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5 times you shouldn’t use a tampon that you probably haven’t thought about

IMAGE VIA @TOMORGANIC/INSTAGRAM
WORDS BY GENEVIEVE PHELAN

The 411 on tampon usage.

I love a good disclaimer, and this one’s important. I dropped out of STEM in Year 11 and am no health expert, but I like learning about diverse, intimate and predominantly female-related health concerns. These are findings and stories shared from friends or people who have kindly lent their experiences to me. I hope it sheds some light on the things we neglect to talk about or struggle to understand when our mates are going through them. 

Tampons are our friends. They soak up the deluge of blood that monthly streams from the vagina. They were bloody hard to get a hang of if you were me and never shoved them up far enough in the transition from pad to Big Girl period gear. But now as I go through my merry cycles reflexively reaching for an all-organic cotton tampon, I can’t imagine periods without them. 

But it turns out I will likely have to go without them for a period in the future. From lessons I’ve learnt during recent work projects to moving through early twenties life with my girlfriends, it’s become clear that period care and what we use is totally dependent on the presence of any underlying health concerns. I had no idea that my best friend wouldn’t be able to insert a tampon after her recent endometriosis procedure, or that the pelvic muscle constriction underpinning vaginismus can make tampons a debacle. 


Looking for more thought-provoking stories? Head on over to our Life section.


So after a bit of generous anecdotal sharing from those around me (and Dr Google), here are five times you might not have realised the cervix is a sacred, untouchable place. I’m sure this is only a small collection of the broad spectrum of experiences that limit tampon usage, so consider it by no means definitive.

Post-laparoscopy

Endometriosis is a condition that can cause uterine lining cells (endometrium) to grow outside of your uterus, resulting in very painful period-like cramps during non-period times. A few friends have spoken about their laparoscopies (a common procedure used to diagnose and remove mild to moderate endometriosis).

After undergoing a laparoscopy, bleeding can be pretty heavy. In my colleague Sarah’s words, “it was hectic”. She’s gearing up for a second procedure years after her first. “I’ll be going period undies this time. You can’t use tampons or insert anything up there for two weeks after the op.”

Postpartum care

I have not yet birthed a child and am terribly fearful of the act itself, but my friend and director Lib kindly shared some first-hand findings with me. It sort of makes sense that after ripping your vagina open to the diameter of a small human’s head, the area is fragile and ravaged afterwards. “I was so focused on birth itself. Post-care was the last thing on my mind,” says Lib.

“I knew I’d bleed after birth, but didn’t realise it would be full-on and for up to six weeks in duration. Maternity pads were the go, then a slow transition to pads, and then liners just in case. If I had my time again, I’d go period undies at the end for sure. You think you’re done and BAM, more bleeding.”

Period care brand Tom Organic’s Brand Manager Siu-Mei has had many girlfriends echo the same revelations. “We made reusables with all this stuff in mind,” she says. “The idea of the period briefs is to offer a more flexible and eco-friendly option during a cycle, but also to offer a solution during sensitive times for people who bleed.

“Our Mid-Rise Briefs actually hold up to three tampons worth of blood and can be worn overnight postpartum. You can wash them just like regular undies and they’re made consciously with superbly soft and breathable organic cotton. It’s all about channelling ease and comfort during that recovery process, big time.”

Fucking thrush

The sworn enemy to happy vaginas everywhere. This one, I can speak to with credibility. In the last few years, I’ve been graced with thrush enough times to hold a convention on the gruesome (but thankfully fleeting) phenomenon. While not entirely dissimilar to the humble UTI, thrush is quite distinct in that it typically involves an expulsion of – I hate this descriptor – cottage cheese-like, abnormal discharge. This can really do a number on your undies, and just feel a bit ‘ick’ on your regular knickers.

If you’re using the notorious thrush warrior that is cream Canesten, your discharge will feel like it’s increased tenfold. The cream naturally comes out as you go about your day, even after a night’s sleep and a shower. Throw a period into the mix and the thought of a tampon will just about chuck you over the edge. Embrace reusable period underwear (I will never undergo a bout of thrush without the Tom Organic ones again) here if you refuse to wear pads during the day but need to get on with life.  

Pregnancy termination recovery

At one of the most sensitive times someone can experience in their life, the last they want to be thinking about is stockpiling pads and period undies and deciphering whether tampons are a viable option. Most of us wouldn’t be aware that for two weeks following a surgical termination, you are not supposed to insert tampons into the cervix. Bleeding is to be managed with pads or period undies and liners.

Vaginismus

FJ’s very own Taylor Richardson has written a much more detailed and personal recount of her experience with vaginismus here. If you suspect you might be experiencing some of the symptoms, it’s well worth a read. Like all of the very multifaceted experiences above, there are so many complexities and nuances to vaginismus and what it could mean for an individual. Taylor explains it well. “Simply put, my honeypot is an anti-social bitch with a ’tude and I can warm her up, lube her up, hype her up all I want, but when it comes time to do the deed, she shuts up shop faster than I can say ‘ouch!’ Preceding my own experience, not only had I never heard of vaginismus, I hadn’t even known that the body was capable of rejecting penetration.”

While its impacts are often spoken about in the context of sexual encounters, vaginismus can also mean tampon insertion is difficult, as it is a form of penetration. Again, things like period undies can be a real game-changer if grappling with tampons is inducing even more stress on your vaginal muscles. 

For more information on proper tampon use, head here.

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