If your teen has never put in a tampon before, they might feel like the instructions that come in the package don’t help at all. But once they 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 your teen get it right every time. They might even realize that they like using tampons more than pads, or that they're great in combination with Kt's period underwear for extra protection against leaks.
Keep reading for a deep dive on how to use a tampon and learn exactly how to help your teen succeed with their period care.
Teen not ready for tampons? Give leakproof period underwear for teens a try.
What Hole Does The Tampon Go In?
Some questions your teen might have: What hole does it go in? Can you get it wrong? How will I know? Let’s break it down.
There are three holes you'll need to be aware of and know where they are: the urethra, the vagina, and the anus (which is your butthole). Your teen is going to insert the tampon into their vagina; that’s the tunnel that leads to the uterus, where the blood comes from. The vagina is located between the other two holes.
Your urethra is right above the vagina hole and this is where pee comes out (see the diagram below). Your teen might ask: 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.
The anus is the opening where the poop comes out. Technically, a tampon could fit in this hole, but the anus is further away from your vagina, towards your butt. If your teen isn't sure where this is vs. their vagina, be sure to help them identify the difference so that they're not accidentally putting a tampon in there.
Encourage your teen to grab a mirror and take a look at their genitals. They can use their fingers to separate their labia (the “lips” that surround the vagina and urethra) and feel around a bit. If this sounds gross and unpleasant, remind them that it’s important to know your body! Knowing where their vagina is will make them feel confident when they'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 your teen is 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 they can use to push the tampon (the white cotton) into their vagina. Once they push the tampon in, they slide the applicator out of their vagina, which they can then throw away.
To get familiar with this process, they can practice using the applicator on its own before they try putting it into their vagina. Once they see how the cotton gets pushed out of the plastic, they'll be less confused about how it works and be able to imagine how to insert the tampon themselves.
Before they begin, there’s one last thing to remember: Please encourage them to wash their hands. Their hands will be getting up close and personal with a very sensitive part of their body, so they should give their hands a good scrub to get rid of any harmful bacteria, and then they'll be ready to get down to business.
Let’s get started - Here are the steps you can share with your teen:
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.
Video Instruction: How to Put in a Tampon
Tampon Insertion Without an Applicator
To insert a tampon without an applicator, they'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 the pointer finger to gently push the tampon into the 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 they've successfully used a tampon for the first time. They're feeling confident. They've had it in for a few hours, and think that it’s full, and now they need to take it out. Welcome to the next step of using a tampon: learning how to remove it.
They should aim to change their tampon every 4-8 hours. Leaving it in for longer than 8 hours can put them at risk for Toxic Shock Syndrome, or TSS. They might find that they prefer to change your tampon every time they pee–however, they can definitely still pee with a tampon in. It’s up to them how often they want to change their tampon within the safety guidelines – do whatever feels right.
When they're ready to take out their tampon, they should get into the same position they found comfortable putting it in. Tell them to relax their muscles—this won’t hurt, so they shouldn't be scared! If it hurts, it might be too dry and they may want to wait a little longer before trying to take it out again.
Gently pull on the string of the tampon to remove it. When tampons are full of period blood, they should slide out fairly smoothly and easily. When they have it in their hand by the string, toss it in the garbage. They shouldn't flush tampons down the toilet as it’s bad for the plumbing and the environment.
Further reading: Teen interested in menstrual cups? Here's our guide for how to use this reusable tampon alternative.
Do Tampons Hurt? And Other Important Questions
We know your teen probably has a lot of questions on their 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 the vagina, they may feel a little discomfort, especially when they sit. But when a tampon is properly inserted, they shouldn’t notice it at all.
When they've inserted their tampon, have them stand up, walk around, and sit down. How does it feel? If they can feel it or they feel some discomfort, they may not have inserted it far enough into their vagina. This is a common mistake that even people who have been wearing tampons for years make.
If they want to, they can remove it and start over with a new tampon, pushing the outer tube of the applicator a little farther in this time, or they can just use their 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 they're putting in a tampon, they might feel a little bit of comfortable pressure. It’s not supposed to hurt, they won’t feel any discomfort, and once it’s in, they'll forget that it’s there.
Does Putting A Tampon In Break Your Hymen?
No, it does not. In fact, your teen may have been told some incorrect things about the hymen. Here’s the scoop: the hymen doesn’t actually cover the opening of the vaginal wall, and it doesn’t break when someone "loses their virginity" either. Some people are born without a hymen entirely.
The hymen is a thin piece of tissue that lines the wall of the vagina. It’s not a barrier covering it. Over time, it thins and sometimes disappears.
So what does this mean? Well, it means that the state of the hymen has nothing to do with whether or not you’ve had sex, and neither does a tampon.
How Old Should You Be To Use A Tampon?
Tampons are perfectly safe for anyone who is menstruating, of any age. If your teen has their period, then their vagina is ready for a tampon (as long as they are!).
Pro-tip: Teen not ready for tampons? Period underwear feels just like regular undies and will keep them leak-free all day long!
Can It Get Lost?
Let’s dispel all rumors right now: No, your teen's tampon can’t get lost in their vagina. The vaginal canal closes at the end where it meets your cervix. Nothing is going past there.
If your teen can’t find the string, don’t panic. Tell them to check their butt crack and feel around between their labia–it’s always hiding somewhere. And if they really can’t find it, just use your fingers to locate the tampon inside the hole. The walls of your vagina are strong and their tampon will not shift in flight. If they're having a really hard time, they should seek out a trusted friend or family member to help, or a doctor for professional medical advice.
Didn’t Nail It The First Time? They're Not Alone.
Your teen shouldn't get too discouraged if they 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 teen's period journey take its own shape and path. If they're currently learning how to insert a tampon properly, make sure to have a few nearby so they can try a handful of times. Tell them to reach out to a friend or trusted adult if they're feeling anxious or worried. And if they don’t get it the first time, sometimes the best thing they 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 they're getting anxious or stressed over tampons, it’s time to put them down and try again another time.
And if they find tampons are not for them, they're in luck. There are so many great options out there, from pads to menstrual cups to leakproof period underwear (we may be biased, but we think Kt is the best). They'll figure everything out in time. There’s no rush.