A gynaecologist busts nine common myths about tampons

Teenage girl talking to a doctor

By Dr Melisa Holmes, OB-GYN & Founder of Girlology

As a gynaecologist, I love helping people understand their bodies and how they work. It’s important for people to educate themselves and take charge of their health. Sometimes, in an effort to research an illness or health concern, people find unreliable sources online, and they end up with information that’s not only wrong, but sometimes even dangerous. I’m glad you’ve come to the right place.

When it comes to tampons, I’ve probably heard it all! So here are nine common myths I’ve heard over and over, and the medically accurate facts to bust them.

Do you know the truth about tampons? Let’s find out.

MYTH: You shouldn’t sleep with a tampon in.

FACT: Your vagina has no idea if you’re awake or asleep, so it’s fine to sleep with a tampon in. Just follow the recommendations for safe use by only using a tampon for up to eight hours. That means you’re fine to put a new tampon in before you go to bed, then remove and replace it when you wake up. Learn more about how long you can leave a tampon in here.

MYTH: Tampons take away your virginity.

FACT: That’s not possible. A tampon is just a period protection product. It has nothing to do with virginity, which is about sex. This concern is mostly based on whether a tampon will affect the hymen, which is a thin, stretchy rim of tissue that surrounds the vaginal opening. A tampon is small enough to fit through most vaginal openings without affecting the hymen, but the hymen can change shape or “break” with age, weight, and even normal physical activities – not just sex. You can learn more in this guide Do tampons take your virginity?.

MYTH: Tampons can get lost inside you.

FACT: A tampon can get pushed higher up into your vagina, and the string can even get tucked up there, but it’s not lost. It’s still in there. That’s because your cervix is a barrier between your vagina and your uterus, so basically, your vagina is a dead-end.

MYTH: Tampons cause TSS.

FACT: Tampons don’t cause Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS); it’s caused by a strain of bacteria called staphylococcus aureus. TSS is very rare, but also very treatable, especially when it’s identified early. Learn more about Toxic Shock Syndrome and tampons here.

MYTH: You shouldn’t use a tampon on your first period.

FACT: There is no age requirement for using tampons. Once someone has a period, they are old enough to use tampons (and their vagina is big enough to use a tampon without fear of injury or unusual pain). If you’re new to periods or to tampons, just make sure you know how to use them correctly and safely. Expecting your first period or new to periods? Check out this guide for getting your first period and menstrual cycle.

MYTH: Tampons increase your risk for endometriosis.

FACT: Tampons have no effect on endometriosis. There’s still more to learn about the causes of endometriosis, but one cause is related to menstrual flow going “backwards” out of the fallopian tubes. Some people think a tampon could block the cervix and send the period blood “backwards” into the uterus and out of the fallopian tubes, which just isn’t possible. Tampons can’t block the cervix, and if they get full, the overflow goes out of the vagina, not back into the uterus.

MYTH: You should change your tampon every time you pee.

FACT: You urinate from your urethra. Your tampon goes in your vagina (which is behind the urethra). You can pee without getting your tampon wet. When you pee, it’s a good idea to move the tampon string to the side or back so it doesn’t get soaked by your urine stream – a wet string can feel unpleasant. Just change your tampon when it needs to be changed based on your flow, not your bladder. Learn more about what you can (and can’t) do with a tampon here.

MYTH: Tampons stretch out your vagina.

FACT: No way. Vaginas are stretchy to begin with – if a baby can come out of a vagina, a tampon can easily go in without changing anything.

MYTH: Organic tampons are safer than non-organic ones.

FACT: There is no scientific evidence to support the claim that organic tampons are any safer for your vagina. The risk of TSS is the same whether your tampons are organic or not. Tampax makes tampons with a 100% organic cotton core (Tampax Pure), as well as conventional tampons, because it’s nice to have choices. If living an organic lifestyle is important to you, then organic tampons may be the right choice. But if you don’t use organic tampons, don’t feel anxious or guilty. The safety profile is no different.

There you have it, nine common myths about tampons busted by a gynaecologist!