choice, for instance, Stayfree pads used to have both scented and unscented versions – but not anymore as the all come slightly scented. I can understand if you’ve used a certain product for so long where you don’t feel persuaded to change products, but for those who are using a product such as Playtex tampons where they do have scented and unscented products – why would you opt to use the scented, especially knowing that it truly is unnecessary (or unless you have reasons to deem it necessary)? This is not meant to entice an argument or to say that those who uses scented products as “wrong” – but rather, let us discuss the pros and cons and weigh them as to whether using scented products is a sound idea.

For the women who use liners on a daily basis to stay fresh, then perhaps I can under that manufactures want to add scent to it to encourage the idea that a good smell is the way you stay fresh. You can’t stay fresh just by relying on a scented pantiliner, but also with proper hygiene and changing of underwear on a regular or daily basis. I understand that some women get discharge regularly or have to deal with overactive vaginal lubrication, which sometimes doesn’t have the most pleasent smell or causes that “damp” feeling against your vagina, but yet, isn’t that the point of underwear? Underwear was meant to provide us with a buffer between our bodily fluids and the rest of the world. I looked up the “purpose of underwear” and one important point that came up is that underwear is to “support and protect your genital“. With that said, a bit of gunk on your underwear isn’t going to cause major issues unless you have a very heavy discharge or soaking issue, then, I can see the necessity of wearing a pantiliner regularly.

The vagina, just like any part of our body requires “breathing space” and using a pantiliner every day prevents that. Pantiliners, as part of a pre-menstrual and post-menstrual application is reasonable, but every day is almost excessive. Beyond the consideration of having your vagina stuffed up by products, also consider wearing underwear that’s more air permeable. Wearing breathable articles of clothing may make you think that just exposes your “smell” more, but by improving the OVERALL HEALTH of your pubic area, you are helping it, not hindering it.

Remember the reasons why you chose scented products in the first place, review it and see if it still really makes sense to stick with them! If you want to smell good, consider all your other healthier options.

Buying Pads/Tampons with Your Significant Other

After a hiatus due to a prolonged illness, I am not back in action! My next topic was inspired as I was purchasing some pads to test in Walmart, seeing the reactions of male significant others, and the discomfort that was expressed between couples down the feminine hygiene aisle. I tend to take my time in this aisle, so no doubt during the very busy “back to school” season, I saw both young and old couples alike, with the females vying for these items before heading off for school or as a regular stock-up. I’m not sure how to write this article using proper wording and being sensitive to those who have perhaps gone through sexual reassignment, hormonal injections, people who have chosen to live an alternate lifestyle or even lesbian couples (since they’d be both ‘comfortable’ with the idea of a menstrual period), so I’m just going to write this in my stance of what Canadian society defines to be a male-female relationship.

So as I’m browsing the typical feminine hygiene products, I see a lot of guys walking past me with really uneasy faces – some more obvious than others, but all seem to express common-ground with each other, “let’s get the hell out of here as soon as we can!” and you can tell, because the second they leave sight of that aisle, their posture corrects themselves, their faces are no longer flush-red and they resume normal motion speeds. Of course, there are the odd guy who wanders into that section who don’t even flinch and good for you, but whenever there are males in the aisle with their female partner or friend, you can tell there’s a large air of discomfort – perhaps for both the male and female! I would say in general, most of the people who purchase these items with their significant other is when they’re living common-law or married. I’ve asked my male and female friends whether their counterpart are willing to purchase pads/tampons with them and most of them said no, or said only in major emergencies would they even consider it. Suffice to say, these are exactly “statistically proven” figures, but simply through questioning people who I happen to know – which may very well differ from “credible numbers.” Case-in-point, I recently went with a coworker to Walmart during a sale for tampons and she bought them in my presence and I even carried it for her all through checkout. It was quite comfortable and because she recently found out about my “interests” in menstruation. She admitted though, that did she not know that I was, “not grossed out by periods” that she would’ve asked me to wait in the car or wouldn’t have even bought it when she was with me.

I remember when I bought pads with bebe for the first time, it was such a comfortable experience for us both… I suppose given that bebe has always known about my “interest” that it wasn’t exactly a shocker for her or that she wasn’t used to talking to me about it. We were standing in the aisle and we were openly discussing which pads I recommend and which ones she usually buys. When I was with my coworker, I didn’t give as much of my opinion, since she only knows a degree of my interest and since we definitely don’t share the same comfort-level over her period as bebe and I do, I didn’t want to be the one “giving her pointers” about which tampons I would recommend or whatnot.

So to the guys, how many of you would actually go with your partner to purchase feminine hygiene products and to the girls, how many of you would let your male partner accompany you to buy these products?

Naturally, guys may feel uncomfortable in this aisle because it’s foreign to them and perhaps a bit embarrassing. After all, guys would not be accustomed to going down this aisle since they have no need for these products, therefore being there is almost like being that one guy who walks into a girls-only school or something. Sometimes, when a guy walks into this aisle, he gets a lot of looks from the females too, although luckily I haven’t been a victim myself of those “disapproving-stares” walking in… perhaps I look natural, lol. Once the guy “detects” the discomfort from others in the air, he will often try to escape quickly, for instance, you’ll often see guys trying to push the cart away, glance at other “non feminine hygiene things”, play with items inside the cart or he’ll put pressure onto his female partner to hurry up so they can leave. This is unfair as well to the female since she needs time to look at her options and choices and after all, shopping should be a pleasure and enjoyment right? We should not be rushed to make decisions. Guys will often look disgruntled as well for being in the aisle and you can tell the sigh of relief they have once they exit the section. It’s a privilege and an opportunity for us guys to be able to join our female partners to buy these items. It shows that they have comfort and trust and also it’s an opportunity for us to learn about our partner/periods. Remember that the discomfort may actually be two-way and the more discomfort you show as a male partner, the more your female counterpart may feel embarrassed, pressured or upset. Most females are quite open to buying male items, so why should we as guys feel embarrassed to accompany our female partners to buy her products? Don’t forget that for some women, it’s hard for them even to buy these items for themselves, so we should not heighten their existing discomfort as it is.

For the females, how comfortable are you when you buy these products with your male significant other? Do you let him pressure you into buying things faster, ask him to go look at something else or do you just take your time despite his discomfort? I saw an older man, who was buying some pads with his wife and he kept on pointing his cart out the aisle. The second his wife turned around and dropped one of the packages in the cart and while she turned around to choose another, the guy was already half-bolting out the aisle. The woman had to yell after her husband and told him to wait because she was not done. The guy sighed in exasperation and turned around and now with the extra attention attracted towards him now, the situation became even more embarrassing as you could see the man’s face going red like a tomato. A female entered the aisle shortly later and was browsing some tampons. I assume her partner came in (not sure if it’s a boyfriend or husband), but he wandered over and stood there with her. This guy seemed a lot more comfortable, but the girl did not. She stopped browsing and kind of glanced around – and gave the guy a really disapproving look. It appeared he didn’t clue in and it was clear she couldn’t comfortably concentrate on looking at her products with the guy’s presence. She prodded the guy to go, but he said to her, “I’m done getting what I need, just waiting for you now” – but the girl still asked the guy to go elsewhere. It was just kind of unfortunate that she was not comfortable with him being there. One could argue maybe they’re not that close, but looking at their buggy, they definitely seemed like a “couple” based on some of the stuff they bought together. Therefore, when it comes to buying feminine hygiene items, discomfort can and does exist on both sides of the fence.

Let’s all try to make shopping for ANY item a comfortable experience and be reasonably inclusive of each other, especially if there’s a relationship involved. If this person will be or already is a “special someone” in your life, then buying feminine hygiene items together should not be alarming. Achieving equality should be for both genders, not just women. After all, it’s pretty typical for women to buy male underwear, but yet, when a guy goes to buy female panties, he is likely viewed as a creep, pervert and is generally frowned. When a female buys male underwear, people will assume it’s for her son, boyfriend or husband, but when a male buys it, people will probably think it’s for him to wear or masturbate in, but not that he’s simply buying it for his daughter, girlfriend or wife. When you show patience and comfort with your partner as you shop with him/her, it makes the experience so much better and is fair to everyone. If she patiently waits for you to pick your choice of condoms, why should you not patiently wait for her to choose the right product so she doesn’t bleed all over you? 😆

Swimming/Water Activities on Your Period

Menstruating and swimming tends to be one of those inquisitive topics that I get from some of my male readers. I suppose given that many men are oblivious to the differences of a “pad” and a “tampon” – it would not be a surprize to have them ponder how exactly does a woman on her period, swim (or maybe I should say, swim without menstruating everywhere)? Indeed, when it comes to a girl’s period and swimming, almost one exclusive thing comes to mind – a tampon. Nevertheless, there are other options and maybe this will give both boys and girls, a different way to look at water-activities during a period.

I think it goes without saying, that using a pad while fully submersed underwater isn’t going to be a very reliable form of protection. That’s not to say it will be “useless” – but it won’t work the way it was intended to work. Because a pad is like a sponge, it will absorb any liquid, including the water – whether it be in a pool or open-waters. If you’re planning to have your lower-body fully submerged in water at any time during your water activities, I would highly suggest an internal form of protection, such as a menstrual sponge, cup or tampon.

Now of course, if your water activities do not involve lower-body submersion, it’s quite possible to use a pad for your menstrual protection needs. For those who wear a swimsuit, you can optionally wear underwear or an underwear-like article underneath your suit (i.e underneath your bikini bottoms or swim-shorts) to secure your pad onto and of course, you’d want to choose a colour which wouldn’t show through your outer-material. There’s nothing wrong with this per se, but some might consider it a bit of fashion faux pas. Because a swimsuit tends to be a closer fit to the body, you may want to use thin pads to avoid any bulging unless that is not a concern for you. Depending on how revealing your crotch-area is on your particular swimsuit, it may also be good to avoid winged pads. My own personal thought before talking to a few of my friends is that when I think of  “beach” and “period” – it automatically makes me assume a tampon is involved. However, in places like Japan or even most Asian territories – because tampons aren’t the ‘common’ method of menstrual protection – many girls learn to make do with pads and modifying their water activities. It is quite common for a girl to wear a pad under a swimsuit and just make sure she wades thigh-deep into water at most, to prevent the pad from properly absorbing her menstrual flow rather than water. The more common alternative then, would just be to skip the swimsuit, stay in some shorts and wear your pads as per normal.

I know there’s a lot of talk about whether your period “stops” or not in the water. While I understand the concept of water pressure in play here, your period does not stop in the water and just to make my point firmer, your period (a biological function) doesn’t “cease” just because you are in water. Do you stop feeling the need to go pee or poop on a full bladder when you’re in the water? No – so neither does your period. Some people who think their period stops might either have a light enough period where the blood might not necessarily show or that there’s enough water/polluted colour not to notice (such as in open-waters). A girl with a heavy-flow and not using proper protection will likely not last long in a swimming pool before someone begins to notice. Mind you, you could always “free bleed” in open-waters and people may not notice, but it really has to do with your own conscience and whether you feel it’s hygienically correct for your menstrual flow to be floating around in water that everyone else is enjoying themselves in. If you’re in your own pool, then hell, do whatever you feel like. I should make mention that conventional pad materials aren’t very friendly with drainage systems, so using a pad in the water and allowing it to “fall apart” might cause issues in common pool drain/water systems.

I know that when it comes to swimming (full-body submersion) that it really is a pain-point for girls who don’t use internal protection. One of my girls was an avid swimmer and was pursuing her lifeguard certificate. However, in her mid-teenage years, she reached menarche and at the time she didn’t use tampons, she gave up much of her training and potential career/certification due to her period being an impediment in her being able to attend courses and required training. Pads are still a very large part of Asia and Asian culture, so it’s not unusual for an Asian girl to decline water activities when she’s on her period or will only do some knee-deep wading and water-splashing. Even if they don’t want to use tampons (fully in their rights), I give them extra kudos for being a good sport and still attending beach/water-related outings. Many girls have also found interesting way of using pads and actually submerging their lower body in the water, so you can always try. However, there are always potentially embarrassing consequences when your pad gives out and everything that was “locked” comes leaking out or when your pad fully soaks up water instead of your flow and your period & clots just leave a trail on the water surface.

On an anecdotal note, I have swam with a friend who’s period started unexpectedly while she was racing me and I can verify the whole concept of whether the water pressure is enough to keep the flow in the vagina – it doesn’t. Your period was meant to be expelled from the vagina and while underwater, gravity still exists. I know it can be quite hard for a girl who really wants to attend submersion water activities and having her period, this is just one of those instances where I have to say, “suck it up buttercup” because there’s not many options when it comes to dealing with an active flow while under water without some kind of surgical assistance or internal menstrual protection. Anyone who’s read this blog for a while will know I’m not a big fan of tampons, but sure enough, tampons were invented for a reason and one of them, being a great form of menstrual protection for water-sports! If you’re lucky enough to own your own pool facilities, I suppose you could freely bleed in it – although I’m not sure if it’d be that easy to be swimming with others with that happening.

So to shorten the entire post down, how to deal with swimming and your period?

  • Use an internal form of protection (tampons, sea sponges, cups, etc.)
  • Don’t swim
  • Swim without protection (not recommend for public areas)

In closing, I’d like to add that swimming is a great activity to carry out while on your period if you can do it. Exercise is essential to maintaining good health, but also has great effects on alleviating period-related pains such as cramps or discomfort. If you’re not under so much pain that you’re ready to keel over, then some moderate exercise during your period will get your mind away from the pain, help you get your body in shape and not coop yourself up in the house!

Periods, Short Airplane Trips & Long-Haul Flights

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!

The New “You ARE Loved” Site and Brochure!

A month ago, I made a post about Toxic Shock Syndrome and a site called “You ARE Loved” who promote education about TSS. They had a nice little site before, but recently, they have redesigned their entire site with a slick and intuitive layout. They also acquired a domain name so I would like to take the opportunity to provide a link to their new site:

http://you-are-loved.org/

The site is dedicated to the blog owner’s daughter, Amy Rae Elifritz, who last year passed away from TSS.

The authors and contributors of the site also put a lot of work into a TSS brochure they have made and over a twitter discussion, I was happy that they would allow me to share this great piece of work, in hopes that if even all our efforts would help save just one potential TSS death that it will be worth it. Whether it is your friend, sister, daughter or even mother, your knowledge about TSS may very well be that separation between life and death for them.

Please take time to read and pass on the brochure here:

http://you-are-loved.org/files/2011/06/YAL-TSS-Brochure.pdf

I’ve just added You ARE Loved to my blog’s link and if you’re a blog-owner yourself, you should too!

A Tampon Without An Applicator (O.B.)? DIRTY!

So my entry title is what I’ve heard from many of my girl’s who have taken my advice to switching or trying non-applicator tampons. Namely in Canada, I believe O.B. is the only “mainstream” brand that has tampons without applicators, although there are “side brands” – particularly organic manufacturers – who make non-applicator tampons. I’m sure people wonder where they get such an unusual name for a tampon manufacturer, but the letters O.B. is an acronym, “Ohne Binde German for, “without a pad” (or rough equivalent), so now that it makes sense, it’s a very fitting name. Of course being the menstrual enthusiast that I am, I am actually quite ashamed to say I took little note of this tampon brand until it was introduced to me by one of my ex’s – name withholding obviously.

A tampon is a tampon, however, just the minor difference (well, minor in my mind) between inserting a tampon WITH an applicator and WITHOUT an applicator has struck fear into even some of my elite-tampon using girls. I remember when even introducing O.B. to my god-sis, she blinked at me blankly when I told her that you just “use your fingers to push it up” – rather than pushing the bottom of the tube to feed the tampon up the vagina. She did try using them, but unfortunately, they were confiscated (yes seriously, by her mom) and she still said she preferred using an applicator because it removes the “ickiness” of possible contact of her fingers with her vagina or menstrual fluid. Honestly though, I would assume that following general hygiene that one would wash their  hands before and after handling any feminine hygiene products (or obviously even after just going to pee/poop), so the idea that one may come in contact with their own vagina or menstrual flow makes my mind spin a little. In fact, good insertion techniques with a non-applicator tampon is probably more “clean” than having to withdraw a blood-smeared applicator and risk any strands of menstrual flow or clots from falling out during the applicator withdrawal.

It’s probably quite obvious that the environmental footprint for an applicator and non-applicator tampon is very different. Non-applicator tampons are generally sold in smaller boxes (physical size) and individually wrapped only using a film-type wrapper. Applicator tampons are usually individually wrapped with a plastic wrapper and also the cardboard or plastic applicator itself generates additional waste. While cardboard is indeed recyclable, you have to wonder, how many people really separate their tampon applicators from regular waste? I can say that out of all my girls or women I have ever talked to, they just ditch their cardboard applicators along with the regular garbage. Since the sizing for applicator tampons is larger (even the compact ones sold by other brands), the boxes they come in are also larger as well.

In my opinion, O.B. tampons are SUPER CUTE. Well, not that it matters from a usage perspective, but making a cool-looking tampon can have its appeals. Or wait… maybe it only appeals to us menstrual lovers, LOL! Also, don’t forget that an applicator can sometimes cause injuries. Because many tampons have flanged ends for the applicator tip, it can catch on skin causing some major owies. Also particular to women who are just learning to use tampons, stabbing themselves with the applicator DOES happen. With an O.B. tampon, because you are more attuned by a fine-motor skill (your fingers), you have full control of the direction and movement while inserting the tampon. Don’t forget that assuming you are practicing general hygiene, using your fingers to insert the tampon is a clean alternative to introducing a foreign object such as cardboard or plastic into the most intimate area of your body. Although I’ve had debates with women on whether it’s “faster” to insert using an applicator or without one, I for one must say that it’s a lot easier to insert a non-applicator tampon since it requires less “unpakaging”, “preparation” and “fiddle-time”.

For those who may be interested in switching or exploring the use of a non-applicator tampon (or if you’d just like to educate yourself), here’s one of those O.B. pamphlets that are included in every box of their tampons:

O.B. Tampon Instructions

O.B. Tampon Instructions

You can click the image for a better resolution pictures and to see the text better!

You ARE Loved: Toxic Shock Syndrome Awareness

I have been struggling to come up with topics to write about, or rather, maybe just unmotivated, hah… however, I decided to go today and write on a topic that I’ve been meaning to write and post for a while. Toxic Shock Syndrome is known for many tampon users, yet, how knowledgeable are we about TSS to help us make an informed decision for the good of our health? I’m not here to necessarily debate whether I think tampons are a “good” form of feminine hygiene product, but today, we will concentrate on TSS alone and while there may be references to tampons, I’m neither “against” them or “for” them.

Staphylococcus aureus

Staphylococcus aureus

So what is toxic shock syndrome and like many infections, the name “doesn’t sound good already.” TSS is potentially fatal and caused by a bacterial infection which is usually associated with tampon use. There are multiple viruses which may trigger TSS, however, the most common one for tampon-related TSS infections is called Staphylococcus aureus. Despite what has been said and the belief that TSS only occurs in women who use tampons, this is not true. In fact, men and women are both capable of being infected with this bacterium and tampons are not the only cause of TSS. TSS has surfaced since 1980 and even after 31 years, women are still dying from tampon-related TSS. We may not think much of TSS, because there is very little publicity on it and with enough taboo around menstruation, people are not open to aptly speak about menstrual/feminine hygiene related deaths. It takes a very brave woman (Lisa Elifritz), the owner of You ARE Loved to raise public awareness about TSS and tell a very personal story about the challenges she faced with TSS in the death of her daughter, Amy Rae Elifritz.

TSS infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus can occur in a healthy individual and usually show through flu-like symptoms, particularly with high-fever exceeding 38.9 °C (102.02 °F), along with low blood-pressure, confusion, vomitting, diarrhea, weakness, coma and in more severe/terminal stages, multiple organ failure. Tampon related TSS symptoms also include a typical skin rash which is characterized as being severely painful at the site of the infection. TSS can be managed if discovered soon and with proper treatment, recovery occurs usually in 2 to 3 weeks. However, because of the destructive nature of the bacteria and TSS, death can occur within hours of the onset of the symptoms. Treatment within the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) is necessary for full supportive care, along with antibiotic treatment and toxin-reduction drugs.

Reported TSS cases dropped off rapidly after 1981 when 40 women died of tampon-related TSS and stayed “under the radar” for many years, until the fear of tampons begin to taper off. Tampon-related TSS struck fear in many women at the time, however, as girls begin to get their periods at younger ages in this generation, more of them are opting to use tampons and thus, exposing them to the causative bacteria at a younger age and also increasing the likelihood that they may be candidates for bacterial growth leading to tampon-related TSS. The triggering point for attention towards TSS was in a controversial testing of a tampon usable for an entire menstrual period called Rely by Procter and Gamble (P&G) in 1978. The tampon would, by design, be able to last an entire period without leakage or replacement and is said to be capable of absorbing almost 20 times its own weight. After several reported cases of TSS in menstruating women, the spotlight turned to tampons as the cause and eventually the product was pulled off the shelf.

People under the ages of 30 are less likely to have the antibodies to fight off Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, making individuals more susceptible to contracting TSS. Even the most diligent individuals such as Amy Rae Elifritz can be infected by this bacterium, despite regular changing of the tampon, alternating of menstrual products and using the lowest absorbency necessary for the menstrual flow at the time. While detection of TSS symptoms might be more obvious while menstruating, TSS can also occur any time within the menstrual cycle and menstruation does not need to be present, as bacteria may take time to build up or if chemicals/materials are left behind in the body, such as leftover rayon fibers from a removed tampon. Because symptoms of TSS are too much like the common-flu and become deadly in a very short period of time, it’s so hard to determine whether or not it’s necessary to seek medical attention and of course, most people would not want to be too aggressive in thinking they have TSS every time they get some flu-like symptoms. Nevertheless, some would argue that because of the severity of the infection, it’d be better to be on the “safe side.”

So how can one mitigate or avoid the risk of TSS? With over half the reported TSS cases being attributed to tampons, it is a reality, not just a myth. For those who have never bothered to heed the warning of tampon pamphlets, here’s a rundown with some of my input and additional tips offered by the You ARE Loved team:

  • Use the lowest possibly absorbency to handle your menstrual flow
  • The higher the absorbency of the tampon, the greater the risk of TSS
  • Change tampons frequently and look for signs of any tampon remnants which might be left behind (such as shredding as you withdraw)
  • Avoid using tampons overnight
  • Tampon-related TSS bacteria require 8 hours to dissipate, therefore, use other products whenever possible throughout the day
  • Tampons are NOT meant to absorb discharge, vaginal fluid or ‘just-in-case’ situations; Tampons should only be used when menstruation has begun
  • Tampon choice should allow for comfortable insertion and removal, such as being saturated enough to remove easily and comfortable enough to put in. Forcing a tampon in or out may cause minute scratches in the vaginal wall, giving the bacteria an entry for further infection
  • Be hygienic and wash your hands before touching your vaginal area, including clean-handling method for your tampon
  •  Remember to remove the last tampon of your period
  • Do remember that as “very rare” that tampon manufacturers may want you to feel about the use of tampons associated with TSS, it is a very serious and real risk
  • Consider alternate menstrual products, such as sanitary napkins (pads), sea sponges, menstrual cups or natural tampons (usually made from cotton, non-bleached and not composed with rayon)
  • Don’t let TSS-risk slip you over time; Just because TSS hasn’t affected you yet, it doesn’t mean it never will

So what do you do if you believe you or someone else you know has been compromised or showing symptoms of TSS?

  • If using a tampon, remove it immediately as this eliminates the source of the bacteria infection
  • Seek medical attention and alert the emergency operator and/or emergency crew that the illness may be toxic shock syndrome related
  • Avoid using tampons in the future as reinfection is a high possibility

Certainly in the future if I have a little girl, I would certainly give her the choice of using any menstrual product she prefers. Nevertheless, should tampons be her choice of products, I would make sure to educate her on proper tampon handling and hygiene, along with ensuring that cotton tampons are purchased over conventional rayon-based ones. If each and every one of these women fallen can make the world aware of TSS, then at least their deaths will not be for naught.

I would recommend anyone who is interested in learning more about TSS and the story of the Elifritz, please visit: http://www.you-are-loved.org/ and also considering making a DONATION to their cause (due to the site design, I cannot directly link to the donate section).

Girl Talk: Love Me, Love My Period (By: Ami Angelowicz)

Oh my lord, I was  so excited when I read this story! Finally, women who appreciate a guy’s openness in menstruation and being caring about it. Sure, I admit I might be more over-zealous compared to these guys when it comes to periods and feminine hygiene, but it’s probably better I’m like that than the opposite and be those guys who utterly hate and are disgusted by a bit of menstrual flow and products!

Below is a repost of the article which I found from Camster of Kayo’s – thank you for your findings:

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Girl Talk: Love Me, Love My Period

Ami Angelowicz's avatarAmi Angelowicz
1:00PM, 04/28/2011 Comments (70)
Tampon in pocket

The decision to cohabit with my now ex-boyfriend Jeff was prompted by a fight over my period.

Jeff and I came back to my place after dinner to find my male roommate and some of his buddies sitting on the couch. He was angry because he just got laid off. He was drunk. In general he was a big a**hole.

I see a man’s reaction to my period as a litmus test. I know it sounds strange, but the way a guy acts about my menstrual cycle tells me a lot about what kind of guy he is and how he feels about womanhood.

“Wash your dishes,” my roommate shouted as I walked in the door.

“I haven’t been home,” I replied. “I will.”

I looked at Jeff, my incredibly shy boyfriend, hoping he would stick up for me. He put his head down.

My roommate proceeded with his attack.

“And get your disgusting period stained underwear out of the laundry room,” he yelled.

I am never usually at a loss for words. But the mention of a pair of period stained underwear in front of a crowd of men really humiliated me. For the record, I had washed them and left them to dry in the laundry room. A room appropriate for such activities.

I felt my face get hot. That’s when Jeff sprung to action. I saw his jaw tense.

“Who the hell do you think you are?” Jeff shouted at my roommate. “She’s a woman, she bleeds, man!”

Jeff grabbed my hand.

“We’re leaving here now,” he said, escorting me out of the apartment.

I never heard Jeff raise his voice before and I never loved him more for doing it. It turned out my shy boyfriend had some throw-down factor when it came to his woman. That was all I needed to know. We decided to move in together that evening.

Since then, I’ve seen a man’s reaction to my period as a litmus test. I know it sounds strange, but the way a guy acts about my menstrual cycle tells me a lot about what kind of guy he is and how he feels about womanhood.

A few years ago, I was on my third date with David.* We were in the middle of brunch at a French Bistro when Aunt Flo came for a very unexpected visit.

“I have to run to the drug store,” I told him.

He looked confused, but didn’t ask any questions. When I returned with a box of tampons and went to the bathroom again, I think he solved the equation. But David didn’t say anything. He just pretended like it didn’t happen, which in turn made me feel slightly uncomfortable. I know we didn’t know each other that well, but a joke or a smile or at least an acknowledgement from him would have been much appreciated. It was a metaphor for the rest of our six-month relationship. David never really said much about what he thought about anything. So when I told him I was falling in love with him, I was surprised to discover that he wasn’t feeling the same way.

Recently, I started dating Dan* who invited me to spend the night at his place.

“I want to spend the night, but I have my period,” I told Dan.

“That’s great news!” he exclaimed.

“Really? Why?” I asked slightly thrown off by his reaction. I had never seen a man so excited that I was bleeding.

“It’s always a relief for a guy to hear that,” he said. “No bun in the oven.”

In the middle of the night, I woke up and discovered a blood stain on his white sheets. I was mortified. I woke him up.

“Something bad happened,” I said.

“Are you OK?” he asked. I pointed to the blood stain.

“Do you have a stain stick or some Oxyclean?” I asked panicked.

“Don’t worry about that. It’s not a big deal. We’ll deal with it in the morning.”

Dan* reached his arms out and wrapped them around me. He kissed me on the cheek.

“Now go back to sleep and stop worrying,” he said.

Good man, I thought as I drifted off.
*Name has been changed

iStockphoto/Thinkstock

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Since the posting of the article, it has received quite a few comments. You can navigate to see all the comments using the link above as part of the article, but here are some that I found particularly pleasing 🙂

Littlemonster

wrote on April 28, 2011 @ 1:32 PM

For growing up with a sister only 2 years older then him, my boyfriend seemed completely clueless about periods when we started living together (I was the first girl he ever lived with). But now he has gotten completely over his initial squeamishness with it to be totally over it. One of the most amazing things I ever saw him do was empty the trash can that had used pads in it. I immediately panicked when he picked it up and ran over saying “I’ll take care of it” and he just shrugged at me and said “It’s ok, they are wrapped, it doesn’t bother me.” That moment for some reason just completely floored me. I also leave a tampon in the glove box of HIS car. At first he protested, but now it’s like it’s not even there among his tools and insurance papers.

Taurwen

wrote on April 28, 2011 @ 5:02 PM

I was going to the store once and asked my partner if he wanted anything and he decided to come with me. When we got inside I said something like “Well you can go get your stuff, I have some other stuff to get” and he just looked at me like I was crazy “I don’t care if you need to get pads. They’re ~right here~ on the way to my ice cream. Just grab them now.”

IdaTarbell

wrote on April 28, 2011 @ 2:27 PM

I think it’s a better indicator if the guy is willing to get sexy when it’s that time of the month. If he isn’t overly squicked by that, hoorah!

Rionator

wrote on April 28, 2011 @ 6:34 PM

Thank god I’m with someone who doesn’t give a flying f*ck. I get horrific cramps the first 2 days and a good orgasm makes them better for hours afterward.

tabby

wrote on April 28, 2011 @ 2:36 PM

I logged in just to say, Hydrogen Peroxide. It will get ANY blood stain out in a jiffy. We are talking the relatively minor period stained sheets to the dead deer in the back of the light colored SUV. (It hit my car and we try not to waste food.) Even guys usually have some H2O2 in the bathroom.

Also, any guy who freaks out about my period does not get access to my various lady parts because he obviously doesn’t deserve it.

justpeachy

wrote on April 28, 2011 @ 2:51 PM

I think it depends. My husband was an only child and I think unless you’ve shared a bathroom with a woman, it’s pretty easy to be freaked out by periods. He’s getting better though the longer we live together.

lafemmefatal

wrote on April 28, 2011 @ 3:31 PM

One of my past boyfriends was completely grossed out at the thought of bleeding vagina. I was so annoyed with him, because I’m ALWAYS horny during my period, and he didn’t want anything to do with that part of my body. At all.
My husband was completely okay with it. (Granted, he was married before me, so he was use to it anyway,) but he wasn’t scared. Doesn’t care if the shopping cart has feminine products in it, none of that stuff.
On a somewhat related note, I laughed when my husband (then boyfriend,) and I went camping for the first time. We stopped at the grocery store before going out of town to pick up food, and he made a point of buying toilet paper for me to use. (I was trained to squat and use ferns to wipe if I wanted to wipe. lol) I thought it was sweet that he was looking out for me, and I knew I should probably keep him around, but I couldn’t help but laugh.

Now if only bebe appreciated my interest and loving-care for her on/off her period, then I’d be set for life! 😆

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