How to Remove a Stuck Tampon

Did your tampon go missing? If you don’t understand the anatomy of your vagina, this could be alarming. You might imagine a soiled tampon free-floating in your belly or lost among your intestines. Take heart, it's impossible to actually lose a tampon.

How to remove a stuck tampon
Illustration by Emily Roberts, Verywell

Where a Tampon Can Go

The answer is, nowhere. Your vagina is a closed space. Once you put a tampon in the vagina, it will stay in the vagina until you take it out. Think of it as a pouch with one opening, which is at the lower end of the vagina. The upper end or top of the pouch is where you find the cervix, which is connected to the uterus. Even though the cervix also has an opening, it is very small and a tampon would never fit through it.

Why You Can’t Find the String

Your vagina is bigger than a tampon. The average vagina is just about 4 inches long and about 2 inches wide. Just 2 inches wide may seem a bit narrow, but remember that the walls of your vagina are very elastic and can stretch wide enough to let a newborn baby pass through.

Your vagina can easily fit a tampon applicator and accommodate the tampon as it absorbs menstrual blood and becomes wider. Measuring in at a little less than 2 inches long, it's possible that a tampon can move up and into the top or back of the vagina and the strings may no longer be visible.

Don’t Panic

This cannot be stressed enough. When you get anxious or stressed you tend to contract or clench different muscles in your body. If you are panicking about the “lost” tampon, you are going to contract the muscles surrounding the vagina. By squeezing the muscle of your vagina, you are going to have a hard time locating and removing the “retained” tampon.

What to Do Next

First, take a deep breath and relax. Remember, the tampon is exactly where you put it: still in your vagina. Next, you can try and locate the tampon yourself.

  1. Wash your hands well with soap and water.
  2. Sit on the toilet with your legs open a bit more than hip-width apart.
  3. If you are having a hard time squeezing the muscles of your pelvic floor, gently bear down as if you are starting to urinate.
  4. Gently insert two fingers into your vagina.
  5. Sweep your fingers around the inside of your vagina trying to feel towards the top and back of your vagina.
  6. If you can feel the tampon, grab it between your fingers and pull it out.
  7. If you can’t feel the tampon, you may at least be able to locate the strings. If you do, pull the tampon out by the strings.

What to Do If You Can’t Find It

If you are able to relax enough to follow the steps above, you will likely be able to successfully locate and remove the tampon. However, if you aren’t able to remove it yourself, call your gynecologist or general practitioner for an appointment to have it removed.

It's not healthy for a tampon to stay in longer than eight hours. This increases the risk of infection, especially Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). You should call your healthcare provider as soon as you determine you can’t remove a tampon yourself.

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