If you’ve never tried putting in a tampon before, you’re not alone. According to Euromonitor, pads are the more popular period product among American women. The company found that in 2014, women between 12 and 54 years old bought an average of 111 pads each year, compared to 66 tampons. These numbers have been similar since 2000 and are projected to remain about the same through 2019.
Step 1: choosing the right size
Not all tampons are created equal. With time, you’ll find the brand that works best for you. One thing all tampon brands have in common is that they provide different levels of absorbency. Each manufacturer may have slightly different names for their sizes, but generally tampons are grouped together as:
- Junior or slim, for very light days
- Regular, for normal flow
- Super, for heavy days
- Super plus/ultra, for very heavy flow
Each size indicates the amount of menstrual fluid it can absorb. If you’re changing your tampon every few hours, you should move up to the next size, if there is one. If you’re already using a tampon with the maximum absorbency, you may want to consider using a pad too.
Some tampons are sold in multipacks, with different sizes of tampons in each box. For example, some may come with eight slim tampons for the first few days when your period is light and multiple larger sizes for heavier flow.
It can be helpful to keep multiple tampon sizes on hand to help prevent leakage. It also helps if some of your periods are more unpredictable than others.
Step 2: getting ready to put a tampon in
The first thing to do is wash your hands to prevent dirt and germs from getting into or near your vagina.
Step 3: getting into a comfortable position
Next, get comfortable. That might mean putting one foot on the closed toilet seat, standing and spreading your legs with your knees slightly bent, or simply sitting on the toilet.
Before we get into technique, let’s talk about anatomy. Your tampon goes in your vaginal opening, located somewhere between your urethra, where pee comes out, and your anus. Using a mirror can be helpful to find exactly where the tampon goes. The vaginal opening usually looks more like an oval-shaped slit rather than a round hole.
Step 4: inserting a tampon
Tampons with applicators
Most tampons come with applicators made of cardboard or plastic. These applicators surround the cotton tampon and make it easier to insert it into your vagina.
Open the tampon wrapper and take a look at the tampon. You may be able to see the white cotton end of the tampon poking through one end of the applicator. At the other end, there should be a string, and the plastic or cardboard applicator surrounds the tampon itself. The applicator usually consists of two tubes, one inside the other.
Take the tampon in one hand and gently insert it into your vaginal opening (string side down) until you reach the small indentation on the applicator’s side, about halfway up. While holding onto the indentation with two fingers, push the applicator’s inner tube towards you with your index finger. As you do this, the tampon will slide out from the applicator and inside your body. Push gently and slowly until it stops, and then pull the applicator out. You can now throw the applicator away.
You should be able to see the string hanging down from your vagina. This is there to help you take the tampon out later. Inserting a tampon should never hurt. If it does, it may mean you’re using one that’s too absorbent or it’s not inserted far enough. If part of the tampon is sticking out, push it in a bit farther.
Some tampons are sold without applicators, but they may be more difficult to insert. Unwrap the tampon from the plastic.
Grab the string and pull it tight from left to right and top to bottom, which widens the base of the tampon and provides protection for your finger. Put your index finger in the pocket you’ve made by moving the string around, and hold the tampon between your thumb and middle finger.
Push the tampon inside with your index finger, and then slide your finger out. The string should hang down outside your body.
You shouldn’t be able to feel the tampon at all. If you do feel it, push it a little bit farther in.
Finally, wash your hands. You’re done!
Step 5: removing a tampon
Tampons should be removed and changed every four to eight hours, depending on your flow. If your flow is heavy, you may be changing it every few hours. If you tend to sleep longer than eight hours, it’s better to use a pad instead.
To remove your tampon, gently pull on the string that hangs outside your body until the tampon comes out. Then wrap it up in several layers of toilet paper, dispose of it in the trash, and wash your hands. If you’re in a public place, many stalls will have small trash cans for pads and tampons. Don’t ever flush a tampon; they can clog septic systems and are not biodegradable.
Why it’s important to change your tampon often
Changing your tampon frequently can help prevent toxic shock syndrome (TSS). TSS is thought to be caused by the growth of streptococcus that can sometimes develop when tampons are left in too long.
Remember to change your tampon multiple times a day. If you’re leaking a bit, consider moving up to a higher-absorbency tampon for a few days to help manage the flow.
If your tampon is too absorbent, it can dry out your vagina, making it more likely to tear and increasing your risk of contracting TSS.
Now that you know how to insert a tampon, you’re ready to try it the next time your period rolls around.