How To Insert A Tampon

Tampons at a glance

  • When a girl begins her period, she may use pads for the first several years until she becomes more familiar and comfortable inserting tampons.
  • Tampons are pocket-sized cardboard or plastic applicators with an absorbent material that is inserted into the body to absorb menstrual blood.
  • Once inside, tampons collect blood before it leaves the body and shouldn’t be felt, cause pain or discomfort.
  • Tampons should be changed every four to six hours – never leave a tampon in for more than eight hours to avoid Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).

What are tampons?

Tampons are used for menstrual flows to absorb the blood during the days of a period. Much like sanitary pads, they are a blend of rayon and cotton that collect any blood and fluid flowing out of the vagina. It’s important to note, tampons should only be used for blood and not vaginal discharge.

The tampon itself – absorbent material – sits inside the plastic or cardboard applicator at the tip near the open end. Tampons have an “outer” barrel – what holds the tampon – and an “inner,” thin tube used to push the tampon into the vagina. Once inserted, a cord extends out of the body for easy removal.

Tampons can also come without applicators and are inserted using the index finger. Young girls and teens generally find tampons with applicators easier to use when they begin their period.

Tampons come in various shapes and sizes with different levels of absorbency and are designed to hold from six to eight grams of blood. Depending on your flow, amounts of blood lost may vary and the tampon size you use will change.

Tampon sizes include:

  • Lite (used for lighter periods either at the beginning or the end days of a period)
  • Regular/Normal (generally used for heavier days)
  • Super (Super and super plus are for the heaviest days of bleeding)
  • Super Plus

How to insert a tampon

Inserting a tampon for the first time can be intimidating. Be sure to wash your hands and try to be as relaxed as possible, so as to make it easier to slide in.

  • Sit on the toilet with your knees apart. Hold the tampon in one hand with the grip – middle of the tampon – in between your thumb and middle finger. Keep your index finger on the end of the thinner tube, where the cord extends.
  • Using the tip of the tampon, open the folds of skin on your vagina and slide the entire barrel inside, angling towards your back. The tampon won’t go in smoothly and may be painful if inserted straight up and in.
  • Insert it as far as your middle finger and thumb, at the grip – or middle – of the applicator.
  • Once the barrel is comfortably inside, hold the grip and push with your index finger on the smaller tube to push the absorbent part of the tampon into the vagina. Push this until it meets the grip and your other fingers.
  • Using your thumb and middle finger, pull out the barrel of the tampon, leaving the string to hang out. Do not pull the string! The tampon is inside and is attached to the string. You will use this to remove the tampon once it’s soaked through.
  • Place the applicator back inside the plastic lining (or wrap in toilet paper) and dispose of it properly. Do not flush the plastic applicators.

If you can still feel the tampon, you can pull it out and try re-inserting a new one, pushing it up higher. If you think it may not be high enough, wash your hands and insert your finger to push it up further until you can’t feel it.

Removing a tampon

Change your tampon every four to six hours to avoid leakage and chance of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) – a potentially fatal bacterial infection.

When removing a tampon, sit over the toilet and carefully grab the string between two fingers, gently pulling out at the same angle you used to insert it. You may not be able to remove it if you are tense, so relax and pull slowly and steadily. Safely discard the used tampon when finished.

How do you know when to remove a tampon?

Tampons should be changed every four to six hours. It is important to change tampons often to avoid leakage and spotting.

Never leave a tampon in for more than eight hours to avoid Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). TSS is a very rare, but it’s important to be aware of signs and symptoms.

TSS is a form of bacterial infection that can be potentially fatal when using super-absorbency tampons or leaving them in for extended periods of time. Symptoms can develop quickly and include:

  • Faintness
  • High fever
  • Low blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Vomiting or diarrhea

Remove your tampon immediately and call your doctor if you experience signs and symptoms of TSS.

Why use tampons?

Tampons are small, pocket-sized and discreet for girls to carry before or during their periods. By controlling the blood before it leaves the vagina, tampons are often more comfortable than wearing pads on their underwear.

This makes them a preferred source for active girls or those uncomfortable wearing pads. Tampons are also convenient when swimming during your period.

Once you feel more comfortable with tampons, many women alternate between pads and tampons depending on their activities and flow of their period or wear tampons during the day and pads at night.