By Dr Melisa Holmes, OB-GYN & Founder of Girlology
If it’s your first time Tampaxing, we’re here to help! Putting in your first tampon can feel 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.
Firstly, remember that your vagina is stretchy enough for a baby to fit through, so a tampon is nothing to worry about! Tampon sizes are based on the amount of fluid they absorb. If you’re not sure what tampon size to start with, try Regular – most women use this absorbency. If you want to start with the smallest tampon until you figure it out, try the Light absorbency. If your tampon leaks in just a few hours, go up a size. If your tampon is uncomfortable to change, go down. You can compare tampons and their sizes based on your menstrual flow here.
It can definitely feel a bit strange, especially if it’s your first time inserting a tampon. The good news is that it doesn’t have to hurt – you are totally in control. If it’s hurting, there are things you can do to make it more comfortable. Keep reading!
It’s always a good idea 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 actually inside the applicator. Tampons with applicators make it easy to insert the tampon into your vagina. Some tampon applicators are plastic, and some are cardboard, but both types of applicator tampons can be used safely. The applicator has a larger, outer tube that holds the tampon, a ‘grip’ area where you hold it, and a smaller tube at the end where the string comes out. The smaller tube is actually a plunger that you use to push the tampon out into your vagina after you’ve inserted the applicator. Have a look at this diagram of a Tampax Pearl applicator tampon to see each component.
If you’re using a Tampax Pocket Pearl tampon (which is in a smaller, more 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 from the applicator.
We know you know where it is, but so many people have never really looked closely enough to know its exact position. Grab a mirror and take a look to make sure you’re familiar with your vaginal opening and where the tampon will go.
Find a comfortable position that lets you relax and still reach your vagina. Most people sit on the toilet or stand while slightly squatting to insert a tampon, but you can also try lying down or propping one foot up on a step or another raised surface (e.g., the edge of the bath). The most important thing is to take a deep breath and relax all your muscles – if you squeeze your bum or tense the muscles around the vagina, it won’t be as easy to insert the tampon.
Hold the tampon at the grip (the smaller part just above the plunger) and place the tip of the tampon applicator at your vaginal opening.
Once the tip is in place, aim the tampon towards your lower back, not straight up. Your vagina doesn’t go straight up into your body – it actually sits at a slight angle. Finding the angle that’s right for you can help make it feel more comfortable to insert.
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 index finger or your other hand to push the plunger all the way into the applicator 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 hanging out of your vagina.
You did it! Once you’ve inserted the tampon, you’re done. Keep reading to learn how to remove it.
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 further up, which usually fixes it.
The most common reason people can’t get a tampon in is that they are inserting it at the wrong angle, or they get nervous and tense the 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 gynaecologist, as 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 ring 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 (a band of tissue) that partially blocks the opening. If that’s the problem, all it takes is a very simple procedure that most gynaecologists 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 that they won’t let anything into the vagina. These contractions are involuntary, meaning you don’t control them or even realise what’s happening. 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, this would involve speaking to your gynaecologist who could potentially advise you to work with a pelvic floor physiotherapist – they can work wonders in treating 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 in silence or be inconvenienced because it feels embarrassing. We promise you it’s not! Gynaecologists deal with these issues more often than you would think.
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 into a comfortable position, relax your body, and use your hands to locate the tampon string. Then use your finger and thumb to grip the string and pull it slowly out of your vagina. We know it’s tempting, but please do not flush your tampon. Tampons should be disposed of properly in with your household waste. After you have removed the tampon, remember to wash your hands.
That’s it! Now you know how to use a tampon.