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Using Tampons: Advice for the Teenage Girl

If you have young female teenager in the house who has questions about using tampons, let her read the following article, which originally appeared on

You've started your period and now you're thinking about using tampons. Anything to get away from bulky pads and annoying pantiliners, but you're a little unsure about inserting a tampon. Is it safe, how do you do it and what happens if you can't get it out? These are all normal questions that pretty much every teen has when she decides to start using tampons. If after reading this article, you still have questions, ask your mother, a school nurse or your doctor.

How old should you be before using a tampon?

If you've started having periods, you can use tampons. Tampons are inserted inside the vagina to absorb the menstrual blood before it leaves the body. What many girls are worried about is whether they'll still be considered a virgin if they use tampons. The very slender tampons especially designed for young teens, if used according to directions, will usually not damage the hymen (the thin bit of tissue that partly covers the opening of the vagina.) Only having sexual intercourse truly makes you lose your virginity. On the other hand, since it is a little scary to use a tampon for the first time, many young teens prefer to use pads or pantiliners until they are older and more comfortable with their rapidly changing bodies.

How do you choose a tampon?

Tampons come in different sizes (slender, regular, super, etc.) and use different types of applicators (card board, plastic, no applicator). At first, you'll have to go through a "trial and error" process to see which one works best for you. The first one you might want to try is a slender form or one that says it's specifically designed for teens. As for the applicator, a plastic one with a rounded tip may be the most comfortable. You can also check with your mother or your friends to see what kind they use.

How do you insert a tampon?

When you purchase your first box of tampons, it'll have an "instruction booklet" with diagrams. Read the instructions carefully and review the diagrams.

Once you're ready to insert the tampon the most important key to remember is to relax. It's not painful to insert a tampon, but if you're tense it could make the process a little uncomfortable. Before inserting the tampon, wash your hands with soap and water. There are a few different positions you can use to insert the tampon. Two such positions are either placing one foot on top of the toilet or squatting over the toilet; again you'll have to figure out which technique is best for you. Holding the center of the tampon between your thumb and ring finger and using your index and middle finger to hold the string in place, gently insert the tampon into your vagina. If you feel pain or discomfort, slow down and relax. It may take a while your first time. Once you've inserted the tampon and the center (the part you're holding on to) is at the entrance of your vagina, using your other hand, gently start pushing the exposed end of the tampon. This releases the actual tampon into your body. You know it's fully inserted when the end of the part you're pushing meets the center part you were originally holding.

Should you be able to feel the tampon once it is inserted?

Normally, women who wear tampons do not feel the tampon inside of them. If you can feel the object, it may mean it's not inserted properly. You'll need to remove it and try it again.

Don't worry; your first few attempts with a tampon may seem awkward. The more you practice, the more natural it becomes.

What about Toxic Shock Syndrome?

There is also a very slight risk of an infection called Toxic Shock Syndrome from tampon use. This could happen if you don't use the tampons as instructed on the box. This bacterial infection can occur when women use highly absorbent tampons and leave them in too long, allowing bacteria to grow and invade the vaginal walls. You don't want to use a more absorbent tampon than what you actually need. In other words, don't use the super absorbent because you think it means you can leave it in longer. Tampons should be changed every four to six hours. Also, look on the box to see how often the manufacturer recommends the tampon be changed. Toxic Shock Syndrome will usually occur within five days of the start of your period, and the symptoms include a high fever, rash, vomiting and diarrhea.

If you can't find the string on a tampon, what do you do?

A "lost" tampon can become infected if left in the vagina, producing a very bad smell and even fever and "toxic shock syndrome." So it is very important to remove tampons within 6 to 8 hours. Sometimes the string on the tampon does not hang down toward the vaginal opening the way it should. Excuse us for being very explicit, but this is what to do. You might be able to pull it out: wash your hands thoroughly, squat over the toilet, and try to locate it with your index finger. If you are able to feel it, or the string, "bear down" as if you were having a bowel movement while trying to remove the tampon. This may be painful or difficult, especially if you are a virgin. If you don't succeed, your doctor will be able to remove it.

Reprinted with permission from


As a reminder, this information should not be relied on as medical advice and is not intended to replace the advice of your child’s pediatrician. Please read our full disclaimer.

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