I have a confession to make: I am a 22-year-old woman, and I have never used a tampon. At least, I never had before I wrote this article.
In the past, if I was asked to articulate why I always stuck with pads instead of switching over to tampons in high school like many of my friends did, I don't think I could give a good reason. I’ve always been vaguely worried about health complications that can arise from using tampons instead of pads, but I also trust myself to change them regularly and take care of business as necessary.
Something changed for me about six months ago: I suddenly became so tired of using pads. I just don’t feel good while wearing them. And why would I ever want to do something or wear something that doesn’t make me feel good about myself? I started self-evaluating to try to figure out why I had stuck with pads all these years. Now, I think it has more to do with the level of comfort with your body that is necessary in order to use tampons. I never used to have that—at least, not with the particular part of my body that I would need to be comfortable with in order to use a tampon.
Let’s take a look at my evolving relationship with my period and see how I got to this point.
Me vs. My Period
I've always had a complicated relationship with my period. In elementary school, I was one of the first girls in my class to have mine. I can’t say I was embarrassed, exactly, but it did make me feel a bit isolated. I couldn’t really talk to my classmates about the very thing we had whispered and giggled about only a year before, after learning about it in school. Now that it was happening to me, it didn’t seem so funny.
In middle and high school, my period was way worse than most of my friends’. I bled more; it lasted for eight to ten days instead of the typical five to seven, and wow did it hurt. No fun. Despite wearing super absorbent pads, changing them frequently, and sometimes even layering them, I felt like I didn’t have control over this particular bodily function. To top it all off, my period was often irregular, too. I never really knew when it was coming, I could only guess.
When I moved to college, I didn’t have my period for over six months. This was caused by a combination of adjusting to a new environment, new stress, and a new diet (thanks, cafeteria food). Honestly, it was pretty nice. At the same time, I knew it wasn’t healthy for my body to be acting this way. About halfway through my sophomore year, I started birth control, and I have since come to terms with my period. Well, more or less.
Why am I telling you all of this? For one, I think it’s helpful for people to talk about their personal experiences with their period so then we know we’re not alone when things happen that seem out of the ordinary. We can learn from each other that these things aren’t so unusual after all! Secondly, I think it’s relevant to my decision-making process to try tampons for the first time. During my teenage years, my period was so severe and unpredictable that using tampons would have been more trouble than it was worth. Now that I am on birth control and have things under control, it makes more sense for me to try them.
What Gave Me The Courage to Try Using a Tampon
As I said previously, I came to a point in my life when I no longer liked wearing pads. I started to agree with the criticisms I've heard many times—they feel like you're wearing a diaper, they limit what clothes you can wear, etc. Put simply, they’re not comfortable. I always wondered if tampons were, perhaps ironically, less intrusive on your life than pads are.
In addition to this, I finally feel like I am comfortable enough with my entire body that I can now try using tampons. I think a lot of this is due to the level of maturity that I have reached in recent years. Part of this is simply due to growing up and learning new things. Another part is that since coming to college, I have had sex (sorry, mom and dad). I’ve been able to reverse years of teaching that told me sex is dirty and the parts of your body involved in sex are dirty. It’s a shame that it took me so long to get to this point, but better late than never, right?
The final component of what gave me the courage to try using a tampon for the first time is that I discovered this great brand of tampons called Cora. They’re an online subscription service that delivers your tampons right to your door every single month. You can even customize what kind of tampon you receive and how many, depending on your flow. The best part is that their tampons are made out of 100% organic cotton. Also, their applicators are made of BPA-free plastic. With Cora, I know that I’m not putting anything in my body that is not good for me. Even with my growing body confidence and dwindling devotion to pads, I don’t think I would have used any old tampon.
My First Time Doing It (No, Not That…)
I’ll admit, the first time I tried inserting a tampon, I was a bit nervous. What if I do it wrong and it hurts? What if the string falls off and it gets stuck? What if my vagina swallows it up and I can never have sex again? I know I was being a little ridiculous. But I can guarantee I’m not the only person who has thought these things before using a tampon for the first time.
To my pleasant surprise, everything went off without a hitch. This might be a bit anti-climactic for anyone reading this, but trust me, for me, it was not. It was a victory. A huge one.
I was surprised that it wasn't incredibly uncomfortable, because I always imagined that wearing a tampon would be. I was hyper-aware that I was wearing one, which probably didn't make for the most natural experience with it, but all in all it wasn't unpleasant. Since I have no basis of comparison for the tampon wearing experience, I asked a friend what she thought of Cora. She said that, compared to other brands, Cora's tampons are so incredibly comfortable, she didn't even know she was wearing one!
Why Period Education Is So Important
I’m sure you’ve already picked up on the fact that my exciting story of using a tampon for the first time wasn’t as much about the act of inserting a tampon as everything that led up to it. I think one thing that my story highlights why it’s so important to have comprehensive sex education—which includes period education—in school. If I hadn’t been taught in school that it is weird or unacceptable to be comfortable with sex and sexualized body parts, I probably would have been using tampons for years by this point. I’d be willing to bet that I’m not alone in this experience.
Comprehensive sex education is also important because it demystifies the experience of having a period and makes the facts about the experience available to everyone. Another thing that I love about Cora (besides their tampons) is that they are committed to giving all girls access to period education, no matter where they’re from. For every box that they sell, part of the proceeds to towards educating girls in developing countries about their periods. They also donate period products while they’re at it! Thanks to Cora, more and more people are learning about periods.
So there you have it. It was a 22-year journey, but here I am now. To be completely honest, I might still chicken out every once in a while and use pads instead of tampons. But I think that for the most part, I’m going to continue to reach for a tampon instead of a pad when it’s my period week. One thing that I know for sure is that when I do use a tampon, it will be from Cora because I am truly in love with their products and their mission.
What is your relationship with your period and period products like? Think about it and try to assess how this has developed over the course of your life. I would love for you to share your story in the comments below!