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Tampon Sizes: Which One to Pick?

Choosing between tampon sizes can sometimes feel confusing, especially to adolescents when they begin to experience a monthly menstrual cycle.

Heavy flow tampons

Tampons come in sizes ranging from those appropriate for first-time tampon use to heavy-flow tampons for women who experience a higher flow of menstrual blood during their cycle. 

Tampons should be chosen based on how much menstrual fluid is passed during a short time frame, rather than choosing larger-capacity tampons and leaving them in longer. Tampons must be changed regularly to avoid infection.

Benefits of using tampons

Tampons have many benefits compared to other methods of catching menstrual flow; they’re more discreet than pads and cups and can be more hygienic to change as well, with most of the expelled blood soaked into the tampon. Tampons can be left in while urinating and only need to be handled when inserting and removing.

Using an applicator with a tampon is beneficial and hygienic as they prevent exposure to menstrual fluids. You can also use bathroom tissue to remove tampons, again preventing hands from directly touching any expelled blood.

Tampons are smaller than most other menstrual products, which makes storing them nearby for use very convenient. Tampons also help avoid the uncomfortable feeling of menstrual fluids that have not yet been absorbed by a pad.

Using tampons can also enable you to participate in activities like swimming that would not be possible wearing a pad. Most women cannot feel a tampon once it's been inserted, which is another benefit of choosing that product versus a pad or cup.

Several tampon brands also offer scented tampons that reduce odors that may be present during the menstrual period. Other beneficial tampon options include organic or environmentally friendly materials and design. While experimenting with the benefits and use of tampons, you should consider multiple options to ensure you’ve chosen the best product to rely on every month.

Different size tampons

Tampons are not a one-size-fits-all product — several different tampon sizes are available to choose from. Adolescents and women who are new to tampon use should start with the smallest tampons for beginners. If that size tampon is not able to capture 100 percent of the menstrual flow, increasingly larger tampon sizes can be tried to find the right fit.

To avoid infection or toxic shock syndrome, choose the smallest possible tampon that absorbs your flow for about four to six hours.

Different size tampons

Tampon sizes indicate the amount of menstrual flow they can absorb. Common tampon sizes include junior or slim, regular, super, super plus, and ultra. A larger-capacity tampon should be chosen if the current size must be changed within a couple of hours. Tampon insertion should never hurt. If it does, it can indicate that you're using too large a size of tampons.

Some women choose to wear several different tampon sizes to match the course of their menstrual cycle. In the beginning and end of the cycle, a lower level of flow may be present and adequately managed with smaller tampons.

During the middle days of your period, you may need to use larger-capacity tampons to match higher flow. Some women experience differences in their menstrual flow every month, making it important to keep several sizes on hand to prevent leakage.

Best tampons for first-timers

Using a tampon for the first time can feel intimidating or uncomfortable, and you may be concerned about breaking the hymen. Although a tampon shouldn’t affect your hymen, you may have some discomfort during the first few cycles of using tampons.

Many tampon manufacturers provide slim or junior tampons, the smallest tampon sizes available for first-timers to experiment with as their body adjusts to using them.

When selecting tampons for the first time, choose those with a minimally sized insertion applicator. Plasticized applicators may be more comfortable for less experienced women than cardboard inserters. If you're new to tampon use, you can also select tampons that don't use an applicator and instead let you place and position tampon using only your fingers to achieve a comfortable insertion.

First-time tampon users can use slim pads or panty liners to capture leakage. This backup allows you to get used to your unique menstrual flow and choose the right-sized tampon or tampons best suited to your needs. Active women may also want to consider sport tampons, which are designed to flex naturally during increased exercise. This flexibility ensures an inserted tampon fits well within the vagina and shifts during movement to prevent leaks.

Less experienced tampon users should take care to insert tampons only as deep as the applicator allows to prevent the tampon from becoming stuck when inserted too far. The string from a tampon should hang freely and make it easier to remove the tampon when it’s time to change.

Woman preparing to use a tampon

Heavy flow tampons

Some women experience a high level of flow during their period. Using a tampon with too low an absorbency may require you to change the tampon too frequently and possibly cause underwear staining due to leakage.

The largest-sized tampons should only be used sparingly when the flow is heaviest. You can purchase tampon multi-packs that include several tampon sizes to manage varied flow levels throughout their period.

Some breakthrough leakage is possible if tampons are left in longer than six hours. However, if even the largest-size tampon is unable to contain menstrual flow for more than a few hours, you should consult a trusted health care practitioner to ensure a medical issue isn’t causing an extremely high flow of blood.

Choosing the right tampon size requires some experimentation. Once you've chosen the right level of absorbency, type of applicator, materials, and even scent, you can work on insertion and removal techniques that are most comfortable.

Once you've determined the best tampon size to avoid leakage or pain, you can then become accustomed to the feel of the tampon, when it’s ready to be changed, and when a different size might be necessary.




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