Tampon Questions and Tips for New Users

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

The tampon is one of the most convenient menstrual products. If you are just getting used to having a period, the thought of inserting a tampon into your vagina may be very intimidating. But tampons are a very popular way to manage your menstrual flow. You just need to understand how they work and get comfortable with the idea of using them.

Woman holding a tampon
Science Photo Library / Getty Images

The convenience of tampons has been recognized for centuries. In fact, it is thought that the ancient Egyptians were the first to use tampons to manage their menstrual flow. Historical records suggest that these original tampons were made out of softened papyrus plant.

Tampons soak up menstrual blood internally before it leaves your vagina. Modern-day tampons are made out of cotton, rayon, or a combination of these materials. There are several different brands and they come in different sizes.

Five Common Tampon Questions

Here are five common questions about tampons. Hopefully, the answers will help you with your decision to use this convenient feminine hygiene product during your period.

Are Tampons Uncomfortable to Use?

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.

When you are trying to insert the tampon just 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 insertion a little easier.

That being said, a very small number will continue to struggle with tampon insertion. If you are unable to use a tampon because insertion is painful or continues to be very difficult you should discuss this with your doctor. It is possible that you have a minor structural anomaly of your vagina called a vaginal septum.

What About the Applicator?

Most tampons come with applicators that help make it easier to insert them into your vagina. Tampon applicators may be made of cardboard or plastic. Always make sure to remove the tampon applicator from your vagina after inserting your tampon.

Can a Tampon Get Lost in Your Vagina?

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.

Don’t worry, tampons cannot get lost in the vagina or slip through the cervix and into the uterus. The small cervical opening allows menstrual blood to pass through into the vagina but is not large enough to allow a tampon to enter the uterus. Also, your vagina is a blind pouch and it does not connect to the inside of your body.

If you can't find the string to easily pull your tampon out don't panic! When you put a tampon in your vagina it is in your vagina until you take it out.

Can You Go Swimming With a Tampon?

If you enjoy swimming, you can continue to enjoy the activity even during menstruation by wearing tampons. Be sure 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.

Are Tampons Dangerous to Use?

If you decide to use tampons during your period, the most important thing you need to remember is to use the proper absorbency tampon. That means using a tampon with the lowest level of absorbency for your flow. All tampons manufactured in the U.S. use standard absorbency guidelines.

Most people can use tampons throughout their reproductive years without any problems. However, failure to change tampons often enough or using tampons with a higher than required absorbency label can put you at risk of developing toxic shock syndrome or TSS—a rare and dangerous disease.

You need to change your tampon on average every 4 to 8 hours depending on your flow. Select an absorbancy that manages your flow for that amount of time. For safety, change your tampon every 6 to 8 hours, even if it isn't showing any leaks.

How to Insert a Tampon

A properly inserted tampon should not cause any discomfort. Make sure to follow the instructions for tampon insertion that come in each package of tampons. Here's how to comfortably use tampons:

  1. Relax. Try not to worry about inserting the tampon right the first time. If you are tense, it will 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.
  3. Decide if you prefer to insert the tampon standing or sitting. If sitting is your preference, sit on the toilet. If you want to try standing, you can put your foot on the edge of the bathtub to support yourself.
  4. Hold the tampon applicator in your right hand if you are right-handed or left if left-handed.
  5. Use your thumb and middle finger to hold the bottom of the larger, outer tube.
  6. Point the tip of the applicator toward your vagina, facing slightly towards the back. The smaller tube should be pointed away from your body.
  7. Use your other hand to open your vagina.
  8. Place the tip of the applicator at the opening of your vagina.
  9. Gently push the smaller end of the applicator in until it is completely inside the larger outer tube. This pushes the tampon into your vagina and out of the tube.
  10. With your thumb and middle finger still on the outer tube, release the smaller tube and let the strings dangle freely.
  11. Gently pull the two tubes out together.
  12. Dispose of the applicator according to the manufacturer's instructions.

When you are ready to remove the tampon, gently pull the string down and forward. The used tampon should be disposed of as per the manufacturer's instructions.

Tips and Tricks for Using a Tampon

If you are having trouble getting the tampon in, try lubricating the rounded end of the tampon with a water-based lubricant such as KY Jelly. Don't use petroleum jelly.

Always read the manufacturer's instructions before using any type of tampon. For your first few times, you may also want to try getting tampons with a plastic applicator as opposed to a cardboard applicator. These can be easier to insert. You should avoid non-applicator tampons until you are comfortable.

If the tampon feels uncomfortable it is probably not inserted far enough into your vagina. 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 don't like using tampons, you can also use sanitary pads, reusable cloth pads, a menstrual cup, or specialized underwear meant to absorb your flow.

If inserting a tampon causes pain or leaving it in causes pain, speak to your doctor. Some women with dyspareunia (painful sex) may find it difficult to insert a tampon comfortably.

A Word From Verywell

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

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

Was this page helpful?
Article 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. 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

  2. Gossack-keenan KL, Kam AJ. Toxic Shock Syndrome: Still a Timely Diagnosis. Pediatr Emerg Care. 2017. doi:10.1097/PEC.0000000000001310

Additional Reading