I hate periods – they are a necessary evil in life but I still don’t have to like having my period.
When I was in middle school, I used to feel very anxious about having to open up a pad in the bathroom. It felt like everyone around me would know I had my period because of the sound it made when I ripped it open. My mom, like all moms, told me not to worry about it. She told me that having a period was a normal part of growing up and that if I talked to my friends about it, I would understand that everyone around me was feeling the same way. There was nothing that I wanted to do less than mention my period to my friends…gross.
Because I hated the sound that pads made when I opened them, I started piling toilet paper on top of my pad so I would just have to change the toilet paper instead of having to change my pad. This is NOT a good idea. Pads are made in a special way that makes them extra absorbent; toilet paper is not. One of the tips that I give to my patients is to open the pad at home (to get that sound out of the way). Most pads have a little piece of tape on the outside that will keep them closed and clean once they have been opened up. If someone had given me this advice when I was in middle school, I think things would have been easier.
The other tricky thing for me was…where do I put this pad? I didn’t want to carry it in my pocket in the event it fell out. At my school, we weren’t allowed to carry backpacks or purses so I didn’t really have any great options. One of my friends (see, I did talk to someone about my period) suggested putting it in my lunchbox. This is a great suggestion because I was able to stop at the bathroom on my way to lunch without anyone knowing anything!
Young women and parents often ask me when girls can start using tampons. Once you start to have your period, you can start using a tampon. There’s no specific age that I’d recommend starting tampons. They come in different sizes (just like pads) depending on how heavy your period is. It’s important that you use the smaller tampons for lighter days and the larger tampons for heavier days. Many girls feel that tampons eliminate some of the anxiety of having your period at school because they are smaller to carry. Some tampons are the size of your pinky finger (which includes the applicator) so they can easily be carried in the palm of your hand.
When I reflect back on middle school and the first months of having my period, I think my mom was probably right. I was not the only middle-schooler worrying about my period. I think it would have been helpful to talk to my friends about their period woes over potato chips and chocolate.