By: Dr. Melisa Holmes, OB-GYN, & Founder, Girlology
If it’s your first time Tampaxing, we’re here to help! Putting in your first tampon can seem intimidating, but once you learn how to insert a tampon, you’ll find it’s not as weird or scary as you thought it would be.
First of all, remember that your vagina is stretchy enough for a baby to fit through, so a tampon is no big deal! Tampon sizes are based on the amount of fluid they absorb. Not sure what tampon size to start with? Most women use a Regular absorbency. If you want to start with the smallest size tampon until you figure it out, try the Light size. Tampon leaks in just a few hours? Go Up; Tampon uncomfortable to change? Go Down. You can compare tampons and their sizes based on your menstrual flow.
There’s no question it can feel “strange,” especially if this is your first time inserting a tampon The good news is that it doesn’t have to hurt because YOU are totally in control. If it’s hurting, there are things you can do to make it more comfortable. Keep reading!
Your vagina isn’t dirty, but clean hands are healthier for everyone! It’s always smart to wash your hands with soap and water before and after you insert a tampon.
Unwrap your tampon and make sure you know how it works! If you’ve never really looked at a tampon, it can look intimidating, but the tampon itself is INSIDE the applicator. The applicator makes it easy to get the tampon into your vagina. Some are plastic; some are cardboard; both can be used safely! The applicator has a larger, outer tube that holds the tampon, a “grip” area where you’ll hold it, and a smaller tube at the end with the string coming out. The smaller tube is actually a “plunger” that you use to push the tampon out when it’s time. Check out this diagram of a Tampax Pearl tampon to see each component.
If you’re using a Tampax Pocket Pearl tampon (which is in a smaller, compact package), you’ll have to pull the plunger out until it “clicks” to make it work. If you don’t hear the click, the plunger won’t work to release the tampon.
We know you know it’s “down there,” but so many people have never really looked closely to be sure. So, now’s your chance. Grab a mirror and take a look to make sure you’re familiar with your vaginal opening where the tampon will go.
Find a comfortable position that lets you relax and still reach your vagina. Most people will sit on the toilet or stand while slightly squatting to insert a tampon, but you can also try lying down or propping one foot on a step or other raised surface (ex. the edge of your tub). The most important thing is to take a deep breath and relax all those muscles “down there.” If you squeeze your butt or the muscles around the vagina, it will not be as easy to insert the tampon.
Hold the tampon at the grip (the smaller part right above the plunger) and place the tip of the tampon at your vaginal opening.
Once the tip is in place, aim the tampon toward your lower back, not straight up. Your vagina doesn’t go straight up into your body, it actually has a slight angle. Finding the angle that’s right for you can help make it feel more comfortable to insert, too.
Now you’re ready. Slowly insert the tampon applicator from the tip, all the way to the grip. When you’ve inserted it far enough, your fingers on the grip will probably be touching your vulva (the external opening of your vagina).
Once you’ve inserted tip to grip, it’s time to use your pointer finger or the other hand to push the plunger all the way and release the tampon.
After you’ve pushed the plunger in all the way, pull the applicator (both plastic pieces) out. The string will be the only thing left sticking out of your vagina.
You did it! Once you’ve inserted the tampon inside you, you’re done. Keep reading to learn how to remove the tampon.
If your tampon is uncomfortable and makes you feel like you need to waddle, it’s probably because it isn’t far enough inside your vagina. If that happens, just use your finger to push the tampon farther in, and that usually fixes it!
The most common reasons people can’t get a tampon in is that they are inserting it at the wrong angle, OR they get tense and squeeze all those muscles around the vaginal opening. But if you’ve adjusted the angle, and you feel pretty relaxed, and you STILL can’t get it in, you should see a gynecologist because it may be something that requires treatment. Usually it’s one of two things:
Your hymen may have a variation that makes it difficult to insert a tampon. The hymen is a thin and stretchy rim of tissue that surrounds the vaginal opening. Most hymens have a single opening in the middle that a tampon can easily pass through, but some have a very small opening or a septum (which is a band of tissue) that partially blocks the opening. If that’s the problem, all it takes is a very simple procedure that most gynecologists do in the office after they numb the area so you don’t feel it. It’s quick and easy.
The other reason some people can’t insert a tampon is because of a condition called VAGINISMUS, which is when the muscles around the vaginal opening squeeze so tight, they won’t let anything in the vagina. The contractions are INVOLUNTARY, meaning you don’t control them or even realize it. Most commonly, this condition develops after an injury or traumatic experience that may or may not involve the vagina. Vaginismus is not something you can control, but it IS something that can go away with treatment. Again, that would involve talking with your gynecologist who would probably have you work with a pelvic floor physical therapist - they can work wonders to treat vaginismus.
If you have trouble inserting a tampon or if you have persistent pain related to insertion, you should always get medical attention from a doctor you trust. Don’t suffer or be inconvenienced because it seems embarrassing. It’s not! Gynecologists deal with these things more than you would imagine.
Now that you have mastered how to insert a tampon, it's time to learn how to remove a tampon. When it's time to remove your tampon, first wash your hands. Next, get in a comfortable position, relax your body and use your hands to locate the tampon string. Next, you'll use your thumb and finger to grip the string and pull it slowly out of your vagina. We know it’s tempting, but please do not flush your tampon. Properly dispose of your tampon in the trash. After you have removed the tampon, remember to wash your hands.
That’s it! Now you know how to use a tampon