1. Get the right size for your flow
As a guide, the first two days are usually the heaviest, so you may want to invest in several sizes of tampons: Maxi, Regular and Mini. You will have to figure this out by yourself through trial and error, but usually safe is better than sorry – use the bigger sizers the first couple of days, but check the string regularly to see if it pulls the tampon out or not – if the tampon slides out, it’s full; if it doesn’t budge, leave it in for a while longer.
NOTE: Avoid leaving any tampon in for longer than 3-4 hours. It’s not good hygiene practice – you won’t die (but know the signs of toxic shock syndrome (TSS), rare as it is).
As your uterus – until now unused – gets used to squeezing out your period, you may get painful cramps and some clots. This is normal, and is literally just like using a muscle that you’ve never used before. Your uterus is made out of smooth muscle.
It isn’t normal – though it might be common – to have really painful periods, and if you do, it’s important to figure out why. A natural medicine practitioner will be more use to you than your doctor, who will likely just prescribe pain killers.
Blood clots of any kind arise when blood is allowed to collect in one place for too long. It is the body’s natural response to bleeding, and although it is slightly different with your period blood (it is like a furry lining rather than a bleeding cut) 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 (you can see them on your tampon or pad – just a soggy little blob of dark blood) you should visit your natural medicine practitioner, because it might be a sign that your uterus could do with some help expelling the blood.
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 – they are famous for not flushing down the toilet properly and bobbing around waiting for the next person to find. Make sure the tampon has fully absorbed water before flushing, or it will tend to float in the flush. They sink when full.
If the cubicle has a special sanitary bin, use it by wrapping your tampon in some toilet tissue first so the blood doesn’t drag over everything. Once you get good at this, do it however you like, but be wary of other people’s bloody mistakes, and conscious of where you put your hands.
5. How to avoid ‘old blood’ period smells
Old blood smells like death 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 regularly. Tampons are much better in this regard, as they are not exposed to oxygen and it 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 shower twice a day when you have your period, and 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. Period undies and overflow
Overflow and ruined knickers are a fact of newbie period life, and in fact the trend usually continues – getting a grip on when your tampon is full while you’re busy doing other stuff is still an issue well into your 30s. Sounds tragic, but you just get used to getting paid more for whatever you do so you can buy more nice underwear.
When you first start out, have some dedicated period undies that it’s ok if they get ruined – they will anyway. The worst overflow happens usually when your period arrives unexpectedly, which is unavoidable, however get a free app on your smartphone (PeriodTracker works great) or write it on your calendar – you need to know how many days long your cycle is, so you know when to expect it.
Your cycle 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.