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How to Insert and Remove Tampons

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on January 05, 2023

Getting your period can be an overwhelming time as you begin to navigate this new experience for your body. On top of adjusting to this monthly visitor, you're also introduced to a new aisle in the store that will offer you various sanitary products to manage your bleeding. Among these products are tampons, which are inserted into the vagina to absorb the blood from your menstrual cycle and disposed of after use. Keep reading to learn more about how to insert a tampon, how to remove a tampon, and safety tips to consider when using tampons for your menstrual cycle.

What Are Tampons?

Tampons can have an intimidating look to them, especially when you learn that they're a menstrual product that's meant to be inserted directly into the vagina. However, you can find comfort in knowing that tampons aren't a new concept. 

Tampons have had their origins traced as far back as the 15th century B.C. when ancient women used soft papyrus tampons. Their convenience and oftentimes mess-free use have made them a consistently popular menstrual product through the years.

Today, tampons are regulated by the FDA as medical devices. They're made of cotton, rayon, or a blend of the two. 

You can often find tampons inside a cylindrical applicator that helps make the insertion easier. But you don't have to use a tampon applicator if you don't wish to. Once inserted into the vagina, the tampon will open and expand, absorbing your menstrual blood before it's able to leave the vagina.

How to Choose the Right Tampon

The number of choices for menstrual products, including the many brands to pick from, might intimidate you. Tampons also come in different sizes to choose from. This menstrual product often comes in different sizes: light, super, and ultra — which also tells you how absorbent the tampon is. You may be tempted to choose the highest tampon size to avoid any possible leakage. But keep in mind that the FDA recommends you choose the lowest absorbency necessary for your period. 

If this is your first period, you may not be familiar with your flow. In this case, you can use pads until you know how light or heavy your bleeding will be during your cycle. Another option you have is testing out a tampon size and adjusting as needed. As a general rule, if your tampon can last 8 hours without needing to be changed, the absorbency may be too high for your specific flow.

How to Insert a Tampon

Inserting a tampon should be pain-free and comfortable when done correctly. Follow these steps to inserting a tampon correctly when using an applicator:

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly before application to avoid any bacteria transfer.
  2. Remove the tampon from its packaging.
  3. Tug on the string to ensure that it is secure.
  4. Sit on the toilet with your knees spread apart. If you prefer standing, be sure to place one leg higher than the other. Placing a foot on the toilet or on the edge of your bathtub is a good option.
  5. Holding the grips of the applicator with your thumb and middle finger, place the tip of the applicator into your vagina at a 45-degree angle. Continue to push the tip of the applicator into your vagina until the fingers holding the applicator reach your vagina. 
  6. Using your index finger, push the plunger all the way in until it is fully inside the barrel of the applicator. 
  7. Keeping your grip on the applicator, pull the applicator away from your vagina. You should then be left with a string that will be used for removal.

For a tampon that does not use an applicator, you will follow similar steps. However, instead of inserting an applicator first, you will use your thumb and middle finger to guide the tip of the tampon into your vagina and use your index finger to push it through. 

If after inserting your tampon you notice discomfort or pain, you should gently remove the tampon and try again at the proper angle. If you notice continued pain or discomfort with inserting tampons, you should speak with your doctor.

How to Remove a Tampon

Change your tampon every 4 to 8 hours depending on your flow. When it's time to change your tampon, simply pull the string that was left hanging after inserting your tampon. Tampon removal should not be painful or difficult. To make sure that this process is smooth and comfortable, you should repeat the comfortable position you chose for insertion and relax your pelvic muscles while pulling on the string. After removing the tampon, you should dispose of it properly and wash your hands.

Tampon Safety Tips

Tampons are considered to be safe menstrual products because they are regulated by the FDA. However, there are safety tips and protocols to follow to ensure that you are lowering your risk of infection. Some of the safety tips to consider if you decide to use tampons throughout your cycle include:

  • Follow labeled instructions on your tampon package, as tampon brands may create their products slightly different than others and provide varying recommendations for use.
  • Wash your hands before and after tampon use.
  • Change your tampon every 4-8 hours, even when sleeping.
  • Know the signs of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) and notify your healthcare provider if you begin noticing any symptoms.
  • Only use tampons during your period.
  • Do not insert multiple tampons at the same time

If you notice any pain, discomfort, or changes in your vaginal health while using tampons, you should contact your healthcare provider.

Show Sources

SOURCES:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Menstrual Hygiene."
Cleveland Clinic: "All of Your Tampon Questions Answered."
FDA: The Facts on Tampons—and How to Use Them Safely."
VeryWell Health: "How to Insert a Tampon."

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