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The Truth About Tampons

By , 16, Staff Writer Originally Published: March 5, 2021 Revised: March 5, 2021

My first period came at a very inconvenient time. It was the week of my final jazz band concert, so we were rehearsing 24/7. I remember how uncomfortable I felt asking my band teacher every three hours to go to the bathroom (so I could change my pad). I wondered if there were any menstrual products that would last me through my rehearsals, and after a little research I found tampons. What a relief!

Tampons are small and made of cotton, rayon or a mix of both. They’re inserted into the vagina during menstruation to soak up blood before it leaves the vaginal opening. They can be helpful if you’re active, have heavy periods or even if you just find pads uncomfortable. Unfortunately, due to certain misconceptions, some teens are too afraid to try them. Here are the facts!

Misconception #1: Tampons Hurt

Putting in a tampon might feel uncomfortable at first, but it should not hurt. “When I first used tampons, it was uncomfortable,” says Kara, 19, of Wallingford, PA. “As I learned to insert them properly at an angle, it began to become more comfortable.” A lot of others feel the same way, like Nancy, 19, of Cherry Hill, NJ. “Once I learned how to insert a tampon, it fit comfortably,” she says. “I only noticeably feel it if I need to take it out soon or if I am using a larger tampon for a lighter period.”

Like Kara and Nancy, I also felt uncomfortable wearing tampons at first. Then I realized that it was because I was trying to insert them straight up. This can push the tampon into the vaginal wall and cause discomfort. If it hurts to put in a tampon, try inserting it at a different angle. Since everyone’s body is different, you might need to experiment to see what works best for you. If it continues to hurt, you may need to consult a health care provider.

Misconception #2: Tampons Can Get Lost Inside of You

I found that another common misconception is that tampons can get lost inside. “I have definitely heard myths that the attached string will detach and the tampon will be stuck,” says Donna, 17, of Houston. “Honestly, this is one main reason I am wary to use tampons.”

In truth, the string becoming detached from the tampon is rare. Also, there is no way the tampon can travel beyond the vagina, which ends at the cervix. A tampon also cannot move into the uterus because the opening of the cervix is very small. In the event that you cannot locate the string or the tampon gets pushed further into the vagina, you can carefully pull it out with your fingers. If that doesn’t work, you may need to have a health care provider help you.

Misconception #3: Toxic Shock Syndrome Is Common

Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a serious condition caused by bacteria. Most cases result from a tampon being left in for too long, and some teens are afraid to use them. “I don’t really know that much about Toxic Shock Syndrome,” says Samantha, 15, of Maplewood, NJ. “All I was told is that it can be really dangerous and possibly kill you.”

In reality, TSS is very rare. The estimated rate is one to three people in every 100,000 menstruating Americans, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders. To avoid TSS, the recommendation is to replace your tampon regularly and not keep one in for longer than eight hours. Additionally, you can avoid TSS by not using an overly absorbent tampon (e.g., a super plus or ultra) when your flow isn’t that heavy. In other words, use whatever size is best for how heavy your period is at the time. Another option is to wear tampons during the day and pads at night, if that makes you more comfortable.

Choosing What’s Right for You

Tampons are a great option for managing your period. They enable you to swim while menstruating, last for four to eight hours and come in different sizes, so they can work for a light, regular or heavy flow.

Misconceptions aside, tampons aren’t for everyone. A lot of teens at my school prefer to use pads, period underwear or menstrual cups. But, it’s good to know the facts. Ultimately, you just have to find the option that works best for you!

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