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. Learn what to do if this occurs.

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

Where a Tampon Can Go

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 your vagina as a pouch with one opening, which is at the lower end. 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.

A tampon applicator can easily fit into your vagina and the tampon is accommodated as it absorbs menstrual blood and becomes wider. A tampon often is a little less than 2 inches long, and it's possible for it to move up and into the top or back of the vagina and the strings may no longer be visible.

Remain Calm

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 upset 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.

How to Find the Tampon

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.

A Word From Verywell

There are many myths about menstruation, and the facts often don't get fully discussed and verified by reliable sources. Don't hesitate to ask questions. By knowing why your tampon may seem to be missing and what to do about it, you will be ready if this occurs.

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