Did you know that some women buy cheap knickers every month to chuck them away? Did you know that some women wear two pairs of knickers for a week every month to be safe? Did you know that some women wear two or even three tampons at a time? Did you know that teenage girls flee sleepovers in shame because they’ve had an accident?
But it sounds like I’ve been lucky.
I’ve never had heavy periods.
When I heard that Carol Smillie was presenting the keynote at Britmums Live, I was only vaguely interested. I remember her as a nice lady, every bit as smiley as her name would suggest, who used to be on telly. But isn’t on much these days. Apparently she makes pants now.
What’s so interesting about pants?
But these are no ordinary pants.
During two sessions with Carol, I learned about Diary Doll, knickers for that time of the month and just why they’re so important.
Mums shared their tales of humiliation from their teenage years (and younger) and their own fears for their daughters.
Carol and her friend, former tennis player Annabel Croft, had just these fears for their own teenage daughters. Carol bought cheap knickers for her girls to throw them away. Annabel told her about life on the tennis circuit. Life with very short skirts that show your knickers. Very short WHITE skirts. Where TV cameras follow the action. Right the way up your skirt. Life spent staying with host families and worrying about messing up the sheets. Long matches with no toilet breaks.
Periods are a messy business and sometimes it’s hard to hide it.
That’s why Carol and Annabel came up with Diary Doll. Knickers that look like any other, but which have waterproof protection. As Carol says ‘it’s not an instead of, it’s a back-up’. The waterproof lining gives you enough time to get yourself to the toilet to change your sanitary towel or tampon before your pants leak.
It sounds uncomfortable, but it isn’t. I’ve felt a pair! They felt just like normal, cotton knickers. You would never know there was anything different or special about them. They come in a range of sizes and colours.
Carol reminded us of the sorts of sports women do – and what they wear – short skirts for tennis, hockey and netball, leotards for ballet and gymnastics. They give very little room to hide.
Earlier this year, British number 1 tennis player, gave her reason for losing in the first round of the Australian Open as ‘girl things’. Periods are the last great taboo in sport. But half of the population have them for their entire adult life.
Yet still nobody talks about them in public. Male editors wouldn’t feature Diary Doll in the media – not even women’s pages of newspapers. Even Loose Women wouldn’t discuss the issues with Carol and Annabel.
But as I listened to my fellow bloggers’ tales of humiliation, I knew how much these knickers were needed.
My own daughter is 9. I’d like to bury my head in the sand and pretend that puberty isn’t just around the corner, but I have to accept that it is. I couldn’t bear the thought of her suffering the humiliation that so many girls have suffered before. Often at school. And when it comes to things which are embarrassing, teenage memories are very long. An accident in year 7 could stay with you all the way through school.
Although designed for teenage girls having periods, Diary Doll knickers are bought by girls and women from 10 to 70. They are used for women who suffer stress incontinence, pelvic floor issues and postnatally. As we get a little bit older and after children, there’s plenty of us that wee a bit when we laugh, cough, sneeze, do sport and, most definitely, when we jump on the trampoline with our kids!
Having been initially fairly uninterested in Carol Smillie and pants, I walked away inspired and determined to raise awareness. Not to sell more pants, but to get women thinking about periods – for themselves and their daughters.
I have received no knickers and no payment for this post, I was simply inspired to write it to share the message more widely with women and girls.