Pads, tampons, school, life: You got this!

Girls (and parents): Here’s the 411 on everything you ever wanted to know about period protection.

As a teen girl you’ve got a lot of things on your mind. But your period doesn’t have to be one of them. Here are some answers to common worries among girls who are getting the hang of menstruation.

What if my period starts while I’m at school?

For the first few years after you start your period, it might not come on a regular schedule. It’s important to keep track of your menstrual cycle so you have an idea of when to expect it. When it is due, start wearing panty liners. You’ll be armed with protection (see next question), so if it does start while you’re at school you can switch the panty liner out for something more absorbent.

How do I carry protection with me to school?

Try keeping your period protection in a small non-see-through bag inside your purse or backpack. Keep a few pads or tampons in there, even when you are not expecting your period, so you know you are always ready. It doesn’t hurt to also keep a little bag with protection and extra underwear in your locker as well.

How do I get protection into the restroom without boys seeing?

If you are not the type to always carry a purse, think about using a pencil case, lipstick case or even a cellphone or iPod case that has a storage compartment.

When all else fails, master the pocket-stuffer move: Place hand in bag, grab pad or tampon, shove in pocket!

What if it leaks onto my underwear or clothes?

Until you get the hang of when to expect your period and how often to change pads or tampons, accidents are bound to happen. Always stay armed with your protection, and during your period carry an extra pair of underwear in your purse or backpack along with a zip-close bag for the dirty underwear.

If you get a stain on your clothes, it can be a little trickier. Portable stain removers (like Tide to Go or Shout wipes) can help but work best if you use cold water on the stain first. If you’re worried, carry a stain remover with you to at least make the stain less noticeable. If you’re able to take off your garment and rinse the stain then dry it using a restroom’s hand dryer, you’ll get the best results. But that’s slightly embarrassing, to put it mildly.

Sometimes periods can be too heavy. If you experience any of these, see your doctor:
•Soaking a pad or tampon in less than two hours
•Periods lasting more than seven days
•Periods coming less than 21 days apart
•Passing clots that are larger than a quarter

What if my teachers won’t let me go to the bathroom?

Once you get the hang of how often to change pads or tampons, this shouldn’t be an issue. You should be able to take care of business before or after class. But emergencies do happen. In those cases, confidentially let your teacher know your trip to the restroom is an urgent female-related issue. More than likely, he or she will understand. If it’s less embarrassing, try writing it on a piece of paper and giving it to your teacher. If you’ve tried these tactics and your teacher still won’t budge, ask to go to the nurse’s office. Another option is to have your parent let your teachers know what’s going on.

When can I start using tampons?

Once you’ve had your first period, you can start using tampons. It doesn’t matter how old you are. It’s totally up to you whether you want to try them. They are convenient and safe, as long as you change them every four to six hours. Tampons come in light, regular and super absorbent, and each box includes instructions for using them. Start with the light absorbency because they also are the smallest. Once you get the hang of inserting and removing them, move up to regular or super depending on how heavy your flow is.

I’m scared to use tampons.

That’s OK. You don’t have to use them. Try them when you are ready. In the meantime, there are lots of options when it comes to using pads. Choose pads that are comfortable and big enough to get you through at least four hours without leaking onto your underwear. Pads should be changed every four to six hours. Avoid scented pads, as they can cause irritation.

Will a tampon get lost inside my body?

Your tampon isn’t going anywhere! Your vagina is only about 3 to 4 inches long, so it can’t go in too far and the tampon includes a string at least that long, so the end of it should be sticking out. If you can’t remember if you’ve removed a tampon, lie down or stand with one leg propped on the toilet seat, and reach into your vagina with clean fingers. If a tampon is there, you’ll be able to feel the string or the tampon itself.

What happens if I can’t get a tampon out?

First, don’t get upset! Second, it’s not an emergency but you’ll want to call your doctor as soon as you can. He or she will be able to help.

Can I pee and poop while using a tampon?

Yes, of course you can. Urine (pee) comes out through the urethra, which is different from your vagina, where the tampon is. Bowel movements (poop) come out of your anus. If you have to poop, that is a good time to change your tampon because it can move a little during a bowel movement. Also, the string can become soiled during a bowel movement, and you’ll want that to remain clean.

Can I still swim? What about cheer or playing sports?

You can do all the things you do at any other time of the month. You just need to use the right protection and keep track of when you need to change it. If you swim, you have to use a tampon. Pads just won’t work. If you play sports, cheerlead or do other activities, you can use a pad but you might find you are more comfortable using a tampon. Pads can shift and cause leakage, and they can irritate your skin when they move against it a lot, especially when you’re sweaty. Be sure to use a fresh tampon or pad just before practice or a game so you know you’re protected for the duration.

I’m the first one of my friends to get my period. How do I tell my besties?

Well, you don’t have to tell if you don’t want to. But, if she or he truly is your best friend — the person you share everything with — you probably want to. First make sure your friend is someone you trust. Do you know she or he can keep a secret and respects you as much as you respect her or him? Tell your friend face to face rather than through text or social media. Avoid telling in a way that can be shared — whether intentionally or by accident. Once you tell your friend, she or he will probably be really curious and have lots of questions. Stick with giving the straight-up facts.

How do I ask Dad to get me pads or tampons from the store?

You may not believe it right now, but your dad has been around the block. If he’s not currently living with your mom or a spouse, chances are he has in the past and knows all about women’s menstrual needs. He can handle it! Just talk to him — face to face is best. Keeping an open line of communication with your dad about all sorts of things you’re going through will build a loving relationship that will last a lifetime.

What happens if I don’t get my period but I haven’t had sex?

Don’t worry — you’re not pregnant! For the first few years, it’s normal for your period to be irregular, meaning it might not come every month. If you skip a month, don’t fret. You should, however, have a period at least every three months. Keep track on a calendar or mobile app (even when you skip a month), and if 90 days have gone by with no period, it’s time to see your doctor. Your doctor will want to make sure your body is working like it should.

Cramps make it hard to sit through class. Should I skip school?

No. You’ll have to deal with cramps for many years to come, so you can’t skip out on life because of them. There are ways to manage cramps and still go to school and do all your normal activities. Try a disposable heat patch (such as Thermacare). They come in a size made just for cramps and are thin so they fit under clothes and no one can tell. Plus, one patch will last all day. If that doesn’t help, try ibuprofen or a combination of heat and ibuprofen, which is even more effective.

If none of these help and you are in a lot of pain — or if you are getting nauseous and throwing up during your period — it’s time to see your doctor.

The takeaway: The more you see your period as a normal part of life, the more everything will be just fine!

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