Started your period and want to try tampons? Here’s what you need to know about using them.
What is a tampon?
A tampon is a plug of soft material – usually compressed cotton wool -that you put into your vagina to absorb period blood. They come in different sizes so you can pick one depending on how heavy your period is.
Some have cardboard or plastic applicators that help you push the tampon into position; others are inserted just using your finger.
How do I insert a tampon?
It’s all about position and it can be tricky the first time you use tampons, so don’t be put off if it takes several attempts.
“This may sound daft, but it’s good to know where your vagina is before you insert your first tampon,” says Lynn Hearton at fpa. “Have a look at the diagram in the instructions, it’s good to know where it’s going.”
First things first, don’t try to push a tampon ‘up’ you, like you’re shooting it up in the direction of your skull. Aim the tampon in the direction of the bottom of your spine rather than defying gravity. So back-and-up, instead of just ‘up’.
Try to relax and get into a position that’s comfortable for you – this can be squatting, standing or sitting. Then, with washed hands, position the applicator or tampon inside your vagina and push with your index finger slowly. Leave the string hanging out of your body so it’s easy to remove later.
“It may take some time to get it right – it won’t necessarily be right the first time. It takes practice,” says Lynn.
Use a small-sized tampon the first time – even if you have a heavy flow. Then build up to larger sizes as you get more comfortable.
Does it hurt?
Inserting and removing a tampon with a dry vagina can hurt, so only use them when you’re actually bleeding.
If inserted correctly, it shouldn’t be painful. “If it’s in and it’s uncomfortable, then it’s not in properly. You shouldn’t feel it once it’s in,” says Lynn.
How often do I change a tampon?
As a general guide, you should change your tampon every three to four hours. Unlike pads, you can’t tell how much blood’s been absorbed, so you’ll need to remember when it’s time to change it. Try not to leave it until it’s leaking into your knickers.
If you have heavy periods, you may need to change them more regularly.
To remove a tampon, pull gently on the string at the end.
Can I flush it down the toilet?
You shouldn’t really – they’re bad for Mother Earth. And their size may make them seem flushable, but they can still cause problems with blocked toilets. It’s best to wrap it in toilet paper and throw it in the bin.
Can a tampon get lost inside you?
No – simply because there’s nowhere for it to go. The opening of the cervix (the top of your vagina) is just too tiny for a tampon to get through. It can’t travel to other parts of your body, like your stomach.
“The string is firmly joined to the tampon – it can’t go anywhere – and it’s really rare to get one stuck,” says Lynn. “Just make sure the string stays on the outside. It makes it easier to remove and you don’t have to go rummaging round.”
Can I use a high absorbency tampon all day?
No, it’s not ideal. It’s best to use a size that’s suits your flow and change them regularly. Inserting large tampons when you have light periods not only dries out your vagina, but also can be painful to remove. “You may need a selection for the duration of your period: heavy/regulars/minis. It’s about learning about your body,” says Lynn.
What is Toxic Shock Syndrome?
Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a rare but very dangerous kind of blood poisoning. It causes a sudden rush of symptoms that include: sudden high temperature, vomiting, diarrhea, a sunburn-like rash, muscle aches, dizziness or fainting.
When people think of TSS, they often think of tampons, but you can also get it through wounds or surgery where bacteria has entered.
To prevent TSS don’t use high absorbency tampons unless you need to, and change them regularly.
Although rare, if you think you may have TSS, contact your GP immediately.
Will I lose my virginity if I use tampons?
Technically ‘no’ – but virginity means different things to different people. If you think being a virgin means not having had sex before, tampons don’t affect that. However if you think your virginity is to do with your hymen, your view may be different.
Your hymen is like a collar of skin around the entrance to your vagina – sort of like a polo-neck jumper. It is NOT a layer of skin that covers the vagina that has to get ‘broken through’ to lose your virginity. That said, having sex and using tampons, can stretch this collar of skin, making it wider and wider and wearing the collar of skin away. If you think this makes you ‘not a virgin anymore’, that’s your choice.
Photo of girl with tampon by Shutterstock
Updated on 29-Sep-2015
Is it ever right for a man to have boobs? Read on and ...
Why do I have stretch marks?
Why have those damn lines appeared all over your body?
What to do if you’re worried about FGM
Female genital mutilation, or FGM, is a painful and ...
Help! I can’t go to the toilet in public
Why are some people so scared of peeing and pooing in public?
We look at how you can protect yourself from measles ...