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What is a tampon?

A tampon is a feminine hygiene product that has been designed to be used during your period as a method of protection. The tampon is inserted into your vagina using an applicator or your fingers. The tampon is made from absorbent material, sometimes these are organic, which soaks up your menstrual blood while it is inside your vagina. Popular brands of tampons include Tampax and Lil-lets, however many stores do own brand versions of these sanitary products.

How do you use a tampon?

Tampons unlike sanitary pads are designed to go inside the vagina; they create a sort of plug which stops your menstrual blood travelling down the vagina and outside of your body. Many women who go swimming use tampons for this very reason.

To put a tampon inside your vagina you can use an applicator, which is included in applicator tampons or you can use your fingers – whichever way works best for you. The first time you use a tampon it might be difficult for you to insert it into your vagina, make sure that you have found a comfortable position and feel relaxed. Feeling stressed or tense can cause the muscles in your vagina to tense up and can make inserting a tampon harder.

How to insert a tampon

Whether you are putting a tampon in or removing one it’s important that you wash your hands and properly dry them. If when removing the tampon from the packet and you drop it on the floor throw it away and use a new one, using a dirty tampon can lead to infection.

  1. Get into a comfortable position – many women find placing a leg on the toilet seat or squatting to be comfortable and allows them to easily insert a tampon.
  2. Hold the end of the tampon between your fingers at the spot where the tampon dents in. The string should be visible and pointing away from the body.
  3. With the other hand, hold open the labia (the skin around the opening of your vagina) and position the tampon into the opening.
  4. Now you can insert the tampon into the opening of your vagina using a slight upward angle so that the tampon is facing towards the small of your back.
  5. When the tampon is inside your vagina you can use your index finger to push the tampon in.
  6. Make sure that the string is hanging outside of your vagina, so later you are able to remove the tampon by pulling the string.

If you’re using a tampon with an applicator insertion will be easier as the applicator pushes the tampon into your vagina - the tampon’s packaging will direct you on how to use it. If you have inserted a tampon correctly you won’t be able to feel it inside of you. If the tampon feels uncomfortable at all then you haven’t inserted it correctly, remove the tampon and try again with a new one. Practise makes perfect when inserting tampons and it could take you a few goes until you are happy and confident.

How long can you leave a tampon in?

You should only use a tampon for a maximum of eight hours, and change your tampon every four hours if not earlier than this. Depending on your menstrual flow you might find that you change your tampon every four hours anyway and so the only time you will leave it in for longer is when you sleep. After eight hours you are more likely to develop an irritation or infection from the tampon such as toxic shock syndrome - a rare yet life-threatening bacterial infection.

Can you sleep with a tampon in?

Yes tampons can be used during the day and night. They’ll stay in place while you move around and will protect you from leaks. However if you will be asleep for more than eight hours you should consider using another method of protection such as sanitary pads or a menstrual cup. If you do use a tampon while you sleep remember to remove it as soon as you wake up and replace it with a new one.

Can you pee with a tampon in?

Yes, and urinating with a tampon inserted will not do any harm to you or stop the tampon from working. It may get the string of your tampon wet but you can reposition this when you wee. The tampon sits within your vagina whereas urine sits in the bladder, the two are not connected and a tampon will not prevent your bladder from working or make it painful to urinate.

Can you flush tampons down the toilet?

Absolutely not - the materials in tampons won’t break down in water waste systems. Instead tampons should be disposed of in the bin or sanitary disposal unit.

Can tampons get stuck?

Tampons will not get lost inside of you and they will stay in your vagina after you have inserted it. However tampons can get stuck at the top of your vagina, which can make them difficult to remove. The best way to avoid this is to change your tampon regularly and not forget that you have put a tampon inside of you. If you cannot remove the tampon by pulling the string and you can’t get it out you can visit your nearest sexual health clinic or GP surgery. They will be able to remove the tampon for you.