Although tampon use is extremely common, (and in my opinion, incredibly convenient) it seems as though my generation of young women are re-thinking tampon usage — and with the slough of inexpensive and environmentally-friendly menstrual hygiene options available these days, it makes sense. Additionally, the more I learn about the health risks associated with using tampons incorrectly, as well as how tampon usage affects our environment, the more I think I should probably switch to a different kind of sanitary hygiene product, too. That said, I, like many American women, have been using a mixture of tampons and panty liners for most of my menstruating years thus far, and I'm just not quite ready to change up my menstrual routine.
If you feel the same attachment to tampon usage that I do, then you know exactly what I'm talking about. But since incorrect usage of tampons has its risks, there are some things every woman should know about using tampons.
Whether you've never used a tampon but want to start, or you've been using tampons for years without knowing much about them, you really should know as much as possible about what you're putting into your vagina. Here are eight things every woman should know about using tampons.
1. Always Use The Lowest Absorbency Possible
Although higher absorbency tampons may seem more convenient, (especially if you have heavy periods) it's imperative that women change their tampons frequently, since it helps prevent us from developing Toxic Shock Syndrome. Unfortunately, if you're wearing a high absorbency tampon, you're probably not going to remember to do that. So go ahead and forget that "supers" exist. Hell, forget "regulars" exist, too, and go for the lightest possible absorbency you can find so you don't end up leaving your tampon in for too long.
2. Change Your Tampon Every 4-8 Hours
As your tampon box should tell you, you never want to wear a tampon for more than eight hours, (it increases your risk for infection and TSS) — but also keep in mind that changing your tampon more often than every four hours can result in some serious vaginal discomfort, too. This is another reason why it's important to use the lowest absorbency possible; periods are painful enough without having to pull a dry, cotton cylinder out of your pussy.
3. Don't Leave A Tampon In If You Plan To Sleep Over 8 Hours
Like I said above, according to the directions on every tampon box I've ever seen, you can wear a tampon for up to eight hours. So, you can leave a tampon in while you sleep — if you don't sleep over eight hours. Make sure you insert your tampon right before bed and take it out as soon as you wake up, though. (No hitting snooze a dozen times before you hit the bathroom.)
If you're planning on sleeping over eight hours, then you're either going to need to change your tampon in the middle of the night (I usually do this, because I hate pads that much) or just play it safe and wear a friggin' pad.
4. Always Wash Your Hands Before Inserting Or Removing Tampons
You probably don't need me to tell you that it's important to wash your hands frequently, but when it comes to tampon usage, you really have to be diligent about your hand hygiene. Clean hands lower your risk of developing TSS — so even if you've just been hanging out on your couch watching Netflix for hours, and you think your hands are clean, you still need to wash them before removing or inserting a tampon.
5. Never Use A Tampon Just For Discharge
Tampons will not work properly without adequate moisture, so you should only ever use them when you're menstruating, and more particularly when you're menstruating on the heavier side. Tampons should never be used to absorb vaginal excretions, and they really shouldn't be used on the days of your period that are light enough for panty liners to be effective, either. If you're having an excessive amount of vaginal discharge, make an appointment to talk to your gynecologist about it, but if you're just dealing with the annoying (but totally normal) amount of excretions that come with having a vagina, I recommend you try a super thin panty liner.
6. Avoid Tampons A Few Months After Giving Birth
I've never given birth, but I'm assuming the last thing you would want to do after pushing a little human out of your vagina is stick something up there. Vaginal pain and soreness can last for months after delivery, and on top of that, your body's immune system is weaker right after giving birth — so using tampons for the first couple of periods following your delivery is not recommended.
7. If A Tampon Gets Lost In Your Body, Go To The OBGYN Immediately
Tampons can get lost in your abdomen, but that will generally only happen if you forget to remove your tampon at the end of your period, end up having sex with the tampon still inside of you, or accidentally put a new tampon in without taking the old one out first.
Fortunately, if a tampon gets lost inside of you, your gynecologist can remove it. Unfortunately, you could develop TSS before you even realize there's a tampon lost inside of you, (this is yet another reason why you should change out your tampons frequently) so always double check that you've taken out your last tampon before you insert another one, and definitely before you have period (or post-period) sex. Set an alarm on your phone for every four to eight hours if you need to. It will probably be super annoying, but it's better than losing a tampon inside of your body, right?
8. Avoid Irritation By Using Organic, Unscented Tampons
Unfortunately, the FDA doesn't do the greatest job of regulating what goes in the tampons we use, so there's no way to know for sure that the cotton we're putting inside of our vaginas aren't full of harsh chemicals, bleach, and pesticides. Additionally, since our vaginas are so absorbent, scented tampons can cause real discomfort and pH imbalance. If you can't use scented body wash on your vagina without suffering from some serious irritation, then you should avoid using scented tampons, too.
In fact, if you can, consider switching to organic tampons. It may cost you a little bit more to go organic, but it's definitely worth it if you're particularly sensitive down there. (Or just don't want pesticides in your pussy.) Plus, as Huffington Post reported back in May, the average menstruating woman will use and discard over 9,000 tampons in her lifetime, so going organic would be much kinder to both your vagina and our environment.
Images: torbakhopper /Flickr; Giphy/(7)