I travel about once or twice a month for work and I thought I’d seen it all… or most of it until my last trip.
I was rushing to get to the airport because my original flight got delayed and the airline had to switch me to a new flight, leaving from another airport. I found this out almost as I was arriving to the airport my original flight was supposed to go out off, which meant I had to now drive to another location. By the time I got to the airport I had just enough time to go through security and board my flight.
Things were moving along and going great until I stepped into the full body scanner at airport security.
“Ma’am, it seems like there’s something in your vagina and we’re going to have to inspect you.”
I kid you not, that’s what they said.
For a second all the possible scenarios went thought my head. Are you they going to strip me naked? Pat me down? Do a cavity search?
“I’m on my period,” I told the security lady. She was very nice and told me she understands but she still has to check me. She explained to me I would get a pat down and she would have to touch me close to my vagina.
She then asked me if I wanted to do this in a private room or right then and there. I choose to do it there because I was a running out of time, my flight was boarding in 20 mins and I had no idea how long a private check would take.
She patted me down and checked the upper part of my pants, A LOT. I even had to raise my shirt and show a bit of my belly. For a second I pretended the airport was empty because I didn’t want to think there were strangers seeing my belly and this pat down.
While she was patting me she told me this happens a lot when women are on their period, especially if they’re wearing a big pad.
It got me wondering, what’s considered a big pad for TSA? Do they consider a big pad an overnight pad? Maybe a regular pad that has too much blood on it would show too? What about tampons? Either way, if you’re on your period the TSA agent will most likely know.
She even showed me the picture of my scan. It looked like an outline of my body with a huge yellow mark right on my vagina and uterus.
Then, the security agent proceeded to swab my hands and I was finally released. My menstrual cup didn’t pose a threat!
I grabbed my things and walked fast to make it to my flight but I was shocked.
The full body scanner picked up my menstrual cup and suddenly it felt like an invasion of privacy.
I understand that they’re doing their job and trying to keep all flyers safe but do they really need to know that I’m on my period and using a menstrual cup? What if the pat down wasn’t enough? What if I would have had to go into a private room and remove my menstrual cup in front of a complete stranger, and even worse, get my vagina inspected? Not to mention I would have missed my international flight had this happened.
What if I was wearing an adult diaper or was sexually abused and someone touching me was triggering?
And these are “what ifs” to me because my extra screening didn’t go that far but there are reports of other women who have had to even remove their cups in front of the agents and get a more throughout search.
The line between safety and privacy suddenly felt pretty blurry…
Can the TSA full body scanner see your menstrual cup?
After this incident happened I googled this question because I wanted to know if it happened to other women. To my surprise I found reports of women getting extra security screening because their panty liners, pads, tampons or menstrual cups were detected by the full body scanner.
Some of the women went through way worse pat down and checks than I did, all because they had their period.
I also found other posts of people stating the scanner can’t detect menstrual products… but it can. If it couldn’t, I wouldn’t have been stopped today.
Here’s the thing, the TSA agents need to do their job but a woman shouldn’t have to go through a pat down just because she’s on her period. It’s a natural, common thing and it happens every month so TSA should find a way to differentiate between period products and whatever else they’re looking for.
Had my pat down taken any longer or moved to a private room I would have missed my flight and because this was an international overnight flight there wasn’t another flight I could take. And is it fair for anyone to loose a flight and go through extra screening just because they’re on their period…?
It’s kind of silly when you think about it.
And then I started thinking about my daughters… We travel with them at least once a year. What if this happens when they’re young teenagers with their period? I would have been horrified as a teenager if something like this were to happen to me.
So, can you fly with a menstrual cup?
Yes, you can. I have done it many times and this is the first time it set off an alarm. I’m not sure why this time it happened and other times it hasn’t but maybe it has to do with the way each machine is set-up or maybe some agents are better at recognizing it’s just a women with her period.
I wouldn’t let this experience discourage you from using menstrual cups because, if you’re like me, they have probably made having your period a much more pleasant experience. I love my cup – I almost forget that I’m on my period because I don’t have to deal with it more than a few times a day, unlike a pad which I used to change every time I used the restroom.
Just because you’re wearing a pad or tampon there are no guarantees that this won’t happen to you since the TSA agent confirmed this happens a lot, especially with big pads and there are also countless of reports from women saying their menstrual product landed them in invasive body searches.
In fact, we all should all wear our cups when flying. Maybe if enough of us are using menstrual cups or talk openly about experiences like this, the TSA will find a way to distinguish between a cup and whatever dangerous thing you can insert in your vagina.
However, if you are flying with a menstrual cup I would make sure you get to the airport 20 minutes earlier than you usually get there so you can have plenty of time for an additional screening if needed. And be mentally prepared, since there’s a chance this might happen.
I also want to point out that the agents are just doing their job and the agent that searched me was very kind but unfortunately, according to other reports, not all women are as lucky as I was and got more way more invasive screening than I did.
I personally don’t care if TSA knows I’m on my period but what bothers me is the extra screening because of it. I believe the TSA should be able detect the difference between a period and something else and they should set a better protocol in place for situations like this. A period is something too common for women to have to deal with extra screening because of it.
Has this ever happened to you or something similar? Let us know in the comments.