Tampons are a popular menstrual product choice for women during their periods. They offer greater freedom to exercise, swim, and play sports than pads.

Because you put the tampon up inside your vagina, you might wonder, “What happens when I pee?” No worries there! Wearing a tampon doesn’t affect urination at all, and you don’t have to change your tampon after you pee.

Here’s a look at why tampons don’t affect urination and how to use them the right way.

Your tampon goes inside your vagina. It seems like a tampon might block the flow of urine. Here’s why it doesn’t.

The tampon doesn’t block the urethra. The urethra is the opening to the bladder, and it’s just above the vagina.

Both the urethra and the vagina are covered by larger lips (labia majora), which are folds of tissue. When you gently open those folds (use a mirror; it’s ok to get to know yourself), you can see that what looked like one opening is actually two:

  • Near the front (top) of your vagina is a tiny opening. This is the exit of your urethra — the tube that carries urine from your bladder out of your body. Just above the urethra is the clitoris, the female pleasure spot.
  • Underneath the urethra is the larger vaginal opening — that’s where the tampon goes.

Although a tampon won’t block the flow of urine, some pee might get on the tampon string as the pee flows out of your body. Don’t worry if this happens. Unless you have a urinary tract infection (UTI), your urine is sterile (bacteria-free). You can’t give yourself an infection by peeing on the tampon string.

Some women don’t like the feeling or smell of a wet string. To avoid that, you can:

  • Hold the string to the side when you pee.
  • Remove the tampon before peeing and then put in a new one after you’ve dried yourself.
  • Change the tampon after you go.

But you don’t have to do any of that if you don’t want to. If the tampon is inserted well into the vagina, it won’t block urine flow.

To use tampons correctly, first pick the right-sized tampon for you. If you’re new to this kind of menstrual product, start with the “slender” or “junior” size. These are easier to insert. “Super” and “Super-Plus” are best if you have a very heavy menstrual flow. Don’t use a tampon that’s more absorbent than your flow.

Also consider the applicator. Plastic applicators insert more easily than cardboard ones, but they tend to be more expensive.

How to correctly insert a tampon

  1. Before you insert a tampon, wash your hands with soap and water.
  2. Stand or sit in a comfortable position. If you’re standing, you might want to place one foot up on the toilet.
  3. With one hand, gently open the folds of skin — called the labia — around the opening of your vagina.
  4. Holding the tampon applicator by its middle, gently push it into your vagina.
  5. Once the applicator is inside, push the inner part of the applicator tube up through the outer part of the tube. Then, pull the outer tube out of your vagina (both parts of the applicator should come out).

The tampon should feel comfortable once it’s in. The string should hang out of your vagina. You’ll use the string to pull the tampon back out later.

It’s generally recommended that you change your tampon every 4 to 8 hours or when it’s saturated with blood. You can tell when it’s saturated because you’ll see staining on your underwear.

Even if your period is light, change it within 8 hours. If you leave it in longer, bacteria can grow. This bacteria can get into your bloodstream and cause a rare but serious illness called toxic shock syndrome (TSS).

Here are a few ways to keep your tampon clean and dry:

  • Wash your hands before you insert it.
  • Change it every 4 to 8 hours (more often if you have a heavy flow).
  • Hold the string to the side when you use the toilet.

When it comes to peeing with a tampon in, do what makes you feel comfortable. If you’d prefer to take the tampon out before urinating or right afterward, that’s up to you. Just make sure to keep your hands clean when inserting it and change it every 4 to 8 hours.