Period advice

Read packaging

You should read the packaging carefully to try to find out what tampons and pads are made from before buying because most are made from synthetic materials that are made without care for the environment or your health.

Avoid synthetic materials

Try to avoid tampons made from materials like rayon and viscose which are man made (synthetic) and pads that use lots of plastic, and synthetic materials that claim to be “cotton-like” as they are largely made from synthetic materials that are almost impossible to get rid of in the environment.

Choose natural products

Organic cotton tampons and plastic and chemical-free pads are recommended by many gynaecologists in order to avoid the risk of allergic reaction caused by exposure to synthetic materials and chemicals. Try to choose natural products whenever possible.

Check your breasts

When your periods start for the first time, it is important to start checking your breasts each month so that you learn what is normal for you so that if something unusual is noticed you can get it checked out straight away by a doctor. Look at the diagrams and the instructions on how to examine the breasts and start the routine of checking your breasts after your period has finished each month.

Keep a diary

Keeping a menstrual diary helps you to work out when your next period should start. This will also help you to know when you need sanitary pads or tampons. Also, you will be able to know if your period is late or early and will have a record if you need to see your doctor about your periods.

Talk to friends

Girls are under so much pressure to be seen as caring, sharing, slim and beautiful, that it can be difficult to remember that you should just feel good about being yourself. This can seem difficult at times, especially as the changes that your body goes through can take less or more time than those of your friends. So remember that whatever you are feeling, there are many others who probably feel just the same way as you. You are not the only person going through a big change, so talk about how you are feeling to your family and friends.

Using tampons

Before inserting a tampon always give the cord a little tug to ensure it is secure inside the tampon. The cord hangs outside of the body to help you to remove the tampon when you need to change it. You should change the tampon at least every four hours. Make sure that you wash your hands before and after doing so. Always remember to remove the tampon before inserting a new one. At the end of a period when there will be only a very small amount of blood, it is better to use a pad rather than a tampon. Some practice is needed before you get used to putting in a tampon, but you should not use a tampon unless you are having a period. Using them when you do not have a period can cause dryness and irritation, and will absorb the protective mucous that your vagina produces to keep it clean.

Toxic Shock Syndrome

Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), a potentially fatal illness has been linked with tampon use. Independent research conducted by Dr. Tierno at New York University Medical School concluded that the bacterium causing TSS did not produce toxins in the presence of 100% cotton tampons.

Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a rare but fatal disease caused by a particular type of bacteria that can produce toxins in the body. The symptoms of TSS come on fast and are often severe. Menstrual TSS has been linked to the use of super-absorbent and synthetics in tampons1.

Results of a study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, suggest that the use of 100% cotton tampons may reduce the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome compared with tampons that contain rayon.

The study was carried out on 20 tampon varieties, including Natracare 100% cotton tampons and concluded that all-cotton tampons did not produce the dangerous TSS toxin from the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, while other tampons did.

The paper states that, “The incidence of reported cases of Toxic Shock Syndrome has declined since the removal of high absorbency fibres from tampons, such as polyacrylate rayon, polyester and carboxymethyl-cellulose (CMC). However, the disease continues to occur in young menstruating women using the newer less absorbent tampons made of viscose rayon with and without cotton.”

The summary to the paper stated, “All-cotton tampons did not produce TSST-1. This is likely because cotton provides fewer factors to favour TSST-1 production compared with fibres previously removed from tampons (CMC, polyester, polyacrylate rayon)….“In sum, women who are without protective levels of antibody to TSST-1 and use non all-cotton tampons are at the greater risk of TSS.”

Natracare believes that women should be vigilant and become familiar with the symptoms of TSS. Read carefully the tampon instruction leaflets found in the packs before starting to use tampons.

The symptoms of TSS can occur suddenly, and at any time during menstruation. Be aware of these symptoms, which need not be present all at the same time.

  • Sudden high fever (102°F, 39°C or more)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting or near fainting
  • Rashes that look like sun-burn (skin peeling may occur days later)
  • Muscular pain

If you get any of these symptoms, you must remove your tampon and do not use any more.

Get immediate medical attention and be sure to inform your doctor that you are menstruating and using tampons and that you are concerned about TSS.

1. P.M. Tierno Jnr, B.A. Hanna, Propensity of Tampons and Barrier Contraceptives to Amplify Staphylococcus Aureus Toxic Shock Syndrome Toxin. Journal of Infectious Diseases in Obstetrics and Gynaecology 2, 140-145 (1994).