Periods are already annoying enough—but when you leak through your clothes on a heavy day, it just makes everything worse. Not only is it embarrassing, but bystanders aren't always understanding. Recently, one woman even said she was fired from her job for "experiencing two incidents of sudden onset, heavy menstrual flow."
So what's a girl to do? We asked six different women what they did when they realized they'd experienced a public leak.
"I did the roll up some toilet paper and stick it in your undies trick"
"My husband and I recently flipped our lives upside down and are now living bicoastal between Seattle and New York City for about one year, due to a job offer he received and could not turn down. I was in a frenzy to find an apartment for us in Seattle, ASAP (NYC is home base). It was around the fifth day of my period, so it was on the lighter side of the spectrum, and I forgot to put a tampon in before we were rushing out to meet with a real estate agent to look at about 10 different apartments.
"After we finished the third apartment I went to use the ladies room and when I wiped, I realized I forgot my tampon and was bleeding. I did the whole roll up some toilet paper and stick it in your undies trick (you know you've done it!), but some blood must have still been dripping because when I checked myself out in the mirror before exiting the bathroom, I had a big splotch of blood on the back of my shorts. I tried the best I could to keep it covered with the tote bag I was carrying. Good thing the first apartment we saw was a keeper, because after that I told my husband we should just take it, so I could get home and not walk around with a blood spot on my ass!" – Alexis
"I felt a leak slowly dripping down my leg"
"I was standing and waiting for the subway in NYC when I felt a leak slowly dripping down my leg. I was wearing a sundress and knew everyone would soon see my visitor who was coming out for a surprise visit.
"My excessive bleeding due to my endometriosis was showing its ugly head all the time, but this was the worst. Soon, I feared everyone would be greeted by Aunt Flo as well, to my embarrassing demise (or at least I thought!). So, while standing, I crossed one leg over the other and proceeded to squeeze my legs together so that the drip would stop and instead smeared it between my legs, which allowed me to walk onto the train without leaving a trail. I then found a newspaper someone had left and sat on it, while keeping my legs pressed together. Needless to say, I was glad it was dark outside and made it home in one miserable, messy piece. I can't wait to be done with the lady party!" – Jo
"My bosses looked at me like I was crazy when I returned in a completely different outfit"
"In my younger years, my periods were extremely heavy and painful. During my first week at my new job at Urban Outfitters, it was spring or summer, and for some reason I was still wearing tights (which were on trend then). Anyway, things were as bad as I thought they would be for my first full day of my period, but I packed lots of extra, super-long pads to bring with me, just in case.
"Well, that wasn't good enough. Because by the time I got around to going to the ladies room for the first time, I had a massive leak, and blood over ALL of my clothes. It was close to lunch, so I used my lunch time to run as fast as I could to the nearest store to buy new underwear and tights and bottoms. I remember my bosses looking at me when I returned in a completely different outfit, like I was kind of crazy because I didn't tell them what happened. But, I clearly remember feeling mortified and that everyone knew what had happened. It was awful." – Andi
"A very kind young lady came over to me and let me know I had 'something on my shorts'"
"I have two children and thought that once my period returned, it would have slightly tapered off. But some months are still heavier than others. Last month, I had another heavy period during a heatwave, and I needed to go out to get something at the store. I thought I was covered in that I changed pads before I left, so I could wear shorts. The store is only about 15 minutes away. When I arrived there, things were fine. I only took about 30 minutes to shop and check out. But when I was just finishing up in line, a very kind young lady came over to me and let me know I had 'something on my shorts.' When she said it and we made eye contact, she let me know she knew what it was, in a very empathetic way, for which I was grateful. I was also grateful that I was walking out the door, but of course, I stood there in front of a long line of people, and no one ever told me, until this kind young lady." – Bethany
"I became aware of a wet sensation on the back of my dress"
"I'm a sexologist with 25 years of professional experience in sexual dysfunction, STIs, women's health, and sex education. Now, I have a slightly different take on my latest public period stain. Mainly because I saw it as an opportunity to teach my tween girl about a fact of life.
"I had bundled the kids into the car and we were off to the 9 a.m. swimming class. I walked in with the kids and as we walked over to the seats, I became aware of a wet sensation on the back of my dress. I sat down with the kids, helped my son get ready and he jumped into the pool. I then sat quietly and in between waves of panic and shame, tried to think of how to get out of this one! So, I stood up in front of my 11-year-old daughter, and said 'Hey, I think I have blood all over the back of my dress, what can you see?' She of course says 'Yes, it is blood.'
"I quickly sat back down and tried to think of possible ways to get out of this situation. It was then that I realized that my daughter was actually watching me to see what I was going to do, and that how I managed this situation would shape her future beliefs and attitudes about periods. So what did I do? I said to her, 'Okay, I will go to the bathroom and see if I can wash the blood off.' She nodded, I stood up walked past all the other moms (with my big red blood stain) and headed into the women's bathrooms, pulled up my skirt, washed the stain out, wrung my skirt dry and headed back to my seat in my wet skirt.
"Once I sat down, we then had a chat about how embarrassed I felt, about the fact that these sorts of things happen to all women, and that it isn't really the end of the world! Even though it may feel like it at the time!" – Cath
"My favorite white jeans were soaked"
"I had just left therapy with my new boyfriend. We were both really into each other, but had a hard time communicating assertively so I suggested we go see a therapist. I'm 28 and he's 30 and I didn't want to waste any time here. After therapy, he was hungry so we went across the street to grab a bite. I had the period cramps and moodiness, all of it, and I kept telling him it was coming. Welp, after sitting down for about seven minutes, I look down and my favorite white jeans were soaked like I'm talking inner thigh, butt, and vagina area. I think since my legs were crossed it didn't really help. So we finished our meal and I untucked my shirt which was long enough to cover the period incident and we rush to throw my white pants in the washer. We are no longer together, but I don't think the period incident was the deal breaker." – Melissa
This article originally appeared on WomensHealthMag.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.