Talking About Your Period or Asking for a Tampon in French

Woman holding stomach
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This happens to every woman. Yet, books are quite shy when it comes to this vocabulary, a skill that we thought could be useful for women traveling to France.

First, let’s explore some French expressions to say to have your period.

Avoir Ses Règles

The most common way to say to menstruate is “avoir ses règles”. Les règles is a feminine plural word. 

  • Avoir des règles douloureuses: to have painful period
  • Avoir des crampes menstruelles: to have menstrual cramps
  • Les dernières règles: last menstrual period
  • Le début / la fin des règles: beginning/end of the period
  • Un cycle d’ovulation: menstrual cycle

Note that the word "les règles" is always feminine plural when used for menstruation. "Une règle" is a rule or a ruler (a plastic piece used to draw lines). The context will make it clear which one you are talking about.

Tu as tes règles: Do you have your period?
Tu as une règle: Do you have a ruler?

Être Indisposée

This means to be indisposed, unwell. But it the chosen expression to say in a subtle way to you have your period.

  • Cette jeune fille ne peut pas aller à la piscine, elle est indisposée.
  • This young girl cannot go to the swimming pool, she is indisposed.

Avoir Ses Ragnagnas

I have no idea where this one comes from, but “ragnagnas” sounds like someone complaining, protesting… which women often do when they menstruate. So that would be my personal interpretation of the expression!

Les Anglais ont Débarqué

Definitely one of the strangest French idiom out there. It translates as “The English have landed” (from a boat). So, what is the relation between English and menstruating? Well, this expression dates back to Napoleon and the British army, then called the redcoats. Go figure! Although this expression is somewhat old-fashioned, it is still used, often kind of as a joke.

  • Désolée, je n'ai vraiment pas envie d'aller faire cette randonnée. Je ne me sens pas très bien... enfin, pour tout te dire, les anglais ont débarqué. Bref, j'ai mes ragnagnas, j'ai des crampes et je n'ai qu'une envie : rester au lit!
  • Sorry, I really don't feel like going on this hike. I don't feel very well... Well, to tell you everything, Aunt Flo called. In other words, Code Red, I have cramps and I just want one thing: stay in bed!

French Vocabulary for Period Products

  • Les protections hygiéniques: sanitary protections
  • Un tampon: a tampon
  • Avec/sans applicateur: with/without applicator
  • Une serviette hygiénique: a sanitary pad / a pantyliner
  • Avec ailettes: with wings
  • Une coupe menstruelle: a menstrual cup
  • Saigner: to bleed
  • Un saignement: a bleeding
  • Une tâche: a spot

Cultural Note About Menstrual Pain

As in many countries, speaking about one's period is not considered a proper conversation. French women seldom disclose to girlfriends that they are on their period or discuss their menstrual pains. We would just say that we are tired. Of course, everybody is different.

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Your Citation
Chevalier-Karfis, Camille. "Talking About Your Period or Asking for a Tampon in French." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Chevalier-Karfis, Camille. (2023, April 5). Talking About Your Period or Asking for a Tampon in French. Retrieved from Chevalier-Karfis, Camille. "Talking About Your Period or Asking for a Tampon in French." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 3, 2023).