How to Insert a Tampon

Answers to Commonly Asked Questions

Learning how to insert a tampon may seem intimidating if you have never done it before. A tampon is a soft, cotton or rayon-based product used to absorb menstrual blood before it leaves the vagina. It is one of the most convenient menstrual products on the market. 

A girl can start using tampons at any age, even during her first period. Inserting a tampon is not hard and doesn't hurt if done properly. Once it is in place, you shouldn't even feel it. Tampons should be removed after four to eight hours to reduce the risk of an infection known as toxic shock syndrome (TSS).

This article explains how to insert a tampon and how to know if it is in correctly. It also details how to use tampons to manage your menstrual flow and how to remove a tampon.

Woman holding a tampon
Science Photo Library / Getty Images

Parts of the Tampon

Tampons generally have multiple parts:

  • An applicator with a plunger
  • A portion that absorbs blood
  • A string for removal

Not all tampons come with applicators, but if you're new to tampons, an applicator can make it easier to insert one into your vagina.

The first few times you insert a tampon may be awkward, but tampons can provide comfort and security when placed properly. Some people also use a pad, pantyliner, or absorbent period underwear along with a tampon for extra protection against leaks.

What They're Made Of

Tampons are typically made of pressed cotton, rayon, or a combination of the two. The absorbent fibers used in tampon production go through a chlorine-free bleaching process.

They are meant to be single-use products, meaning they're thrown away after they become soaked with menstrual blood. Tampon applicators may be made of cardboard or plastic. Always make sure to remove the tampon applicator from your vagina after inserting your tampon.

Choosing the Right Size

Tampons come in a variety of absorbencies, from light to super or ultra (heavy). When selecting the tampon size to use, always choose the lowest absorbency necessary for your menstrual flow. Tampons should be changed every four to eight hours, so if you're able to wear a tampon for up to eight hours or more, the absorbency is likely too high.

When you first start using tampons, it may be more comfortable to start with a light or regular tampon, which is more slender. Most females need different sizes for different days of their period, such as regular at the beginning and end of their period and super or super-plus on heavier flow days.

Never wear a single tampon for more than eight hours. For safety, change your tampon every four to eight hours at a minimum, even if it isn't showing any leaks.

How to Insert a Tampon

Before you insert a tampon, wash your hands to prevent any harmful bacteria that may be present on your hands from entering your vagina.

How to Insert a Tampon With an Applicator

  1. Unwrap the tampon and throw the wrapper in the trash. Make sure the tampon string is secure by gently tugging on it.
  2. Before inserting the tampon, check that it reaches the tip of the applicator by gently pushing the inner applicator tube so that the tampon almost begins to come out of the applicator.
  3. Decide if you want to sit or stand during tampon insertion. If you choose to sit, the toilet is a good place. If you’d rather stand during tampon insertion, prop one foot on something so that one leg is higher than the other leg (the side of your bathtub is a good place to prop your foot).
  4. Hold the tampon in the center, at the end of the outer part of the applicator. Place the tampon applicator tip into the opening of your vagina at an angle towards your lower back. Push the tampon and applicator back until you can feel the end of the outer applicator tube just at the opening of the vaginal canal.
  5. Next, while holding the outer applicator tube, push the inner applicator tube into your vagina until the tampon inserts fully and the ends of the inner and outer applicator tubes meet. For proper tampon insertion, ensure the applicator's two ends meet just at the opening to your vagina.
  6. Gently pull the applicator out of the vagina while making sure that you can feel the string hanging out from the bottom of the tampon.
  7. When you’re ready to remove or change a tampon, relax and gently pull on the string attached to the end of the tampon until the tampon is out. Used tampons should be disposed of in a trash receptacle, not flushed down the toilet.
  8. Wash your hands after inserting or removing a tampon.

How to Insert a Tampon Without an Applicator

Some people may prefer to use tampons without an applicator because they use less plastic and are smaller and easier to carry. Start by washing your hands and check to make sure the tampon is fully sealed.

  1. Remove and discard the wrapper according to package directions and unwrap the string.
  2. Place your index finger in the bottom of the tampon, and hold the sides with your thumb and middle finger.
  3. Stand with one leg up (rest your foot on the toilet or bathtub) or sit on the toilet, take a deep breath and relax.
  4. With your free hand, gently hold open the skin around the vaginal opening.
  5. Take the tampon, and with the full length of your index finger, ease it into your vagina, aiming toward your lower back.
  6. You won't feel it when the tampon is in the right place. If you do, push it a little further in. Leave the string hanging outside of your body.
  7. Wash your hands after inserting or removing a tampon.

What If It’s Difficult?

A tampon should not be difficult to insert and should not cause any discomfort once it's properly inserted. Make sure to follow the instructions for tampon insertion that come in each package. 

To increase your comfort, follow these tips:

  1. Relax. Try not to worry about inserting the tampon right the first time. If you are tense, it will likely make insertion harder.
  2. The best time to practice inserting a tampon is during the heavy part of your period. The tampon should glide inside your vagina easily without any discomfort.

If the tampon feels uncomfortable, it is probably not inserted far enough into your vagina. Remove it and try again with a new tampon.

Do not practice when you don't have your period. Removing a dry tampon can be extremely uncomfortable.

If you feel as though you need lubrication, use a small amount of water-based lubricant. Do not use petroleum-based products in your vagina because they can create an environment where bacteria can breed.

A small number of people will continue to struggle with tampon insertion. If you are unable to use a tampon due to painful insertion, or if the process continues to be very difficult, you should discuss this with your healthcare provider. It is possible that you have a minor structural anomaly of your vagina called a vaginal septum. Or you may have a vaginal pain syndrome called vulvodynia that could be thwarting your ability to use a tampon or have intercourse.

How Do I Know If I Inserted It Correctly?

When a tampon is inserted properly, you shouldn't feel it. If it is improperly placed, you may feel discomfort or even pain. Be sure to insert your tampon at the correct angle, and be sure to push it in far enough.

What Do I Do With the String?

The string of the tampon is critical to proper removal. It should hang freely outside the body so that you can easily remove the tampon. Do not tuck it inside your vagina.

How to Remove a Tampon

When you are trying to remove a tampon, remember that you need to relax the muscles of your pelvic floor. Sitting on the toilet or standing and placing one foot on the edge of your bathtub are tricks that could make tampon removal easier.

All tampons come with a string on the end that you pull on to remove your used tampon. Some people worry that a tampon could get lost in the vagina, or that it could slip into the uterus, but this can't happen.

Don’t worry, tampons cannot get lost in the vagina or slip through the cervix and into the uterus. The small cervical opening between your uterus and vagina allows menstrual blood to pass through into the vagina but is not large enough to allow a tampon to enter the uterus.

When Do I Need to Remove It?

Tampons should be changed at regular intervals, but should never be left in for longer than eight hours (including while sleeping). Don't ever forget to remove the last tampon at the end of your period.

What If It's Been Over 8 Hours?

If you overslept or forgot your tampon for more than eight hours, the first thing to do is to remove it right away. If you have trouble removing your tampon, contact your healthcare provider. They'll be able to help you remove it.

If you've left a tampon in for more than eight hours and begin to experience signs of infection (such as fever, rash, headache, vomiting, or diarrhea), contact your healthcare provider right away.

A Word From Verywell

There are plenty of myths and lots of misinformation out there about tampon use during your period. But the bottom line is that, when used appropriately, tampons are an effective and very convenient way to manage your menstrual flow.

While you have options, tampons have some advantages over pads. Without the bulk of a pad, tampons can make some people feel more comfortable, especially when playing sports, swimming, or wearing form-fitting clothes.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long can you keep a tampon in?

    Tampons should be changed every four to eight hours. They should never be left in for more than eight hours. Leaving one in for too long can create a breeding ground for bacteria that can cause infection. It also increases the risk of developing toxic shock syndrome, a rare complication of an infection.

  • Can you pee with a tampon in?

    Yes, you can pee with a tampon in. A tampon goes into the vagina, and urine is released through a smaller hole near the top of the vagina known as the urethra. A tampon does not block the flow of urine.

  • When were tampons invented?

    The first patent for a tampon with an applicator was granted to Chicago physician Earle Cleveland Haas in 1931. However, the idea of using wads of absorbent material in the vagina to absorb discharge or deliver medication dates back centuries.

  • Do tampons hurt?

    Tampons shouldn't hurt if they're inserted correctly. The key to comfortable, secure protection during your period is the proper insertion of the tampon. Don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time. It might take a few tries before you get a comfortable fit.

  • Can you go swimming with a tampon?

    Yes. However, it's important to change your tampon right after you swim even if it wasn't in for very long. Usually, your tampon will absorb some water and that will make it less effective in absorbing your menstrual flow and could even introduce bacteria into the vagina.

  • Why does it hurt to remove a tampon?

    It shouldn't hurt to remove a tampon. It helps if you take a deep breath and relax your pelvic muscles before pulling on the string. A tampon that hasn't absorbed a lot of blood—either because it hasn't been in long or your period is very light—will be less comfortable to remove. If your periods are light, consider using a lower absorbency.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The facts on tampons—and how to use them safely.

  2. Williams CE, Nakhal RS, Hall-Craggs MA, et al. Transverse vaginal septae: Management and long-term outcomes. BJOG. 2014;121(13):1653-8. doi:10.1111/1471-0528.12899

  3. Haas EC, inventor; Catamenial device. U.S. Patent No. 1,926,900A.

Additional Reading

By Tracee Cornforth
Tracee Cornforth is a freelance writer who covers menstruation, menstrual disorders, and other women's health issues.