Close-up of hand holding tampon over white backgroundSimilar to a sanitary pad, a tampon is a product designed to absorb menstrual flow. Cylindrical in shape, tampons are made from rayon and/or cotton and inserted into the vagina through the vaginal opening. The tampon has a string affixed at one end, which remains visible even after the tampon is inserted into the vagina. The string helps pull out the tampon when needed. Tampons must be changed every four to six hours, or when they’re completely soaked in blood. Since detecting complete usage is not easy, it’s important to remember when to change the tampon.

Like sanitary pads, tampons too differ in terms of their absorbency and size. First-time users must start with small-size tampons with low-absorbency rates. Once used to the tool, higher absorbency and larger tampons can be used. Though rare, tampons may cause a deadly disease, called toxic shock syndrome (TSS). The risk is higher with tampons since they have a higher absorbency rate. Therefore, tampon usage is usually recommended only during high menstrual flow periods.


Tampons were first found by Egyptians around 2500 B.C. Initially, made from softened papyrus, tampons were later made of paper, wool, sponges, cotton and grass. The first modern tampon was introduced in 1929.

Using/Inserting Tampons

Inserting a tampon inside the vagina may be an uncomfortable experience for most first-time tampon users. The key is to stay relaxed so that the vaginal muscles don’t contract and not make it difficult to push the tampon in. The tampon goes inside the vaginal opening. If not sure about the opening, a mirror can be used to spot the exact site. Tampons with rounded tops are much easier to insert. Also, tampons are easier to insert on days of heavier flows, thanks to the extra lubrication.    

Generally, if tampon placement cannot be felt, it means the tampon is perfectly inserted. Any feeling of discomfort indicates incorrect positioning or the tampon isn’t pushed deep enough within the vagina. If so, the tampon must be removed and replaced by a fresh tampon. Successful placement is generally achievable in the second attempt. If multiple attempts to insert the tampon fail, consult a doctor. Also, using tampon overnight is not advised.

Removing/Disposing Tampons

Tampons need not be removed every time prior to urinating or defecating. Also, removing the tampon early or when it’s not completely drenched in blood is not recommended as the dryness may make removal difficult.  

Like sanitary pads, tampons must be disposed safely, out of reach of pets and kids. The used tampon must be wrapped in toilet paper before being trashed. Like sanitary pads, tampons are not flushable too. Even those claiming to be so are not advised a trip down the toilet.   

A tampon does not enter the abdomen region through the vagina. However, it’s important to be mindful of its presence. A new tampon must be inserted only after removing the previous tampon. Also, sexual intercourse is not advised with tampons.