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How To Use Tampons: A Guide for Beginners
Using a tampon for the first time can be very intimidating, especially if you’re not exactly sure how to do it. We’re here to give a detailed guide on everything you need to know about using tampons as a beginner. Let’s get into it!
What are tampons?
Tampons are single-use menstrual products meant to absorb period blood and menstrual fluid. They’re made of either cotton, rayon, or a blend of the two, and can come with an applicator or without.
Unlike napkins, tampons are inserted into the vagina and need to be replaced every six to eight hours. While that may seem scary if you’re new to using a tampon, don’t worry – they’re completely safe and undergo rigorous testing by the FDA before they can be sold! Plus, the risk of contracting toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is incredibly rare. Apart from that, there is not much to worry about.
Those with an applicator contain two barrels, one outer applicator that covers the tampon and helps you insert it easier, and another smaller tube within it that helps you remove the applicator. If this sounds confusing, don’t worry – we’ll explain it further below.
The tampon itself is cylindrical shaped and absorbent – depending on the brand, size, and absorbency, it can hold six to eight grams of blood.
Why Use a Tampon?
According to Healthline, tampons are currently the most popular period product. And with good reason, because there are plenty of advantages to using a tampon during your red days. Let’s talk about them.
Menstrual pads can look quite bulky if you’re wearing tight garments. When you’re wearing yoga pants or a body con dress, the outline of a pad can make you feel self-conscious. But because tampons are inserted into the vagina, leaving only the string outside, and there’s no risk of it being seen no matter how tight fitting or thin your clothes are. Fashion dilemma averted.
They Stay in Place
Again, since tampons stay inside your vaginal opening, you won’t have to worry about accidentally displacing it while going about your day. This makes them perfect for athletes, runners, and anyone who moves a lot.
You can swim in them
To be clear, there’s a slim chance you’re actually going to leak in the water, but you will be going in and out of the pool. Simply wearing pads is a no-no, and having to use a new one in between swim sessions can be a huge inconvenience.
With a tampon or a cup, however, you won’t have to think about all of that. Once you’ve popped your tampon in, it’s only a matter of changing it every six hours. You’re free to swim as many laps as you desire as well as take a break from the water without leaking.
Which is better: pads or tampons?
Growing up in the Philippines, sanitary pads are the most common period product. But that doesn’t mean other methods aren’t worth a try!
If you’re thinking about switching from pads to tampons, here are some advantages to consider:
At first glance, tampons can seem more uncomfortable than disposable pads. After all, pads don’t require the same effort that a tampon does.
But while tampons entail a learning curve in the beginning, many people actually find them more comfortable in the long run. This is because, for many women, tampons are less likely to irritate the skin. A lot of sanitary pads contain synthetics and chemicals that can trigger allergies or itchiness, especially when left on too long.
For others, the comfort comes from the fact that tampons are just more secure. The adhesive on pads can come off due to physical movement, which can lead to messiness and leaking.
If you lead a rather active lifestyle, then using a pad may not be for you. While pads provide a decent level of security as you’re moving around, most tampons are far less likely to get dislodged even when you’re busy playing sports, going to the gym, or dancing.
Applicator-free tampons, or those with a biodegradable plastic or cardboard applicator, are considered eco-friendly period products compared to disposable pads. If you’re conscious about your waste and concerned about the amount of disposables you throw away, tampons are the clear winner.
There are also other zero-waste products that can help with your menstrual flow, including period underwear and reusable cups.
Choosing the right size
Before we get to the nitty gritty – aka how to actually insert a tampon – it’s important that you’re buying the right variety first.
There are so many types of tampons, which is great considering no two women have the same periods. I know people whose periods only last 2 days, while others can last up to a week.
Further, an important part of transitioning to tampon use is knowing your own menstrual cycle. You might already have an idea of this if you’ve been using pads, which also come in different shapes and sizes.
Tampon sizes vary according to flow heaviness. These sizes typically include: light (the lowest absorbency tampon for the start or end days where flow tends to be lighter), regular/normal (perfect for days with a very heavy flow), and super (reserved for exceptionally heavy period days).
How to insert a tampon inside your vaginal opening correctly
It can be incredibly nerve-wracking when it’s your first time inserting a tampon. The good news is that most products make tampon insertion quite simple once you get the hang of it. Let’s go over the exact steps on how to insert a tampon below.
1. Wash Your Hands
First things first: wash your hands. Expect to be doing a lot of hand-to-vagina contact, so you want to be 100% certain that your hands are not carrying any harmful bacteria that may be transferred onto your outer tube or vagina itself.
2. Locate the Vagina
If you’re unfamiliar with vaginal anatomy, that’s completely fine. But in order to get your tampon inside the right way, you’ll have to study your body pretty closely. For this step, we recommend taking a mirror and exploring the parts surrounding your vagina, including the vulva and labia.
If you’re having trouble locating your opening, try gently pulling the lips apart and feeling with your index finger for the opening. You’ll probably find it more quickly when you’re on your period, as this is where menstrual fluid comes out. Wash your hands as needed.
3. Get Your Tampon
Your first tampon will likely have to be one with an applicator, and you’ll see why. As you remove the tampon wrapper, you’ll notice a bullet-shaped piece of plastic or cardboard covering the tampon. Pull it open and you’ll find a smaller tube which will help you plunge the tampon inside.
4. Find a Comfortable Position
An immensely important part of this process is making sure you’re relaxed and comfortable. Most women find that sitting or squatting over the toilet works best for them. Another popular method is propping one leg over a tub or toilet seat. As long as you’re not squeezing your muscles down there and can reach the opening of your vaginal canal, you should be able to insert the tampon properly.
There’s no one way to hold a tampon correctly, so try experimenting with what works for you. Some prefer to grip the base with their index finger and thumb, others with their thumb and middle finger or even their index and middle finger.
5. Angle the Tip
Place the tip of your tampon right at your opening. Then, make sure you’re angling it towards your lower back and not straight up. The vaginal canal doesn’t go upwards, but is slightly angled towards our back.
6. Insert the Tampon
You’re finally ready to insert a tampon! Take a deep breath and slowly use your two fingers to push the tampon inside at the right angle. The applicator tip should be able to move snugly inside until only the base and the plunge or smaller tube at the bottom is visible and your hands are at your opening.
Now, you’ll have to secure the tampon farther in. You can do this by positioning the base between your index finger and middle finger, and then slowly pushing the plunger until it’s flush with the base of the larger tube.
8. Take Out the Tampon Applicator
The final step is to slowly take out your applicator, leaving the tampon inside and revealing only the string hanging. And you’re done!
9. Move Around!
Once you’ve successfully inserted the tampon, you shouldn’t be able to feel it, for the most part. Try moving around or going about your day and see how comfortable you feel. If you’re worried about a leak, you can wear a light disposable pad or a pantyliner to avoid stains.
To remove the tampon, gently pull on the string attached to the end of the tampon. You should be able to pull it out of your vagina without any discomfort. Don’t forget – you should be removing tampons and replacing them every 6-8 hours. Make sure you’re wrapping your tampon with toilet paper before disposal.
While tampons are safe to use, you should not be experiencing unusual symptoms such as pain or fever. If this happens, remove the tampon immediately and contact your doctor for medical help.
Do tampons hurt the first time you use them?
Tampons should not be painful. However, if you’re inserting it into your vagina for the very first time, the sensation may feel foreign or even uncomfortable. You’re also likely to have to do it multiple times before getting it right, but once you get the hang of it, inserting a tampon will become second nature.
That said, there are three important factors that we must reiterate: first, your vagina must be well-lubricated (your menstrual blood offers natural lubrication); second, your tampon must be the right size; and third, you must be completely relaxed and comfortable in your position, whether it’s sitting or propping one foot up on an elevated surface.
Nevertheless, it shouldn’t be painful to wear tampons. If you experience any pain, fever, and other alarming symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
Will I get toxic shock syndrome (TSS) from tampons?
One of the most common fears about using tampons is the risk of toxic shock syndrome or TSS.
TSS is a potentially fatal bacterial infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus (staph) bacteria infecting the body and releasing harmful toxins. This is a rare but life-threatening disease.
Fortunately, it is incredibly rare to get TSS as the FDA has since banned the materials and designs used in tampons that were associated with TSS.
To avoid any other form of vaginal infections, remember that you should never use a tampon for more than eight hours and always wash your hands thoroughly upon each reapplication.
Can you pee with a tampon in?
Yes! Pee comes out of a different opening than menstrual blood. However, many people still think you can’t pee when you have one in – this is a huge myth that needs to be dispelled.
Another myth is that tampons can get lost inside you. This is untrue! Even if the string breaks, your cervix acts as a block between the vagina and the uterus, so your tampon doesn’t really have anywhere to go.
Not all period products are for everyone! Assess your lifestyle and see what suits you best. If you’re transitioning to tampons, then we hope this guide was helpful for you.
Let us know in the comments if you’ve got any tips, experiences, or questions you’d like to share!
Joey is an AB Psychology graduate of the University of St. La Salle – Bacolod. Her life’s passions include writing, film, and spending hours on end binge-watching fashion vloggers on Youtube.