Questions you’ve always wanted to ask your OB/GYN (but were afraid to ask): Tampons

November 12, 2010

We’ve all had questions related to OB/GYN issues that we didn’t feel like actually asking anyone–even our doctor.  We, the OB/GYN doctors at Women’s Health Associates, decided to bypass the question asking and simply address several sensitive questions by giving a series of presentations in the Kansas City area.  We found that women were very receptive to this topic and wanted to hear the answers as long as they didn’t have to ask the questions.  Now we’re addressing the same questions through blog entries.  You’ll get the facts you need without having to ask the questions!       

What are tampons?

Tampons are sanitary products made from rayon, cotton, or a blend of the two that are inserted into the vagina and used to absorb menstrual flow inside of a woman’s body. 

What are the benefits of using tampons? 

Tampons provide a clean and comfortable alternative to pads.  Many women like the fact that tampons cannot be seen through clothes, felt, or smelled.  They eliminate the bulkiness of a pad and the mess of catching menstrual flow outside of the body.  Tampons make it easier for women to participate in sports and other activities.   

What are the risks of using tampons?

Tampons have been linked to toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a very rare but sometimes fatal illness.  To minimize your risk of TSS, be sure to follow package instructions for correct tampon application and use.  By law, tampon packages contain information about the symptoms of TSS, what to do if you believe you have those symptoms, and how to minimize your risk by using tampons correctly.   

Most women have no medical problems from using tampons.  FDA guidelines state that tampons should not be used in these circumstances:

-When using medication that is inserted into the vagina

-During pregnancy

-During the postpartum period—until you’ve seen your doctor for your six week checkup

-After surgical procedures in the vaginal area

-If you’ve ever been diagnosed with toxic shock syndrome in the past

Is it ok to use a tampon all day?

You should change your tampon when it’s soaked, or at least every eight hours even if it’s not soaked.  If a tampon is hard to remove and does not need to be changed after eight hours, you are using a tampon that is too absorbent.  Tampons are available in several absorbency levels, and you can change the type of tampons you use as your flow gets heavier or lighter throughout your cycle.  Do not use tampons between periods. 

Is it ok to use a tampon overnight?

Yes, it is ok to sleep with a tampon in, even if you are lucky enough to sleep for more than eight hours!  Just make sure to take the tampon out as soon as you wake up.  If your flow is heavy and you are worried about leaking, you can use a tampon with high absorbency and wear a pad as backup.   

What should I do if I cannot remember whether or not I removed a tampon?

After washing your hands, feel for the string.  If you can’t feel the string, place a finger in your vagina to feel for the tampon.  If you don’t feel a tampon but believe you may still have one in your vagina, make an appointment with your doctor.  If you’ve had intercourse or pushed a second tampon into your vagina, the tampon may be up behind the cervix, making it difficult for you to feel.  Your doctor will be able to find a tampon easily.  A foul vaginal odor may be a sign of a forgotten tampon.    

Can a tampon get lost inside of me?

No, a tampon cannot get lost.  Tampons are inserted into the vagina, which is a small body cavity, and there is nowhere else for them to go.  A tampon cannot fit through the very small opening of your cervix.  

If I use NuvaRing for birth control, can I still use tampons?

Yes, it is fine to use tampons while using NuvaRing.  The NuvaRing package insert includes information about using tampons with the NuvaRing.

Is it ok to use tampons if I’ve never had sexual intercourse?

Yes, and using tampons won’t change the structural anatomy of the vagina for most women. If you have difficulty inserting tampons or experience pain, make an appointment with your doctor.

How long should I wait after having sexual intercourse to insert a tampon?

You can insert a tampon immediately after having sexual intercourse.

How come I sometimes experience discomfort while wearing a tampon?

Discomfort is usually due to the tampon not being inserted far enough into the vagina.  Sometimes a tampon will partially fall out of the vagina, which feels uncomfortable.  If this happens, you can either wash your hands and manually push it back up or take it out and insert another tampon.    

We hope you find the above information about tampons helpful.  Over the next several blog entries, we’ll be addressing many more OB/GYN issues you may have questions about.  Check back to learn the answers without having to ask the questions!