How to Use a Tampon


Using a tampon for the first time can be confusing, especially if it is your first time dealing with a period, but don’t worry. It's simple once you get the hang of it.

Part 1
Dispelling a Few Myths with the Facts

Dispelling a Few Myths with the Facts on How to Use a Tampon

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There are a lot of urban legends about using tampons, and you might have already heard some bad information on how to use them. Knowing the facts can dispel your fears or clear up any misunderstandings.

Dispelling a Few Myths with the Facts on How to Use a Tampon

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[1] Honestly, there's nowhere for it to go! The cervix, at the end of the vagina, only has a tiny opening to allow blood through. You can always pull it out by the string, or reach in and grab it with your fingers if the string breaks. Don't forget to remove all tampons by the end of your period, though!

Dispelling a Few Myths with the Facts on How to Use a Tampon

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Just gently lift the string so it is out of the way. Alternatively, you can carefully tuck the string in, just so that it is out of the way when you pee. Tuck the string in shallowly, so that you can still feel it when you reach for it.

Dispelling a Few Myths with the Facts on How to Use a Tampon

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[2] You can start using tampons at any age, make sure to be comfortable first––you don't have to be over 18. Some girls skip using pads and go directly to using tampons, especially if they do sports like swimming or gymnastics.

Dispelling a Few Myths with the Facts on How to Use a Tampon

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[3] Contrary to one particularly unhelpful myth, using tampons does not make you "lose your virginity." Tampons might stretch the hymen (the thin membrane that usually stretches when you have sex), but the hymen should not tear. The hymen only partially covers the vaginal opening and is intended to stretch and bend. Even if your tampon use does stretch the membrane (which can happen during other activities, too, like frequent horse-riding), it doesn't mean you're not a virgin. Another myth is that the hymen completely covers the vagina. Rest easy, your hymen does have an opening for tampon insertion and for your period to leave your body. The hymen normally will expand if you relax, but if you force a tampon through it while tense, your hymen may rupture. This can happen while doing sports, too.

Dispelling a Few Myths with the Facts on How to Use a Tampon

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Whether you're off to work or school or out playing sports, always have spare tampons in your bag. Especially when first starting your period, it might be helpful to pack a small makeup bag with tampons, pantyliners, wet wipes, and a spare pair of panties.

Dispelling a Few Myths with the Facts on How to Use a Tampon

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That way, you don't have to worry about hopping out of bed early to change a tampon, or even risk Toxic Shock Syndrome, a rare but serious medical condition that happens when the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus gets into your bloodstream.[4]

Part 2
Before Insertion

Before Insertion on How to Use a Tampon

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As you've probably already seen in the grocery store, tampons come in a variety of types and sizes. Here's what's easiest for your first time: Buy tampons with applicators. Tampons come in two basic types: with applicators, or a plastic tube that will help you push the tampon up into the vagina. Having the help of an applicator will make life easier when you're first learning, so choose a box that includes them. (In the U.S., O.B. is the primary brand that sells without applicators––most other brands have them.[5]) Pick the right absorbency. Absorbency is a measure of how much absorbent cotton is in the tampon, ranging from light to heavy. [6] Most women use heavy absorbency tampons during the first day or two of their periods, when bleeding is heaviest, and transition to lighter ones toward the end.[7] If you're concerned about pain, though, try buying light absorbency tampons. You'll have to change them more frequently, but they'll be slimmer and more comfortable. A good beginning tampon is . You can also just get tampons. Using a smaller sized tampon at first will help you get used to inserting them and they will also be easier to take out. You can buy heavier tampons later if you discover light absorbency doesn't work for you. If you have a heavy flow during the day, it may be handy to use a pantyliner or thin pad along with your tampon, in case the tampon overflows. Overflowing can happen even with heavy absorbency tampons, within 4 hours.

Before Insertion on How to Use a Tampon

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It might seem weird to wash your hands before you go to the bathroom, but it's a smart move in this case.[8] Tampon applicators are sterile, and washing your hands keeps any infection-causing fungus or bacteria off them. If you drop the tampon on the floor, throw it away. It's not worth saving a few cents or even a few dollars on a tampon if you have to go through an uncomfortable and painful infection.

Part 3
Inserting the Tampon

Inserting the Tampon on How to Use a Tampon

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Spread your knees farther apart than you usually might, so that you have maximum access and visibility while you figure this out, or you can squat and sit like a frog on the toilet seat. Alternatively, you can stand to insert a tampon, placing one foot on a higher surface such as a toilet seat. If this works better for you, give it a shot. However, most women prefer sitting on the toilet so that any stray bleeding is contained.

Inserting the Tampon on How to Use a Tampon

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This is the most common hurdle first-time tampon users run into, and it can seem really daunting. Once you figure it out, though, you're set for life! Here's how to make it a little easier: Understand your anatomy. There are three openings: the urethra (where urine exits) at the front, the vagina in the middle, and the anus at the back.[9] If you already know where your urethra is, feel an inch or two behind it to find the opening of the vagina. Use the blood to guide you. This might sound weird, but it'll help if you're struggling. Wet a piece of toilet paper, and completely clean up all the menstrual blood in the area, from front to back (or hop in the shower and scrub down). Once everything is clear, dab yourself with a clean square of toilet paper until you find where the blood is coming from. Ask for help. If you are really and truly lost, don't worry, as many girls before you have been here! Ask a trusted female relative––such as your mom, sister, grandma, aunt, or older cousin––to help you figure this out for the first time. Try not to feel embarrassed, and remember that every woman has been where you are now. You can also ask your doctor or nurse to help.

Inserting the Tampon on How to Use a Tampon

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At the midpoint of the tampon, where the smaller tube of the applicator meets the larger tube, hold it between your thumb and middle finger. Place your index finger on the end of the applicator where the string comes out.

Inserting the Tampon on How to Use a Tampon

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Aim toward the small of your back, and push it up a few inches until your fingers are touching your flesh. Don't worry about getting your hands dirty––menstrual blood is actually pretty clean[10], as far as bacteria goes, and you can always rinse off when you're done.

Inserting the Tampon on How to Use a Tampon

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You should feel the tampon move a few more inches up inside of you. Stop when the thin portion of the applicator meets the thick portion.

Inserting the Tampon on How to Use a Tampon

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Gently tug the applicator out of your vagina. Don't worry––you won't pull the tampon out with it if you've followed the instructions and inserted it fully. Once it's out, wrap it in the tampon wrapper or a piece of toilet paper, and throw it into the bin. Never flush applicators — they can seriously damage plumbing.

Inserting the Tampon on How to Use a Tampon

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You shouldn't be able to feel the tampon inside of you, and it shouldn't be uncomfortable. If it's painful to sit down or walk around, something's gone wrong; usually it's that the tampon isn't far enough up the vagina. Insert your finger inside the vagina until you feel the tampon. Push slightly, then do another walking test. If it still hurts, you inserted it wrong. Pull that one out, and try again with a fresh one.

Part 4
Removing the Tampon

Removing the Tampon on How to Use a Tampon

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You don't have to do this immediately as soon as four hours have passed, but try not to let it go for longer than six. Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is an extremely rare but potentially fatal consequence of leaving a tampon in for too long. If you've accidentally left a tampon in for more than eight hours and you're suddenly experiencing a high fever, a sudden rash, or vomiting, pull out the tampon and get medical help immediately.

Removing the Tampon on How to Use a Tampon

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Removing a tampon might seem painful, but it is not. Take a few deep breaths, loosen up, and remember that it's maybe going to be uncomfortable but not painful.

Removing the Tampon on How to Use a Tampon

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You might feel some slight friction from the cotton fibers as the tampon comes out, but it shouldn't be that painful. If you're queasy at the thought of grabbing the string with your bare fingers, do it with a square of toilet paper. If you do feel some catching and resistance as you pull the tampon out, it's probably because it's dry. Switch to a lighter absorbency to solve the problem. If it's too dry, use some water so that it does not stick.

Removing the Tampon on How to Use a Tampon

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Some tampons are specifically designed to be flushable, so they spread apart and move easily through the pipes. However, if you're dealing with a low-flow toilet, a septic tank arrangement, or you know there have been problems with clogging in the past, it's safest to just wrap it in a wad of toilet paper and throw it away.