Your Body

Please explain…

The series of changes that happens to your body in the lead up to your period is known as the ‘menstrual cycle’. It is through this cycle that human reproduction is made possible.

The adjacent diagram is a basic breakdown of the female anatomy. It is very important to become familiar with your body!

This is how it works:

Stage 1: During ovulation an egg is released from the ovaries and travels through the fallopian tubes towards the uterus.

Stage 2: In preparation for fertilisation, the lining of the uterus increases in thickness and fills with blood.

Stage 3: If the egg is not fertilised and pregnancy doesn’t occur, this lining breaks down and leaves the body. This is when you start bleeding and it’s the bleeding that’s called menstruation and it usually lasts between 2 to 7 days.

Stage 4:The lining of the uterus then prepares itself for the next cycle.

Hormones are raging around the time your period comes and you may experience emotional ups and downs, this is PMS and it’s very common.

Symptoms generally occur 10 to 14 days before your period and can include:

//  Feeling really tired

//  Mood swings

//  Headaches

//  Cravings

//  Weight gain

//  Irritability

//  Depression

//  Fluid retention

//  Cramps, acne

//  Clumsiness

//  Breast tenderness

//  Constipation

//  Dizziness

//  Backaches

In short – yeah it’s not great.

Toxic Shock Syndrome or TSS, is a very rare but serious condition that has been linked to the use of tampons.

The cause of TSS is believed to be toxins produced by the bacteria ‘staphylococcus aureaus’  which is more commonly known as ‘golden staph’.

This bacterium is mostly found on the skin, in the nose and in the vagina, and while it is mostly associated with young women using tampons, TSS can affect men, women and children.

While tampons don’t actually cause TSS, they may provide the perfect environment for the bacteria to produce more toxins than normal and so increases your risk of developing TSS.

But – don’t panic, the chances of actually contracting TSS are extremely slim.

“…between 1985 and 1990 there was an average of 20 confirmed cases of TSS per year, out of a total population of 58 million. In the US, approximately one in 100,000 menstruating women contract the illness per year. Figures for Australia are not available as TSS is not a notifiable disease, i.e. medical professionals do not have to notify authorities about cases of TSS.”

Cottons want you to be as well informed as possible and to understand the possible dangers associated with TSS, so there are certain precautionary steps you should take:

  1. Change your tampon at least 4 times a day, or every 3 to 4 hours.
  2. Use the lowest absorbency tampon that you need. Using a lower absorbency will encourage you to change more frequently which is key.
  3. Have a go at ‘trading down’– if you usually use Super Tampons for example, try using Regular, or try using Super only on heavy days, and switching to Regular when your period is lighter. Same goes if you use Regular more often, have a go with Mini tampons and see what works best for you.
  4. As a general rule never leave a tampon in for longer than 8 hours, or overnight.
  5. Change to pads for night time use.
  6. Maintain your hygiene, wash your hands before, as well as after, inserting a tampon.  Finally, and most obviously, keep yourself cleanwith daily showers or baths.

During your period, always be aware of any abnormal or unusual symptoms. TSS symptoms can often appear quickly and can be severe, so keep a look out for:

//  Sudden high fever (38.9 degrees or higher)

//  Vomiting or diarrhoea 

//  Fainting and dizziness when standing up 

//  Rash, often on the hands and feet, that looks like sunburn 

If you begin to feel any of these symptoms, remove your tampon immediately and seek medical advice. If you would like to find out more about TSS contact your local GP, Community Health Centre.