Tampons shouldn’t cause any short-term or long-term pain at any point while inserting, wearing, or removing them.
When inserted correctly, tampons should be barely noticeable, or should at least be comfortable for the duration of the time worn.
Of course, every body is different. Some people might feel a tampon more than others. But while those people might be able to feel the tampon inside of them, at no point should it feel uncomfortable or painful.
There are a few reasons why you might have tampon-related discomfort.
To begin, you might be inserting the tampon incorrectly:
- To insert your tampon, use clean hands to remove the tampon from its wrapper.
- Next, find a comfortable position. Use one hand to hold the tampon by its applicator and use your other hand to open the labia (the folds of skin around the vulva).
- Gently push the tampon into your vagina and push the plunger of the tampon up to release the tampon from the applicator.
- If the tampon isn’t far enough inside, you can use your pointer finger to push it the rest of the way in.
If you’re unsure if you’re inserting the tampon correctly, consult the directions that come with each box.
This will have the most accurate information tailored to the specific tampon type you’re using.
Your tampon size depends entirely on how heavy your flow is. Everyone’s period is unique, and you’ll probably find that some days are heavier than others.
Typically, the first few days of your period are heavier, and you might find that you soak through a tampon faster. You might consider using super, super plus, or super plus extra tampons if you’re soaking through a regular-sized tampon quickly.
Toward the end of your period, you might find that your flow is lighter. This means you might only need a light or junior tampon.
Light or junior tampons are also great for beginners, as their small profile makes them slightly easier to insert and remove.
If you’re still unsure of what absorbency to use, there’s an easy way to check.
If there are a lot of white, untouched areas on the tampon after removing it between 4 to 8 hours, try a lower absorbency tampon.
On the other hand, if you bleed through it all, go for a heavier absorbency.
It might take some playing around to get the absorbency right. If you’re worried about leakage while you’re still learning your flow, use a panty liner.
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Before inserting, take a few deep breaths to relax and unclench your muscles. If your body is stressed out and your muscles are clenched, this could make it more difficult to insert the tampon.
You’ll want to find a comfortable position for insertion. Typically, this is either sitting, squatting, or standing with one leg on the corner of the toilet. These positions angle your vagina for optimal insertion.
You can also minimize discomfort by exploring different tampon types.
Some people find cardboard applicators to be uncomfortable for insertion. Plastic applicators slide into the vagina easier.
Applicator-free tampons are also an option if you prefer to use your fingers for insertion.
No matter which applicator type you choose, make sure to wash your hands before and after insertion.
The same rule of thumb goes for removal: Take a few deep breaths to relax your body and unclench your muscles.
To remove the tampon, pull down on the string. There’s no need to rush the process. To make it more comfortable, you’ll want to keep a steady breath and pull gently.
Keep in mind: Dry tampons that haven’t absorbed as much blood, or those that haven’t been in for very long, can be more uncomfortable to remove.
This is a normal feeling because they aren’t as lubricated as tampons that have absorbed more blood.
Don’t worry if your first try isn’t the most comfortable. If you’re just beginning to use tampons, you might have to try a few times before you get into a good rhythm.
Your tampon will typically move around to a more comfortable position as you walk and go about your day, so walking around can also help with any discomfort upon original insertion.
If you’re still finding tampons to be uncomfortable, there are several other menstrual products that you can use.
For starters, there are pads (sometimes referred to as sanitary napkins). These stick to your underwear and catch menstrual blood on a padded surface. Some options have wings that fold under your underwear to prevent leaks and stains.
Most pads are disposable, but some are made from organic cotton materials that can be washed and reused. This type of pad typically doesn’t adhere to the underwear and instead uses buttons or snaps.
More sustainable options include period underwear (aka period panties), which use an ultra-absorbent material to catch period blood.
Finally, there are menstrual cups. These cups are made from rubber, silicone, or soft plastic. They sit inside the vagina and catch menstrual blood for up to 12 hours at a time. Most can be emptied, washed, and reused.
If pain or discomfort persists, it might be time to contact a medical professional.
Immediately remove the tampon and call a doctor if you experience:
- fever of 102°F (38.9°C) or higher
These could be signs of toxic shock syndrome.
Persistent pain, stinging, or discomfort inserting or wearing a tampon can also indicate things like:
Your doctor or a gynecologist will be able to do an exam to determine what’s causing your symptoms.
Tampons shouldn’t be painful or uncomfortable. While wearing them, they should be barely noticeable.
Remember: Practice makes perfect. So if you insert a tampon and it doesn’t feel comfortable, remove it and try again.
There are always other menstrual products to consider, and if pain persists, your doctor will be able to help you out.
Jen is a wellness contributor at Healthline. She writes and edits for various lifestyle and beauty publications, with bylines at Refinery29, Byrdie, MyDomaine, and bareMinerals. When not typing away, you can find Jen practicing yoga, diffusing essential oils, watching Food Network, or guzzling a cup of coffee. You can follow her NYC adventures on Twitter and Instagram.