6 great period tips and tricks for beginners

1. Get the right tampon size for your flow

As a guide, the first 2-3 days are usually the heaviest, so you may want to invest in several sizes of tampons: super, regular and mini.

Usually safe is better than sorry – use the bigger sizes the first couple of days, but check the string regularly to see if the tampon slides out easily because it’s full. If the tampon slides out, it’s full; if it doesn’t budge, leave it in for a while longer.

SAFETY FIRST, KIDS!

Avoid leaving any tampon in for longer than four hours. It’s not good hygiene practice, since the blood on the tampon provides a food source, possibly for pathogens. It’s incredibly rare, but it pays to know the signs of toxic shock syndrome (TSS)​1,2​.

2. Dealing with period pain (cramps)

As your uterus gets used to squeezing out your period, you may get very painful cramps, also known as period pain. Cramps are normal but severe pain is not. If your periods are making you want to keel over, it’s important to figure out why​3​.

The uterus is made out of smooth muscle, and it is designed to cramp to expel period blood during your period (and a baby, if that is on the cards).

See your doctor to be examined and get your pain taken seriously. You may be prescribed pain medication which can really help. If you prefer a non-drug route, see a naturopath, herbalist or acupuncturist for some effective alternatives. You can combine options as you see fit, using suggestions for dealing with period pain.

3. What are period clots?

Blood clots of any kind arise when blood is allowed to collect in one place for too long. Clotting is the body’s natural response to bleeding, and although it is slightly different with your period blood, the blood is still blood and behaves the same way.

Clots are normal from time to time, but if you find you are getting a lot of clots every period it might be a sign that your uterus could do with some help expelling the blood, or your body is making a lot of endometrial lining and the blood is getting backed up. There are a few reasons for this, such as oestrogen excess/dominance​4​.

Clots are not dangerous and you don’t need to be worried about them; they are merely a sign of other things.

4. Flushing and disposing of tampons

Be careful where you put your used tampon! Tampons are famous for not flushing down the toilet properly and bobbing around waiting for the next person to find or clogging up the pipes.

If you are allowed to flush the tampon, make sure it has fully absorbed water before flushing, or it will tend to float. Tampons sink when full.

If the toilet cubicle has a sanitary bin or rubbish bin, use it. Wrap your tampon in some toilet paper first so the blood doesn’t drag over the flaps as you use the bin.

Be wary of other people’s bloody mistakes, and conscious of where you put your hands. If you must, wrap the tampon well and take it with you to another rubbish bin.

5. How to avoid ‘old blood’ period smells

Old blood smells after a while because bacteria feed on it, so be conscious of what scent you leave in the bathroom after you leave.

Pads are notorious for being smelly, so change your pad regularly. Tampons are much better in this regard, as they are not exposed to as much air and odours can’t waft around.

Bacteria are the cause of smells, but old blood has a characteristic metallic odour. The only solution to keeping period smells at bay is to wash your vulva twice a day.

If you get overflow into your knickers, wash it out in a sink or clean it up as best you can until you can shower and/or change your underwear.

6. Dealing with ruined undies

Overflow and ruined knickers are a fact of period life, and sadly the trend usually continues – getting a grip on when your tampon is full while you’re busy doing other stuff is still an issue for those who have been getting periods for years.

When you first start out, have some dedicated period undies that it’s ok if they get ruined.

The worst overflow happens usually when your period arrives unexpectedly, which is unavoidable, however, get an app on your phone or write it on your calendar. You need to know how many days long your full menstrual cycle is (not just your period), so you know when to expect it.

Your cycle is the time it takes to go from the first day of your period to the first day of your next period – the ‘month’. Some countries refer to the cycle meaning your period, so just be clear about what you’re talking about.

Your full cycle length will change every month usually because you ovulate at different times. It is NOT safe to assume that you ovulate at the same time every month (‘Day 14 of a 28 Day Cycle’) – this number is just an average.

Yours will be unique to you, and probably different every month, which means your period will arrive at different times.

The first day of your period is called Day 1 of your cycle. Write down the day you get your period every month and soon enough you’ll be able to calculate around about when you’ll get your next one. You can plan ahead then, which is about as good as it gets in terms of underwear protection.  

If you are on the pill, when you stop the active pills, you can expect your period to come, but if you’re on other forms of hormonal birth control, periods may be sporadic or absent.

References​5–7​

  1. 1.
    Billon A, Gustin MP, Tristan A, et al. Association of characteristics of tampon use with menstrual toxic shock syndrome in France. EClinicalMedicine. Published online April 2020:100308. doi:10.1016/j.eclinm.2020.100308
  2. 2.
    Berger S, Kunerl A, Wasmuth S, Tierno P, Wagner K, Brügger J. Menstrual toxic shock syndrome: case report and systematic review of the literature. The Lancet Infectious Diseases. Published online September 2019:e313-e321. doi:10.1016/s1473-3099(19)30041-6
  3. 3.
    Itani R, Soubra L, Karout S, Rahme D, Karout L, Khojah HMJ. Primary Dysmenorrhea: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, and Treatment Updates. Korean J Fam Med. Published online March 20, 2022:101-108. doi:10.4082/kjfm.21.0103
  4. 4.
    James AH. Heavy menstrual bleeding: work-up and management. Hematology. Published online December 2, 2016:236-242. doi:10.1182/asheducation-2016.1.236
  5. 5.
    Dasharathy SS, Mumford SL, Pollack AZ, et al. Menstrual Bleeding Patterns Among Regularly Menstruating Women. American Journal of Epidemiology. Published online February 20, 2012:536-545. doi:10.1093/aje/kwr356
  6. 6.
    Wang YX, Arvizu M, Rich-Edwards JW, et al. Menstrual cycle regularity and length across the reproductive lifespan and risk of premature mortality: prospective cohort study. BMJ. Published online September 30, 2020:m3464. doi:10.1136/bmj.m3464
  7. 7.
    Bull JR, Rowland SP, Scherwitzl EB, Scherwitzl R, Danielsson KG, Harper J. Real-world menstrual cycle characteristics of more than 600,000 menstrual cycles. npj Digit Med. Published online August 27, 2019. doi:10.1038/s41746-019-0152-7


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Jessica Lloyd - Vulvovaginal Specialist Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)
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