How to know when you’re ready to start using a tampon

Last Updated: May 29, 2021 References Approved

This article was co-authored by Rebecca Levy-Gantt, MPT, DO. Dr. Rebecca Levy-Gantt is a board certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist running a private practice based in Napa, California. Dr. Levy-Gantt specializes in menopause, peri-menopause and hormonal management, including bio-Identical and compounded hormone treatments and alternative treatments. She is also a Nationally Certified Menopause Practitioner and is on the national listing of physicians who specialize in menopausal management. She received a Masters of Physical Therapy from Boston University and a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) from the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine.

There are 12 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article has 48 testimonials from our readers, earning it our reader-approved status.

This article has been viewed 5,285,143 times.

Using a tampon for the first time can be confusing, especially if it is your first time dealing with a period, but don’t worry. It’s simple once you get the hang of it.

There are a lot of urban legends about using tampons, and you might have already heard some bad information on how to use them. Knowing the facts can dispel your fears and clear up any misunderstandings.

How to know when you're ready to start using a tampon

Rebecca Levy-Gantt, MPT, DO
Board Certified Obstetrician & Gynecologist Expert Interview. 3 April 2020. The cervix, at the end of the vagina, only has a tiny opening to allow blood through. You can always pull it out by the string, or reach in and grab it with your fingers if the string breaks.

  • Don’t forget to remove all tampons by the end of your period, though!

Last Updated: October 13, 2020 References

This article was co-authored by Rebecca Levy-Gantt, MPT, DO. Dr. Rebecca Levy-Gantt is a board certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist running a private practice based in Napa, California. Dr. Levy-Gantt specializes in menopause, peri-menopause and hormonal management, including bio-Identical and compounded hormone treatments and alternative treatments. She is also a Nationally Certified Menopause Practitioner and is on the national listing of physicians who specialize in menopausal management. She received a Masters of Physical Therapy from Boston University and a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) from the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine.

There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

This article has been viewed 160,377 times.

Are you scared about using your first tampon? Many women have felt the same way that you do, but there are steps that you can take to make your first time easier. Start by learning more about your body and tampons in general. Reach out to female friends and family members for advice. Stay relaxed when you attempt to use the tampon and take as much time as you need.

How to know when you're ready to start using a tampon

Rebecca Levy-Gantt, MPT, DO
Board Certified Obstetrician & Gynecologist Expert Interview. 3 April 2020.

  • Sanitary pads are worn within your underwear and catch the blood flow. They come in a variety of sizes from slim liners, designed for short term use, to overnight styles. Many women find pads to be bulky and cumbersome; however, they are easy to use and a safe option if you are concerned about forgetting to switch out tampons regularly.
  • A menstrual cup is a flexible, small rubber cup that fits inside your vaginal canal. You insert it by hand and it then collects the blood. You have to remove it at intervals in order to rinse out the collected blood before repeating the process. Women who are worried about a tampon’s materials may be more comfortable with this option. However, you do have to learn how to properly remove and insert the cup.

How to know when you're ready to start using a tampon

How to know when you're ready to start using a tampon

How to know when you're ready to start using a tampon

How to know when you're ready to start using a tampon

How to know when you're ready to start using a tampon

Rebecca Levy-Gantt, MPT, DO
Board Certified Obstetrician & Gynecologist Expert Interview. 3 April 2020.

  • For example, you might say, “I’m about to try using a tampon for the first time. Do you have a particular brand that you’d suggest I buy?” Or, “Do you have anything that you suggest I should do to make the first time easier?”

How to know when you're ready to start using a tampon

Rebecca Levy-Gantt, MPT, DO
Board Certified Obstetrician & Gynecologist Expert Interview. 3 April 2020.

  • You might say, “I’m thinking about starting to use tampons. What are some of the possible risks? What are the benefits of tampons versus pads?”
  • This is a good time to consider whether or not you trust and are comfortable talking with your main doctor. If not, you may want to talk to your parents about switching to another one.

This week on the blog, we’re talking about tampons. When I got my first period, I strictly used pads because the thought of inserting something into my body seemed scary and nearly impossible. When it’s your first time using a tampon, it’s not the easiest thing on the planet. However, once I learned how, it became super easy for me to insert and I realized I like tampons significantly more than pads.

I find tampons easier for a few reasons: they’re easier for me to wear with a thong, they make swimming on my period stress-free, and overall they feel more discreet than pads. However, this is a personal preference – if you don’t want to try tampons, no problem! If you try tampons and still prefer pads, there’s no problem with that either. There’s no ‘right’ answer when it comes to tampons vs. pads – both are perfectly safe.

It’s always good to have options. If you’ve been wanting to use a tampon, but are too scared to try or don’t know where to start, we’re here to help! Here are the instructions to follow when inserting a tampon.

1. Get comfortable

So how do you put in a tampon correctly? Before we get into it, let’s do a quick anatomy review.

Your urethra is where pee comes out. This hole is not where your tampon will be inserted, because this isn’t where your period blood comes from. This opening is too small to fit a tampon, so you don’t need to worry about inserting a tampon in the wrong spot by accident.

Next up, we have the anus. This is the opening where your poop comes out, in your butt. A tampon could fit in this hole, but should never be inserted there (important for first-time users). A tampon is inserted into your vaginal opening, which falls somewhere in the middle of your urethra and your anus. I recommend taking a mirror and having a look down there to find where the opening is.

Alternatively, you could use your finger or a tampon to feel around for where the hole is. This sounds gross and unpleasant but it’s not, it’s important to know your body! Knowing where your vaginal opening is will make it much easier to know where to put a tampon.

How to know when you're ready to start using a tampon

2. Wash your hands

Your hands are getting very up close and personal with a very sensitive part of your body. Do you want dirt and whatever other bacteria has accumulated on your hands to end up in your vagina? NO! Give your hands a good scrub and you’ll be ready to get to business.

3. Insert the tampon

Read the instructions that come with your box of tampons. Not all tampons are exactly the same, so it’s important to know how to use the applicator if you’re a beginner. There are different tampon sizes: regular, super, super plus. Each size holds a different amount of blood, with super plus holding the most.

If you have a heavy flow or plan on leaving your tampon in for a longer amount of time, you may want to use super or super plus sizes. However, I recommend starting with a regular tampon until you’re comfortable inserting it. It’s the most slender and will be the easiest to insert into your body. It’s the best option if you’re just learning!

Next, get into a comfortable position. Some people sit on the toilet with their knees apart, some squat down and some prop one leg on their toilet seat or bathtub. Try out different positions and see what feels most comfortable for you. Next, place the end of the tampon applicator into your vaginal opening. You may need to use one hand to pull apart the lips of your vagina – the labia. But, if you followed step #1, you already know where your vaginal opening is.

Slide the outer tube of the tampon into your vagina until your fingers touch your body. The grip and the inner tube should still be outside the body. Refer to the image below if you’re not sure what the outer tube, grip and inner tube of the applicator is. You want the string to be facing away from your body, not towards you – the tampon and applicator should be held at a 45 degree angle.

Once you feel the tampon is comfortably positioned, hold the grip and push the tampon inside your body using the inner tube of the applicator. Once you’ve pushed the inner tube in the whole way, you can pull away the plastic part and voila! Tampon inserted.

How to know when you're ready to start using a tampon

4. Make sure you don’t feel any discomfort

Do tampons hurt? If the tampon isn’t inserted far enough into your vagina, you might feel a little discomfort, especially when you sit. But when a tampon is properly inserted, you shouldn’t notice it at all. If you’re finding it feels uncomfortable, you may need to insert the outer tube of the applicator further into your vagina before pushing in the tampon. However, always make sure the tampon string is always outside your body, as this is what allows you to remove the tampon. You can also wear a pair of leakproof teen period underwear with your tampon as some extra backup protection, just in case!

5. Changing your tampon

Next: tampon removal. You should aim to change your tampon every 4-8 hours. I personally change my tampon every time I pee, however you can pee with a tampon in – this comes down to personal preference.

When you’re ready to remove your tampon, get into the same position you found comfortable when inserting the tampon. Relax your muscles – removing the tampon will not hurt, so don’t be scared! Pull on the string of your tampon to remove it, and toss it in the garbage. They should not be flushed down the toilet as it’s bad for your plumbing and the environment.

Keep in mind, you might not get this right on your first try. We were all beginners once. For some it works on the first try, but for others it can take some trial and error. It took me a few months before I really got comfortable using tampons. If you’re having trouble, talk to a parent or trusted adult and ask them for help. There’s no shame in needing a little assistance when you first start using tampons!

If you’re worried about your tampon leaking or want to explore tampon alternatives, our Period Underwear is the perfect back-up protection against any unexpected leaks.

Disclaimer: The blog writers at KT are not medical professionals, and give this advice based on their own research and experience. If you have further questions or concerns, speak to a trusted medical professional.

How to know when you're ready to start using a tampon

Although tampon use is extremely common, (and in my opinion, incredibly convenient) it seems as though my generation of young women are re-thinking tampon usage — and with the slough of inexpensive and environmentally-friendly menstrual hygiene options available these days, it makes sense. Additionally, the more I learn about the health risks associated with using tampons incorrectly, as well as how tampon usage affects our environment, the more I think I should probably switch to a different kind of sanitary hygiene product, too. That said, I, like many American women, have been using a mixture of tampons and panty liners for most of my menstruating years thus far, and I’m just not quite ready to change up my menstrual routine.

If you feel the same attachment to tampon usage that I do, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. But since incorrect usage of tampons has its risks, there are some things every woman should know about using tampons.

Whether you’ve never used a tampon but want to start, or you’ve been using tampons for years without knowing much about them, you really should know as much as possible about what you’re putting into your vagina. Here are eight things every woman should know about using tampons.

1. Always Use The Lowest Absorbency Possible

Although higher absorbency tampons may seem more convenient, (especially if you have heavy periods) it’s imperative that women change their tampons frequently, since it helps prevent us from developing Toxic Shock Syndrome. Unfortunately, if you’re wearing a high absorbency tampon, you’re probably not going to remember to do that. So go ahead and forget that “supers” exist. Hell, forget “regulars” exist, too, and go for the lightest possible absorbency you can find so you don’t end up leaving your tampon in for too long.

2. Change Your Tampon Every 4-8 Hours

As your tampon box should tell you, you never want to wear a tampon for more than eight hours, (it increases your risk for infection and TSS) — but also keep in mind that changing your tampon more often than every four hours can result in some serious vaginal discomfort, too. This is another reason why it’s important to use the lowest absorbency possible; periods are painful enough without having to pull a dry, cotton cylinder out of your pussy.

3. Don’t Leave A Tampon In If You Plan To Sleep Over 8 Hours

Like I said above, according to the directions on every tampon box I’ve ever seen, you can wear a tampon for up to eight hours. So, you can leave a tampon in while you sleep — if you don’t sleep over eight hours. Make sure you insert your tampon right before bed and take it out as soon as you wake up, though. (No hitting snooze a dozen times before you hit the bathroom.)

If you’re planning on sleeping over eight hours, then you’re either going to need to change your tampon in the middle of the night (I usually do this, because I hate pads that much) or just play it safe and wear a friggin’ pad.

4. Always Wash Your Hands Before Inserting Or Removing Tampons

You probably don’t need me to tell you that it’s important to wash your hands frequently, but when it comes to tampon usage, you really have to be diligent about your hand hygiene. Clean hands lower your risk of developing TSS — so even if you’ve just been hanging out on your couch watching Netflix for hours, and you think your hands are clean, you still need to wash them before removing or inserting a tampon.

5. Never Use A Tampon Just For Discharge

Tampons will not work properly without adequate moisture, so you should only ever use them when you’re menstruating, and more particularly when you’re menstruating on the heavier side. Tampons should never be used to absorb vaginal excretions, and they really shouldn’t be used on the days of your period that are light enough for panty liners to be effective, either. If you’re having an excessive amount of vaginal discharge, make an appointment to talk to your gynecologist about it, but if you’re just dealing with the annoying (but totally normal) amount of excretions that come with having a vagina, I recommend you try a super thin panty liner.

6. Avoid Tampons A Few Months After Giving Birth

I’ve never given birth, but I’m assuming the last thing you would want to do after pushing a little human out of your vagina is stick something up there. Vaginal pain and soreness can last for months after delivery, and on top of that, your body’s immune system is weaker right after giving birth — so using tampons for the first couple of periods following your delivery is not recommended.

7. If A Tampon Gets Lost In Your Body, Go To The OBGYN Immediately

Tampons can get lost in your abdomen, but that will generally only happen if you forget to remove your tampon at the end of your period, end up having sex with the tampon still inside of you, or accidentally put a new tampon in without taking the old one out first.

Fortunately, if a tampon gets lost inside of you, your gynecologist can remove it. Unfortunately, you could develop TSS before you even realize there’s a tampon lost inside of you, (this is yet another reason why you should change out your tampons frequently) so always double check that you’ve taken out your last tampon before you insert another one, and definitely before you have period (or post-period) sex. Set an alarm on your phone for every four to eight hours if you need to. It will probably be super annoying, but it’s better than losing a tampon inside of your body, right?

8. Avoid Irritation By Using Organic, Unscented Tampons

Unfortunately, the FDA doesn’t do the greatest job of regulating what goes in the tampons we use, so there’s no way to know for sure that the cotton we’re putting inside of our vaginas aren’t full of harsh chemicals, bleach, and pesticides. Additionally, since our vaginas are so absorbent, scented tampons can cause real discomfort and pH imbalance. If you can’t use scented body wash on your vagina without suffering from some serious irritation, then you should avoid using scented tampons, too.

In fact, if you can, consider switching to organic tampons. It may cost you a little bit more to go organic, but it’s definitely worth it if you’re particularly sensitive down there. (Or just don’t want pesticides in your pussy.) Plus, as Huffington Post reported back in May, the average menstruating woman will use and discard over 9,000 tampons in her lifetime, so going organic would be much kinder to both your vagina and our environment.

How to know when you're ready to start using a tampon

That’s the feeling of your period leaking! It’s always a great idea to wear a panty liner with your tampon just in case to catch leaks.

If you have a very heavy flow and only have a regular tampon, then you may want to wear a heavy absorbency panty liner or even a pad instead. Leaks are usually heavier when you have a heavy flow. Wearing a tampon is if you think you will be in a situation where you will not get the opportunity to change your tampon such as a long hike, a long exam, or meeting.

Every time you use the toilet, give your tampon string a light tug. If the tampon seems to move or slide out easily then that means the tampon is fully saturated and ready to be changed!

Usually this is a sign that you’ve just caught your tampon before it leaks! Give the string a tug and you should find that it’s ready to be changed :).

Sometimes you may find that the tampon isn’t ready to be changed or that the tampon isn’t fully saturated yet. Your tampon may look like it’s only absorbed period on one side and then started to leak out. If this is the case, it’s ready to be changed anyways since it’s already leaking.

Maybe you’ve decided to wear your super hot white pants on a heavy flow and really don’t want to risk a leak ;). Whatever the case may be, just check your tampon every hour or every chance you get to use the bathroom.

Using tampons puts you at risk of contracting Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). The following is a list of TSS symptoms but only one or two symptoms may occur:

  • Sudden fever (usually 102°F or more)
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Red rash that looks like sunburn on any part of your body
  • Dizziness or feeling faint when standing upUsing tampons puts you at risk of contracting Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). These are TSS symptoms but only one or two symptoms may occur.

We’ve all been there.

How to know when you're ready to start using a tampon

If you’ve been wanting to use a tampon and didn’t know where to begin, or if you’ve attempted (and failed) at inserting one, you’ve come to the right place. Having trouble using a tampon is totally normal, whether it’s your first or hundredth time using one.

Seventeen chatted with Alex Friedman, co-founder of LOLA, a subscription service that offers organic tampons, pads, and other body products, about her tips for using tampons as a beginner.

Make sure you’re comfortable

“The best time to try a tampon is when you feel ready,” says Friedman. That could mean whenever you feel informed, and you more or less know what you’re doing and what to expect. If you’re not totally comfortable using a tampon yet, that’s OK, too. That’s no one’s business but yours!

Know your options

As Friedman says, not all tampons are created equal. Tampons come in different types and sizes — applicator or non-applicator, plastic or cardboard applicator, varying absorbency levels. the list goes on. There is no better or worse kind to use, so it’s important to figure out what you’re most comfortable with. For example, while some people might prefer an applicator to insert a tampon more easily, others might want to use their hands with a non-applicator.

How to know when you're ready to start using a tampon

By: Dr. Melisa Holmes, OB-GYN, & Founder, Girlology

Can a Tampon Get Lost in My Body?

This is one of the most common questions I hear from new tampon users! So let me just start with the good news: NOPE! A tampon CANNOT get lost in your body. Even though your vagina connects your outside parts with the “inside” of your body, there’s basically a dead end at the top of the vagina – it’s called your cervix, and there’s no way a tampon can go past that. The cervix is a barrier between the vagina and the uterus. Nothing can get above the cervix unless it’s liquid or microscopic in size!

What if my tampon is stuck?

If you have a lost or stuck tampon, it’s not really stuck, it’s just high in your vagina and it may be squished sideways, making it hard to reach. This is most common if you accidentally forgot to take out a tampon before inserting a new one, or if you had sex without remembering to remove your tampon first (it’s not a good idea to have sex with a tampon in!). There are still some things you can try that make it easier to find and get out. Keep reading!

How to Remove a Stuck Tampon

First, wash your hands, then squat down, put your finger in your vagina and sweep it around in a circle. You’ll probably be able to feel the tampon, but getting it out can still be difficult. If you can’t sweep it out, insert two fingers and try to grasp it. If you squat and bear down (like you’re pooping), it can help bring the tampon closer to the vaginal opening and make it easier to remove. If you still can’t get it out or you just don’t feel comfortable with that, remember that you should not wear a tampon more than 8 hours, so you’ll need to get help from your ob-gyn or family doctor as soon as possible.

What if the tampon string breaks?

This is such a common worry, but as much as we worry about it, I have rarely if ever seen a string break when a tampon is being used normally. If you look closely at a Tampax tampon, you’ll see that the string is sewn all the way up the tampon. It’s not just attached at the end. That makes it super hard for it to pull off or break. You can feel confident that the string will not break if you’re using a tampon normally.

How to Know If There’s a Tampon In Your Vagina?

If your string is hidden, it’s also possible that you totally forget that there’s still a tampon somewhere up in there. Don’t let the thought of that make you panic. Mother Nature has her way of providing other reminders – like odors. A long lost tampon will begin to make itself known through a strong (horrible) odor that is clearly not normal. If that starts to happen, it’s time to dig around, find it and pull it out or get to your doctor for some help right away. Don’t be embarrassed. In the medical profession, we call it a retained tampon, and we all have been there and removed that – more than you would imagine!

What if I can’t find my tampon?

That’s a more common scenario than a broken string. Sometimes, a tampon may seem “lost” because the string and the tampon get pushed higher into the vagina. When that happens, it’s simple to remove it, and you can probably do it yourself. To get it out, just wash your hands, squat down, put your finger in your vagina, and you’ll probably be able to feel it and pull it out. If you can’t feel it, can’t reach it, or just don’t feel comfortable with that, see your doctor as soon as you can. And don’t be embarrassed, we do things like that more than you’d imagine!

When to seek medical attention for a “lost” or stuck tampon?

A lost tampon is not usually an emergency, but it should be taken care of as quickly as possible. If you feel fine, but suspect a lost tampon and can’t remove it yourself, call your OB-GYN doctor’s office first. Often they will see you right away or they’ll direct you to an urgent care center. You’ll want to get it removed as soon as possible. However, if you suspect a retained tampon and you develop any of the signs or symptoms of TSS, you should go directly to the nearest emergency room and let them know you may have a stuck tampon and you’re worried about TSS.

Tampons cleared by the FDA are meant to be used one time and then thrown away. No tampon should be used more than once.

How to know when you're ready to start using a tampon

If you use tampons during your period (or menstruation), it’s important to know how to use them safely. Consider this important information from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—and please share this information with other people who may use these products.

What are tampons—and how are they used?

Tampons are one method of absorbing menstrual flow during your period. Tampons are designed to be inserted into the vagina with or without an applicator.

You may be surprised to learn that the FDA regulates tampons as medical devices. Tampons cleared by the FDA are meant to be used one time and then thrown away. No tampon should be used more than once.

What are tampons made out of?

FDA-cleared tampons are made of cotton, rayon, or a blend of the two. The absorbent fibers used in FDA-cleared tampons sold today are made with a bleaching process that is free from elemental chlorine, which also prevents products from having dangerous levels of dioxin (a type of pollutant found in the environment).

How does FDA evaluate the safety of tampons?

Before any tampons can be legally sold in the U.S., they must go through the FDA’s review to determine whether they are as safe and effective as (substantially equivalent to) legally marketed tampons.

As part of the FDA’s review, manufacturers submit data including the results of testing to evaluate the safety of the materials used to make tampons and applicators (if present); tampon absorbency, strength, and integrity; and whether tampons enhance the growth of certain harmful bacteria or change normal bacteria levels in the vagina.

Are reusable tampons safe?

Reusable tampons may carry additional risks of infections such as yeast, fungal, and bacterial infections.

While you may have heard about reusable tampons, the FDA has not cleared or approved these products. The FDA discourages the use of reusable tampons.

The only tampons cleared or approved by the FDA are designed for single-use.

What should you know about tampons and toxic shock syndrome (TSS)?

Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is rare and is caused by a toxic substance that is produced by certain kinds of bacteria. The toxic substance produced by the bacteria can cause organ damage (including kidney, heart, and liver failure), shock, and even death.

Rates of reported TSS cases associated with tampons have declined significantly over the years. One reason is that the FDA evaluates whether a tampon enhances the growth of the bacteria that causes TSS before the product can be legally marketed. Only tampons that have been cleared by the FDA can be legally marketed in the U.S. In addition, more informative tampon labeling, as well as educational efforts by the FDA and manufacturers, may have contributed to the reduction in TSS cases. For more information on TSS, see the tampon safety tips, below.

Tampon Safety Tips

You may want to talk with your health care provider about whether tampons are right for you. If you use tampons, consider the following:

  1. Follow all labeled directions. Even if you have used tampons before, read the instructions in the package.
  2. Wash your hands before and after using a tampon. This will help reduce the spread of bacteria.
  3. Only use tampons when you have your period. Tampons are not intended to be used at any other time or for any other reason.
  4. Change each tampon every 4 to 8 hours. Never wear a single tampon for more than 8 hours at a time.
  5. Use the lowest absorbency tampon needed. If you can wear one tampon up to eight hours without changing it, the absorbency may be too high.
  6. Contact your health care provider if you have pain, fever or other unusual symptoms. If you have discomfort, pain or other unexpected symptoms like unusual discharge when trying to insert or wear a tampon, or if you have an allergic reaction, stop using tampons and contact your provider.
  7. Know the signs of toxic shock syndrome (TSS) and how to reduce your risk. Symptoms and signs of TSS may include a sudden fever (usually 102°F or more), vomiting, diarrhea, fainting or feeling like you are going to faint when standing up, dizziness, or a rash that looks like a sunburn. If you have any of these symptoms during your period or soon after your period, stop using tampons and seek medical attention immediately. To reduce your risk of TSS, use the lowest absorbency tampon necessary, wear a tampon for no more than 8 hours and then throw it away, and use tampons only when you have your period.

If you have had discomfort or became ill as a result of using a tampon, consider reporting it to MedWatch, the FDA’s safety information and adverse event reporting program. Information reported to MedWatch helps the FDA to ensure tampons remain safe and effective.