Did you know tampons don’t just absorb menstrual blood? Tampons also absorb the natural secretions required to keep the vagina lubricated. So it’s no wonder some ladies report vaginal dryness and irritation when they’re using tampons! To ease any discomfort, you can apply lubricating jelly to ease the insertion of new tampons and provide relief when required to top up your natural moisture levels.
By using a tampon with the lowest absorbency to suit your flow, you can help to reduce your risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS). This is a rare but life-threatening condition caused by bacteria getting into the body and releasing harmful toxins. Also ensure you change your tampon regularly, as specified in the instruction manual with your tampons (this is usually every 4-8 hours).
It’s important to change menstrual pads regularly. If pads aren’t changed often enough, it can create a warm, moist environment for bacteria and yeast to grow. Always use pads which are the correct absorbency for your flow to ensure you stay comfortable throughout the day (and night).
Also, a word on scented pads and tampons – avoid! These are completely unnecessary and can cause irritation.
Menstrual cups have had a recent surge in popularity, with many new brands appearing in the market. Typically made from soft silicone, menstrual cups sit lower in the vaginal canal than a tampon. They collect blood, instead of absorbing it in the same way a tampon would (along with your natural moisture), meaning you’re less likely to be affected by dryness and associated irritation. Menstrual cups are designed to be rinsed and re-used, and one cup can last for years – making them an eco-friendly alternative to tampons and pads.
There are various folding techniques (for making the cup small enough to comfortably insert) so it’s worth experimenting to find out which one works for you. It can take practice – some menstrual cup devotees do say it took them a while to achieve the best technique. Lubricating jelly can be applied to the edge of the cup and to your vaginal entrance to increase comfort when the cup is being inserted.
Intimate hygiene productsPerfumed soaps, deodorising sprays and wipes – these products are not necessary for cleansing your intimate area! Using such products can cause problems by upsetting your balance of healthy bacteria. The vagina is a self-cleaning organ, so there’s no need to clean (or douche) internally. NHS guidance recommends the use of plain, unperfumed soaps to wash the area around the vagina (the vulva) gently every day.
Experiencing vaginal symptoms?The advice above should help you stay more comfortable during your period. If you are experiencing vulval irritation, abnormal discharge or any other symptoms relating to your intimate health, please don’t hesitate to visit your GP.
Try not to feel embarrassed – your GP will want to help and they see patients with similar issues a lot more often than you think.