Proper use of tampons is important for a good feeling, but also for your health. Such a small cotton gag can cause a lot of misery. A wrong approach can even be harmful! Here are 12 rules of thumb every menstruating woman should keep in mind when using tampons:
1. Wash your hands before and after inserting the tampon
Most women wash their hands after inserting a tampon, but it is also wise to wash your hands before it as well. A vagina is not a sterile space, there is a lot of things there, but that does not mean that you have to saddle it with extra bacteria via your tampon. Touching your tampon with hands that are infected, which, for example, carry bacteria from the door handle, the toilet seat, etc… there is a chance that these bacteria will also settle on the tampon.
2. Insert the tampon sufficiently deep
Most women can tell when the tampon is not deep enough, because that gives a very uncomfortable feeling. It can also cause irritations. On the other hand, if the tampon is in the right position and in the right location, you will not feel it at all. That is because in the middle of the vagina, there are relatively few sensory nerves. Your vagina and the muscles of your pelvic floor hold the tampon in place.
Thus, you certainly should not be afraid that you might insert the tampon too deep so that it ‘disappears’ into your body. That’s impossible because the opening of the uterus is too small to let it through.
3. Use different types of tampons: from mini to super
Tampons come in different sizes, each of which has a different absorption capacity. Use the largest – ultraplus or superplus – only in case of heavy blood loss and immediately switch back to the smaller models – normal or mini – when menstruation is coming to an end or when there is less blood loss. Although the chances are small, a tampon can cause toxic shock syndrome (TSS). It is an infection that can have very serious complications and even be life-threatening. Fortunately, that is a very rare disease.
A super-absorbent tampon that stays in for a long time is likely to carry a greater risk of TSS than a smaller one. It could cause a build-up of the vaginal fluid, which would gradually make the tampon a breeding ground for certain bacteria. Teenage girls and women under 30 may be more at risk than older women.
4. Replace the tampon a few times a day
Even if you have little blood loss, it is important to replace the tampon every 3 to 4 hours. It may stay in for a maximum of 8 hours (at night, for example). A moist tampon – as already mentioned in point 3 – forms a warm and soft nest for (harmful) bacteria.
5. Use tampons only during the periods
Halfway through the cycle, many women suffer from vaginal discharge. But it is definitely not a good idea to stop it with a tampon. A tampon can disturb the natural acidity of the vagina and lead to infections. If you suffer from too much discharge, you should consult a doctor. A cotton ‘cork’ on the vagina is not a suitable solution.
6. Replace the tampon after urinating or after bowel movements
Chances are that the string of the tampon is a bit wet after urinating and that is not really a pleasant feeling. From that perspective, you’d better replace the entire tampon.
Furthermore, during bowel movement, the string of the tampon can then catch bacteria that could contaminate the urethra. The movement of your intestinal system during the stool can also cause the tampon to shift a bit, which can make it feel uncomfortable.
7. Do not forget the tampon
It does happen that women forget to take off a tampon. If you happen to forget one, you will start to notice a foul smell that arises over time. In that case, thoroughly clean your hands and insert a finger into your vagina to look for the string or piece of cotton. If you can’t find it, you see a doctor immediately. Under no circumstances should you abandon the tampon in there.
8. Never put in two tampons at once
Using two tampons at once might create a congestion, which can make it difficult to find the string of the first tampon. This also increases the risk of forgetting the first tampon.
If your period is particularly heavy, it is better to switch to a larger size tampon with more absorption capacity (possibly insured with an extra sanitary pad) instead of inserting two smaller ones. And if no tampon is large enough to stop the flood, then maybe something else is going on and you’d better consult a doctor.
9. Replace your tampon after swimming
If you take a dip in the pool or in the sea, or if you chilled a bit in a Jacuzzi, so does the cord of your tampon. The chlorine or saltwater that sticks to the cord can cause skin infections if you do not remove them quickly.
10. Do not use a tampon whose packaging is torn
The packaging serves to protect your tampon from dirt and dust, from makeup traces left in your bag, or from any other matter that does not belong in your vagina. Use such an ‘unprotected’ tampon only in extreme need!
11. Do not leave the applicator lying around or recycle it
A used applicator is covered in blood and other bodily fluids. Wrap it in paper and throw it right in the trash can. Under no circumstances use an applicator again.
Tampons last a long time, they don’t have an expiration date. As long as the packaging is intact, you can use them. Keep them in a dry room or cupboard.
12. Do not use perfumed tampons
Some women are allergic and react badly to the fragrances used to perfume tampons. That can lead to itching or irritation. Maybe that does not bother you, but you never know.