#StartAConversation, Menstruation, Contraception, and Gynaecology, Mental Health & Wellbeing

Ever Wondered How Everyone Else Deals With Their Period?

Menstrual products
(Image via Planned Parenthood: How To Use Menstrual Products Superpost)

“Women’s regular bleeding engenders phantoms.” ~ Paracelsus

So, I had a conversation the other day with the lovely Karina about menstrual products and how applicator tampons aren’t really a thing where she lives in Germany, while they’re pretty commonplace here in the UK.

Midway through this conversation it occurred to me that I had no idea how anyone besides myself handled their periods. No how they felt about them, what products they used, or anything. This piqued my curiosity.

So, me being me I decided I’d better ask some people.

And ran some Twitter polls. That seemed the most convenient way.

If you’re also interested here are the, completely unscientific and non-generalisable, results of my survey.

Few respondents were all that enamoured of their periods in general.


When it comes to what products people use:


The rarity of applicator tampons may just be a German thing as 96% of respondents were aware of their availability and for most they were also the tampon of choice.


Tweeters who used them had many positive things to say about mooncups, with several linking to this very interesting article, although their appeal seemed to be limited.


Most people seem to be happy with the range of menstrual products available to them.


The factors people consider when choosing their menstrual products:

It was exactly 50/50 as to whether cost was a factor in choice of purchase, for some this is out of necessity.


The environmental impact was also a factor for a few people.


And a few tampon users were also mindful of the potential health implications.


My own responses:

I personally use tampons, almost exclusively of the applicator variety, and give nowhere near as much mind to the risk of toxic shock syndrome as I possibly ought.

I consider the environment in so much as I always buy the ones with cardboard applicators.

I’m not bothered about the price but will buy the own brand tampons where available because I don’t see the justification for brands charging twice as much money for a piece of cotton wool in a tube.

I was pretty unconcerned by my periods until recently when they became incredibly heavy and painfully. I’m on a waiting list to have an appointment with my GP to get a Mirena coil to help with this.

I’m mildly interested in the concept of a mooncup but would worry about needing to change it while I’m out and about without access to anywhere sanitary to change it, besides which I’m satisfied with what I’m already using.


Homeless women:

As an aside to the polls I also got into conversation with a few people about the accessibility of menstrual products for homeless and the very poor.

A few people mentioned they’d be happy to pay extra for their own tampons and pads if it meant that they’d be made available for free to people who needed them.

If you share this concern there are a number of ways you can help.

  • Damsel In This Dress is currently raising funds to provide sanitary products to homeless women.
  • #TheHomelessPeriod is running a campaign to see menstrual products provided in homeless shelters as condoms are already.
  • Or if you contact your local foodbank or shelter they will advise you on how to make a donation of either products or the cash to buy them to the organisation directly.

How about you?

So did any of that interest you? Surprise you? Is there anything else you’d like to know or think I should have asked about other people handle their periods?

Share your own thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.


18 thoughts on “Ever Wondered How Everyone Else Deals With Their Period?”

  1. What about cloth?
    I started cloth diapering my now 1 year old, and with number two on the way, it just seemed logical to also start cloth myself. I now only buy toilet paper, my house has been turned into mostly reusable products. Also use cups on my heavier days, but cloth is very popular in third and even 2nd world countries.
    Was hopping you would mention these products too as they have a huge variety, ranging from liners, to post-partum pads, to tampons.
    Interesting article though, thanks for the read. (:


    1. Hi Jennifer. Thank you for your response. I didn’t even know cloth was an option until a few people have commented about it since this post. That’s one if the reasons why I’ve started running polls and writing posts about this stuff; because so many of us never talk to anyone else about it after we finish school we don’t realise there are options besides doing what we’ve always done. I’m going to write about more different options in the future.


  2. I used to bleed so heavily when I was still menstruating (yes, I’ve gone through menopause a few years ago now . . . yay, couldn’t wait for that!) that I went through a box of 20 SUPER tampons and more each and every period, which lasted for 10 days. I never used applicator ones, didn’t know they existed for a few years after I began using tampons – which wasn’t until I began working as my mother refused to buy them for me, she’d only buy pads. There was a brand of tampon released onto the market shortly after I began working, the “normal” absorbency variety of which was so effective that they were taken off the market because girls/women were leaving them in for too long. I considered myself lucky because I got three hours out of a super one before I was forced to changed it. I’d never heard of cups until last year (2015) – aside from probably not being suitable for the amount I lost, they don’t appeal, they sound icky. I don’t know if they’re available in Australia. The idea of a woman not using any protection totally repulses me, it makes me think that she has no respect either for herself or anyone else, and it’s very un-hygienic.


    1. I can imagine it must have been a massive relief to have an end to periods like that. My main thing about applicator tampons is that it gives them that bit of extra protection from being squished in my bag.


  3. I’ve been using the Mooncup. I have a heavy period and it’s a relief. Because it holds up to 4 times the amount of a tampon, I don’t have to change that often.

    I was using tampons before (no applicator by the way). I used to carry around a bottle of hand-sanitizer for changing in slightly unsanitary conditions. I do the same for the cup and carry a small bottle of water to rinse the cup. Works fine everywhere, even in the middle of the woods. With the added benefit that I don’t need to throw anything away but blood, which is easily buried in the woods, or just flushed everywhere in a toilet. (Even in a urinoir.)

    Highly recommend it for anyone having trouble budgeting too. Use it for 6 months and after that it’s free for ever, compared to buying pads and tampons every month.

    Also recommend it for all environmentalists: there is no greener solution.


  4. America is all about the applicator. Living in UAE, I’ve gotten very used to not having an applicator (although they do have the cardboard ones; never the plastic ones that I’ve seen) so I get confused when I have to search in America to find the ones without applicators. I find not having an applicator way more convenient because then I can palm it without anyone knowing what I’m holding as I walk to the bathroom. And I know they now have those like mini applicator ones that are equally small, but they’re always plastic which I’ve become anti. I didn’t even realize I cared about the environment, but I think knowing that I need a bajillion tampons in my life makes me be like, ok, this is one small change that might actually make a small amount of difference.

    The mooncup could never work for me. I bleed too much. Also use too many public bathrooms. I mean, I guess it could work for me… but I don’t have the patience to get used to it.


    1. I feel exactly the same way about the plastic. Plus, if you find yourself in a public bathroom with no bin you can flush it away.

      I’m the same with the moon cup as well. I might be wrong about it but trying it would be effort and what I’m doing already is working okay for me.


  5. In fact, I don’t think that applicator tampons are really a thing anywhere outside the UK – at least I have never seen so so so many different applicator tampons anywhere else. I was kind of surprised to see that somebody actually uses them!
    I have been using tampons for years until my flow got so light (after years on the pill) that right now, I am perfectly fine with panty liners. I was always kind of uncomfortable about my period when using tampons, but ever since I stopped using them, I don’t care about it anymore. In fact I care (and think about it) so litte, I usually have to set a reminder because I tend to forget about it. But that might just be because of the super light flow.

    Also, this was actually the first time I heard the word “Mirena coil” in English. Coil sounds pretty brutal – we call it “spiral” in German, which feels at least a little less terrifying to me. I am getting a copper IUP next month because I feel like the hormones in the pill have a lot to do with my mood swings and migraine. The only downside is that periods tend to get heavier with it, but we will see. I am actually looking forward to getting all that hormone crap out of my body and pretty excited to have normal hormonal cycle!


    1. The applicator tampons were the ones my mum gave me to begin with so when I came to buying my own it was just what I was used to. If she’d given me ones without I’d probably have ended up sticking with those if I hadn’t had any problems with them.

      Spiral does sound nicer. Another reason I’ve gone for the hormonal one is that I’ve noticed that my moods are terrible for a week to ten days before my period and it’s been suggested that this will help. But I had a similar experience as you on the pill. Hopefully the spiral will work out well for both of us.

      I have the app to remind me when I’m due because otherwise I used to forget to buy tampons, which was annoying.


  6. HA great great post!

    Applicators are basically unheard of in NZ. I wouldn’t mind trying em but pretty sure they would just get in the way (and I don’t want to pay for a full 16 pack of them… unless they are easily detached from the applicators?)

    Everyone seems to be into moon/diva/etc cups these days. I haven’t tried them yet because I have hardly had a period the past few years (thanks stress) and also I bleed really heavily so I’d probably want to try it first on a day when I’m largely at home (and tbh being on the pill regulates my cycle so that I really only bleed on weekdays).


    1. Well, the tampon is in a cardboard tube, then there’s another tube that slots inside that one behind the tampon. You put the whole thing in and then press on the I new tube and it pushes the tampon out of the tube it sits in and into where it needs to sit in your vagina. I think the explanation might be more complicated than the actual item. They’d be pretty easy to take out of the applicator to just throw it away. Half the reason I like them is that the applicator protects the tampon a bit while it’s in my handbag.

      I feel similarly about the cups. They sound alright but actually trying them isn’t quite so convenient.


  7. I have to say, I love seeing open discussion about this and how other women feel about the periods. I think it’s a really important thing to talk about, especially since most of us have been conditioned in some way or another to mask it, hide it, and deal with it privately at all costs and I think in general tend to be pretty unaware of the hormonal cycles our bodies go through throughout the month.

    I didn’t happen to see your polls on Twitter when they were open, but I’m a moon cup user almost exclusively and have been for the past ten years (geez… has it really been that long?!). I’ve only used pads or tampons a couple of times in the past ten years because my period’s unexpectedly started when I wasn’t at home, and every time it’s just felt so gross and disgusting that I seriously wonder why the masses still use these archaic things. I’d so much rather get a little blood on my hands than stick a wad of cotton up my cooch that’s probably going to sit in the trashcan for a couple of days and then go to a landfill somewhere. That strikes me as way more disgusting.

    Which is so funny because most people tend to have a knee jerk reaction to the cup as being gross.


    1. That did seem to be the reaction to the moon cup from most people in my mentions. I don’t think it’s gross I just worry about needing to wash it and being somewhere I’m not able to. Unless I’ve misunderstood how it works.
      Yeah, it surprised me when I realised how little I know about how anyone else I know thinks about their periods. I’m not sure I’ve had a proper conversation about it since I was a teenager and everyone wanted to know who had started yet and got excited when their cycles synced up with their best friend’s.
      This has given me some ideas for some other things I have to say about periods actually, I’ll have to write another post.


      1. That’s a pretty common concern with the cup, and it’s one of those things that really depends on how heavy your flow is.

        I have a fairly light flow myself, so I tend to be fine with emptying it when I first wake up in the morning and then again around bedtime… It’s pretty rare that I’ve had to empty it in a public toilet.

        On the few occasions that I’ve had to, which for me has usually has happened because I forgot to empty it before I left the house and it’s gotten full, I tend to just wipe it down with toilet paper and put it back in, and then wipe my hands off with toilet paper. It’s certainly more ideal to wash it off every time it comes out, but I’ve not found it to be the end of the world if I have to empty it in a less than ideal place. I just take it out and wash it the next time it’s convenient.


          1. I’d say that as long as you’re washing your hands beforehand, it’s generally fine. I’d be willing to bet you’d be more likely to cause problems for yourself by not washing your contacts. 😉

            Also, I’m surprised no one else has mentioned this… but another good alternative option is cloth pads. I bought some around the time I bought my cup, and while I find that I don’t use them that often, I’m glad that I have them around.


            1. I hadn’t even thought of cloth pads. I’m not sure now whether I actually knew that they were a thing. I might give them a try. I’ve cheekily asked mooncup to send me a mooncup so that I can try it out and then write about it here.


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