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The tampon is a female hygiene product that is inserted inside the vagina to absorb menstrual blood. Most girls prefer to use sanitary pads when they first get their periods for the sake of ease and convenience and maybe because of the various misconceptions and myths surrounding tampons. Are they safe to use? Do you lose your virginity when you use a tampon? Can it get lost inside your vagina?
Surely you might have also wondered about at least one of these questions, especially if you haven’t used a tampon before. But you would be glad to know that tampons are as safe as any other sanitary products. You just have to know the right way to use it.

  1. What is a tampon?
  2. Myths about tampons
  3. Types of tampons
  4. Things to know before using a tampon
  5. Pad vs tampons vs menstrual cups
  6. How to use tampons properly without pain
  7. How to dispose off a tampon
  8. What to do in case of a retained tampon
  9. Toxic shock syndrome due to tampons
  10. Preventing toxic shock syndrome

Tampon is a small tube-like blood soaking object that goes inside your vagina. It is actually an absorbent compressed into a cylindrical shape so that it can easily be inserted into the vagina.
A regular tampon usually has four parts:

  • Inner tube
  • Outer tubes
  • Middle tampon
  • A string

The inner and outer tubes are made with plastics and sometimes with cardboard. They help insert the middle tampon inside the vagina. The middle tampon is the absorbent part that holds your period blood as it flows out of your uterus. It is usually made of cotton and rayon. It has a string attached, which helps when you need to take out the tampon. You need to pull the string to take out the tampon.
Only middle tampon goes inside the vagina. Other parts of tampon just help in insertion or in taking it out of the vagina.

Tampons are probably the only female hygiene products with the most myths attached to it. They not only make one dubious about their safety and use but also create confusion and rumours. Let us debunk a few such myths attached with tampon use.

  • Can you lose your virginity by using a tampon?
    Absolutely not. A virgin is a person who has not had sex. Virginity has no relation to the outer covering of the vaginal opening, commonly known as the hymen. In fact, the hymen can also break down during physical activities like horse riding. Yes, there is a possibility that tampon can tear your hymen but there is no way that you won't be a virgin after using a tampon.
  • Tampons can get lost inside the body?
    The vagina is a closed organ with just a tiny opening on the top to release blood. There is no way tampon can get inside the body. A string attached to tampon is always outside the vagina to pull it out. A tampon will not go inside your body until you push it inside using another tampon or a sex toy or have sex while wearing a tampon.
  • Can you urinate with a tampon inside?
    Females have a separate opening for urination that is different from their vaginal opening. Hence it is totally fine to urinate wearing a tampon.
  • Can a tampon fall out?
    Again a vaginal opening is very small and tight. When a tampon is inserted properly, there is no chance that it can come out on its own. Your vagina will keep holding the tampon even if you are doing any physical activity.

Different types of tampons are available in the market depending on the type of flow you have. They come in a regular size, light or small ones for light flow, super, and super plus. To ascertain comfort and safety, it is always important to decide what type of tampon suits you best.
You can also buy an organic tampon or one with fragrance in it or buy one with or without an applicator. An applicator is a device which helps in the easy insertion of tampons into your vagina. Depending on the type of applicator, there are four types of tampons:

  • Digital applicator: These tampons come with no applicator, so you have to insert with your own hands/digits (fingers).
  • Cardboard applicator: This type of applicator is made of cardboard. It is one of the most used and easily available tampons.
  • Plastic applicator: Tampons with a plastic applicator are a bit more costly than cardboard or a digital tampon but they are much easier to use.
  • Extendable applicator: This applicator is much smaller than the other two types but these tampons are more discreet too. Though an extendable applicator is not used as widely, you may want to check them out just in case they work well for you.

Just make sure you buy a quality product from a trusted brand. When in doubt, look for 'The food and drug administration' (FDA) label.

  • Even if you are a regular user of tampon, read the instructions properly before using it. This will make you recall any step that you might have forgotten.
  • Use tampons only during periods. Don't just put it inside any other time for any other reason
  • It is really important to change your tampon regularly. Don't keep the tampon inside for more than 8 hours even if it is not soaked completely yet. If for some reason you know that you won't be able to change your tampon then use pads instead.
  • If you feel any kind of disturbance or pain down there while tampon is inside, immediately take out the tampon. If required seek medical help.
  • If your tampon is sliding down, you may not have placed it in the right position. Just push it a bit inside your vagina and see if that works for you.

 

SANITARY NAPKINS

TAMPONS

MENSTRUAL CUPS

Application

Easy to apply. You just need to stick it on your undergarments and you are good to go.

You need to insert a tampon inside your vagina with or without the help of an applicator.

Inserting menstrual cups are even more difficult than tampons. You need to fold the menstrual cup and insert it inside your vagina.

Leakage

Even though sanitary pads nowadays have wings but still there is a chance of leakage. Especially when you are into some physical activities like running or when your flow is too high.

Also, you can not use pads while swimming.

Tampons don't lead to any leakage until you have not inserted the tampon properly or if you have not changed your tampon even after it is full after absorption.

Tampon can be a good option if you want to go for swimming or any other water activity.

Menstrual cups also don't lead to any leakage if inserted properly. Though if you don’t empty it on time, it may lead to leakage.

On the plus side. you can wear menstrual cups while swimming or any other water activity.

Environment-friendly

Biodegradable pads aside, most sanitary pads are not considered environment-friendly as they are not reusable. Pads generate a huge amount of non-biodegradable waste every year which cause a big ecological issue.

Tampons also can’t be reused and hence creates a large amount of non-biodegradable waste.

Menstrual cups are reusable and hence do not cause environmental pollution. You just need to take it out of the vagina after using, wash it off properly and insert it back into the vagina during your next period.

Side effects

The only issue with the pad is skin rashes, which can be cured easily

Tampons have a high risk of toxic shock syndrome with improper use.

Menstrual cups can also lead to toxic shock syndrome and other infections if not cleaned properly between uses. Hence it is advised to follow the user instructions properly and change it frequently.

Duration of use

It is advised to change your pad every 6 hours to avoid infection and odour.

The max. you can keep a tampon inside is 8 hours

You can keep menstrual cup for up to 12 hours.

So you purchased the right tampon and are now looking for an easy and painless way to insert it properly. Well, if you have never used a tampon before, it is best that you apply it on your moderate or heavy flow days. This will make it easier for you to apply and remove it. Also, it is best to go for a regular one with good absorption capacity so you can remember to change it on time and can avoid leakage from over absorption.
Then, follow the below-mentioned steps:

  • Wash your hands properly before using the tampon to avoid infections
  • Take out a tampon out of the packaging. Read if any special instructions are there mentioned on the package
  • When ready, take a mirror and look at your vulva to know the exact position to insert the tampon
  • Choose any position you are comfortable in. You can stand or sit, whichever is convenient. Squatting can also be an option
  • Hold the tampon in the middle of the applicator with your thumb and middle fingers. With the other hand, open the labia (folds of the vulva)
  • Now gently push the tampon inside the vagina until the outer tube of the tampon is completely inside
  • With the help of your index finger push the inner tube through the outer tube to push tampon inside the vagina
  • With the help of thumb and middle finger, pull out the applicator
  • Make sure that the string is outside the vagina
  • In case you are using a tampon without applicator then just insert the tampon inside your vagina with your fingers. When the tampon is inside, use your index finger to push it into the right depth into the vagina, you’ll know when it gets fixed. Make sure that the string is outside
  • Keep the tampon inside max for 8 hours. To remove the tampon, wash your hands again and sit back in a comfortable position. Just hold the string and gently pull it out. Avoid giving any jerks

Once you have removed your tampon out of your vagina, wrap it in toilet paper properly. Now using a disposable bag, pack the tampon and throw it in any garbage bin. Make sure that the garbage bin gets discarded soon, within a day or two at the max. If not, you can visit a dumping area to dispose of the used tampons. Never flush tampons.

There may be some rare cases in which tampons get stuck in the vagina. The reason for there can be:

  • Forgetting to take out the tampon before inserting another. Yes, it is possible that one can insert a tampon while one tampon is still inside. This because our vagina is too elastic in nature. If you insert another tampon while one is still inside your vagina, the first one would get lost. It becomes really difficult to remove such tampon.
  • Having sex while tampon is inside
  • Just forgetting to take the tampon out. This makes the tampon to embed in the top of the vagina. Although the string will still be outside the vagina.

While a lost or forgotten tampon may not get inside your abdomen, it can certainly infect your vagina. Hence it is advised to be a little careful while using tampons. Here are some signs that can indicate if any tampon is stuck inside your vagina:

  • Abnormal discharge from the vagina. The discharge may have a distinct colour like yellow, brown or pink.
  • The discharge will have a very bad smell (Read more: Vaginal odour causes)
  • In some cases, you may have no discharge but only a peculiar smell
  • Increased temperature
  • Itching in vagina
  • Pain during urination
  • Pain above the genital area
  • Inflammation near vagina
  • Redness and rashes in the vagina

If you notice any of these signs or if you generally realise that a tampon has got stuck inside your vagina, the best way is to visit a gynaecologist to get it removed. Don’t try to put your fingers inside to look for it if you don’t know how to.

(Read more: Vaginitis)

Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a life-threatening illness due to infection from certain bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes.
Women who regularly use tampons are at high risk for developing TSS. A tampon lodged inside the vaginal wall may lead to bacterial overgrowth and hence TSS. Also, it may lead to tiny abrasions in your vaginal wall, facilitating the easy passage of harmful microbes into your bloodstream.
Some of the symptoms of Toxic shock syndrome include fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, aches, and low blood pressure.
If you get any of the above symptoms, immediately visit a doctor. If required, stay in the hospital for better and faster recovery. Generally, you'll be prescribed antibiotics to suppress bacterial growth. Apart from medicines, fluid drips can be given to you to tackle your low blood pressure and reduce dehydration.

Toxic shock syndrome can lead to severe medical problems. Following some simple guidelines, you can easily evade this problem.  Here are some tricks to prevent TSS while you are on your period:

  • Change your tampons regularly. You can keep a tampon for a max of 8 hours but try changing it sooner to avoid microbial growth.
  • Try using sanitary pads at night.
  • Wash your hands before and after inserting tampons properly.
  • Remove and insert tampons gently to avoid any damage to the vaginal wall.
  • Maintain personal hygiene during periods.
  • Try using sanitary pads during light flow.

(Read more: Vagina and vaginal health)

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References

  1. Office on women's health [internet]: US Department of Health and Human Services; Your menstrual cycle
  2. Office on women's health [internet]: US Department of Health and Human Services; Pads and other ways to take care of your period
  3. National Health Service [internet]. UK; Can a tampon get lost inside me?
  4. US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [internet]; The Facts on Tampons—and How to Use Them Safely
  5. Adika, V.O, Yabga, J, Apiyanteide, F.A, Ologidi, P.W and Ekpo, K.E. Perception and behaviour on use of sanitary pads during menstruation among adolescent school girls in Bayelsa State, Nigeria . Advances in Applied Science Research, 2011. ISSN: 0976-8610
  6. US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [internet]; Menstrual Tampons and Pads: Information for Premarket Notification Submissions (510(k)s) - Guidance for Industry and FDA Staff
  7. National Health Service [internet]. UK; How soon can I use tampons after giving birth?
  8. Singh J, Mumford SL, Pollack AZ, Schisterman EF, Weisskopf MG, Navas-Acien A, Kioumourtzoglou MA. Tampon use, environmental chemicals and oxidative stress in the BioCycle study.. Environ Health. 2019 Feb 11. PMID: 30744632
  9. Medical Devices and Product Quality Division:Department of Health. Australia. Therapeutic Goods (Standard for Menstrual Cups) Order 2018 (Therapeutic Goods Order 99)
  10. Department of health: Australia. Retained tampon or other object
  11. The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne [internet]: Victoria State Government. Toxic shock syndrome (TSS)