If you’ve never put in a tampon before, you might feel like the instructions that come in the package don’t help at all. But once you learn how to insert a tampon, it’ll become easier each time. That’s why we’ve broken down the process for putting a tampon in for in this step-by-step guide, to help you get it right every time. You might even realize that you like using tampons more than pads, or that they're great in combination with period underwear for extra protection. (Shop period kits now.) First time tampon users, keep reading for a deep dive on how to use a tampon and learn exactly where it goes in your body.
What Hole Does The Tampon Go In?
Some questions you might have: What hole does it go in? Can you get it wrong? How will I know? Let’s break it down.
You’ve got three holes in the area commonly referred to as the vagina: Your urethra, your vagina, and your anus, which is your butthole. You’re going to insert the tampon into your vagina; that’s the tunnel that leads to your uterus, where the blood comes from. Your vagina is located between the other two holes.
Your urethra is right above the vagina hole (towards your belly button) and this is where pee comes out. Can I put the tampon in here by accident? Don’t worry; this opening is too small to fit a tampon, so inserting a tampon in there is just not possible.
Your anus is the opening where your poop comes out, in your butt. Technically, your tampon could fit in this hole, but your anus is further away from your vagina, towards your butt. If you haven’t located it, be sure to do this so that you know you’re not accidentally putting a tampon in there.
Grab a mirror and take a look at your genitals. Use your fingers to separate your labia (the “lips” that surround your vagina and urethra) and feel around a bit. If this sounds gross and unpleasant, remind yourself that it’s important to know your body! Knowing where your vagina is will make you feel confident when you’re ready to use a tampon for the first time.
Further reading: How to make your period come faster
Tampon Insertion With An Applicator In 5 Easy Steps
Since you’re new to using tampons to absorb menstrual blood, starting with tampons that come with applicators is the most approachable option.
Applicators are plastic or cardboard tubes that hold the actual cotton tampon in place. It has a little wand on the end that you can use to push the tampon (the white cotton) into your vagina. Once you push the tampon in, you slide the applicator out of your vagina, which you can then throw away.
To get familiar with this process, practice using the applicator on its own before you try putting it into your vagina. Once you see how the cotton gets pushed out of the plastic, you’ll be less confused about how it works and be able to imagine how to insert the tampon yourself.
Before you begin, there’s one last thing to remember: Please wash your hands. Your hands will be getting up close and personal with a very sensitive part of your body, so give them a good scrub to get rid of any harmful bacteria and you’ll be ready to get down to business.
Let’s get started.
Step #1: Get Into A Comfortable Position
Some people sit on the toilet with their knees apart, some squat down, and others prop a leg on the toilet seat or bathtub. See what feels most comfortable for you. Consider having a mirror set up to see your genitals reflected, which makes it easier to see exactly where you’re going to insert the tampon.
Step #2: Locate Your Vagina With Your Tampon
You may need to use one hand to pull apart the lips of your vagina—the labia. You should already know where your vaginal opening is thanks to your handy dandy mirror. If you don’t, go back and revisit the section titled “What Hole Does The Tampon Go In?” at the beginning of this guide.
Place the tip of the tampon at your vaginal opening. You want it to be pointing diagonal, towards your lower back, instead of straight up.
Step #3: Insert The Tampon Applicator
Gripping the outer tube of the tampon, slide it into your vagina until your fingers touch your body. The grip and the inner tube should still be outside your body. Refer to the image below if you’re not sure what the outer tube, grip, and inner tube of the applicator are.
At this point, the string should be facing away from your body.
Step #4: Push The Tampon In
Once you feel the tampon is comfortably positioned, hold the grip and push the tampon inside your body by pushing on the inner tube of the applicator. Voila! The tampon is now ready to trap your menstrual flow.
Step #5: Remove The Applicator
Once you’ve pushed the inner tube in the whole way, you can pull away the plastic part and voila! Tampon inserted. You can throw the applicator away– you don’t need it anymore.
Now the tampon string should be dangling from your vagina. The walls of your vagina are strong and they’ll hold the tampon in place until you’re ready to take it out. For easy removal, just place the string to the side in your underwear, or leave it be and let it find its own preferred resting place.
Now, this may feel a bit uncomfortable– sometimes it takes a few tries to figure out the best way to insert a tampon. Not to worry– like everything else, practice makes perfect for removing tampons, too.
Tampon Insertion Without an Applicator
To insert a tampon without an applicator, you'll want to follow the same instruction in steps 1 - 2 above. When it comes time to insert the tampon, remove the tampon wrapper and use your pointer finger to gently push the tampon into your vagina until the tampon is secure and in a comfortable position. The string should be hanging out for easy removal later.
How To Take Your Tampon Out
Okay, so you’ve successfully used a tampon for the first time. You’re feeling confident. You’ve had it in for a few hours, and think that it’s full, and now you want to take it out. Welcome to the next step of using a tampon: learning how to remove it.
You should aim to change your tampon every 4-8 hours. Leaving it in for longer than 8 hours can put you at risk for Toxic Shock Syndrome, or TSS. You might find that you prefer to change your tampon every time you pee–however, you can definitely still pee with a tampon in. It’s up to you how often you want to change your tampon– do whatever feels right.
When you’re ready to take out your tampon, get into the same position you found comfortable putting it in. Relax your muscles—this won’t hurt, so don’t be scared! If it hurts, it might be too dry and you may want to wait a little longer before trying to take it out again.
Gently pull on the string of your tampon to remove it. When tampons are full of period blood, they should slide out fairly smoothly and easily. When you have it in your hand by the string, toss it in the garbage. Don’t flush tampons down the toilet as it’s bad for your plumbing and the environment.
Further reading: Interested in menstrual cups? Here's our guide for how to use this reusable sustainable menstrual product.
Do Tampons Hurt? And Other Important Questions
We know you’ve probably got a lot on your mind. Here are our answers to some of the most commonly asked tampon-related questions.
Do Tampons Hurt?
No, tampons don’t hurt. If the tampon isn’t inserted far enough into your vagina, you may feel a little discomfort, especially when you sit. But when a tampon is properly inserted, you shouldn’t notice it at all.
When you’ve inserted your tampon, stand up and walk around. Sit down. How does it feel? If you can feel it or you feel some discomfort, you may not have inserted it far enough into your vagina. This is a common mistake that even people who have been wearing tampons for years make.
If you want to, you can remove it and start over with a new tampon, pushing the outer tube of the applicator a little farther in this time, or you can just use your finger to push the current tampon further in.
Further reading: Not quite ready to use tampons? Here's our guide to which period care product is right for you, from disposable pads to reusable period underwear.
What Does It Feel Like to Wear Tampons?
When you’re putting in a tampon, you might feel a little bit of comfortable pressure. It’s not supposed to hurt, you won’t feel any discomfort, and once it’s in, you’ll forget that it’s there.
Does Putting A Tampon In Break Your Hymen?
No, it does not. In fact, you may have been told some incorrect things about your hymen. Here’s the scoop: your hymen doesn’t actually cover the opening of the vaginal wall, and it doesn’t break when you lose your virginity either. Some people are born without a hymen entirely.
The hymen is a thin piece of tissue that lines the wall of your vagina. It’s not a barrier covering it. Over time, it thins and sometimes disappears.
So what does this mean? Well, it means that your hymen has nothing to do with whether or not you’ve had sex, and neither does your tampon.
How Old Should You Be To Use A Tampon?
Tampons are perfectly safe for anyone who is menstruating, of any age. If you have your period, then your vagina is ready for a tampon (as long as you are!).
Can It Get Lost?
Let’s dispel all rumors right now: No, your tampon can’t get lost in your vagina. Your vaginal canal closes at the end where it meets your cervix. Nothing is going past there.
If you can’t find the string, don’t panic. Check your butt crack, feel around between your labia–it’s always hiding somewhere. And if you really can’t find it, just use your fingers to locate the tampon inside the hole. The walls of your vagina are strong and your tampon will never shift in flight. If you're having a really hard time, seek out a trusted friend or family member to help, or a doctor for professional medical advice.
Didn’t Nail It The First Time? You’re Not Alone.
Don’t get too discouraged if you don’t get it right on the first try. Every person who menstruates has a story of the first time they tried using a tampon —and many people don’t use one for years. Some try tampons once and decide it’s not for them. Others never do. As with most things to do with periods, each experience is different.
Let your period journey take its own shape and path. If you’re currently learning how to insert a tampon properly, make sure to have a few nearby to try a handful of times. Reach out to a friend or trusted adult if you’re feeling anxious or worried. And if you don’t get it the first time, sometimes the best thing you can do is take a break and try another time. A lot of times the biggest thing standing in our way is our own mind. So if you’re getting anxious or stressed over your tampons, it’s time to put them down and try again another time.
And if you find they’re not for you, you’re in luck. There are so many great options out there, from pads to menstruating cups to leakproof period underwear (we might be biased, but we think we’re the best). You’ll figure everything out in time. There’s no rush.