Tampons are popular because they are easy to use and allow you to continue living your normal life while you are on your period. But every once in a while, a tampon gives you trouble.
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Maybe you forgot you had one in, so you put in a second tampon without removing the first. Or maybe you had sex and didn’t even think to take your tampon out before you got to work. Either way, that little piece of cotton is now lodged somewhere inside you, and you’re probably freaking out.
Good news: this situation is more common than you think and is quite easily fixed. Certified Nurse Practitioner Sara Youngblood, CNP, explains how a tampon gets stuck, what to do to remove it, and when to seek help from a health care provider.
Can a tampon be lost?
First, a bit of reassurance: There is absolutely no way to lose a tampon in your body. It can get stuck in the vaginal canal, but it can’t go any further.
That’s because your vagina is like a dead end road. You insert a tampon into your vaginal canal, which is only a few inches long, and that’s where the trail ends. At the posterior end of the vaginal wall is the cervix, which acts as a barrier between the vagina and the uterus. And the cervix isn’t just a “Do Not Enter” sign that tampons can get through, it’s more like an impenetrable brick wall.
“The opening of the cervix is not remotely large enough to allow a tampon to enter the uterus,” explains Youngblood. “Based on the physiological components of the reproductive system, there is no physical way for a tampon to pass through the vaginal canal and into the rest of the body.”
How does a tampon get stuck?
Although tampons cannot go beyond the vagina, they can. they can stay there. Your vaginal canal is only three or four inches long, but sometimes a tampon can get stuck out of your reach.
If you accidentally have sex with a tampon in, or if you insert a second tampon without removing the first one, it can be pushed up into the vaginal canal, where it can be crushed or flipped over. And when you lose track of the string, removal can get a bit tricky.
“It may not be totally easy to find or remove a tampon,” Youngblood says, “but there’s always a way to get it out.”
Will he end up alone?
A tampon that has lodged in your vagina is unlikely to come out on its own, so it’s important that you take steps to remove it.
“Leaving it in or not knowing you have a retained tampon can lead to serious health problems,” Youngblood warns. Using the same tampon for more than eight hours can cause:
How to remove a stuck tampon
First things first, take a deep breath and try not to panic. Although you may not be used to rummaging inside your body, it is the best way to remove a tampon that has lodged too far north.
“Put one or two fingers into your vagina and gently feel around to see if you can find the string or tampon to pull it out,” Youngblood instructs. Try using your ring finger, your middle finger, or both at the same time so you can get as deep into your vaginal canal as possible.
Here are some other tips for safely retrieving a retained tampon:
- Wash your hands. Before you poke around, wash your hands with soap and water. This will prevent you from introducing new germs into your vagina.
- Cut your nails. If you have long or jagged nails, shorten or file them before you start so you don’t scratch the inside of your vagina.
- Try to relax. When you are stressed, you may unconsciously tense your muscles and your vaginal canal is full of muscles. Pulling or squeezing there can make it harder to remove a hidden tampon.
- Just fingers! Never, ever use any other tool or object to remove a stuck tampon. This can cause injury, infection, or both.
- Change position as needed. If you can’t seem to grasp the tampon to remove it, change your position. Some positions may give you better access than others, so experiment with sitting, squatting, lying down, or putting one leg over the side of the tub or toilet.
When to see a doctor
“If you can’t get a stuck tampon out on your own, it’s time to see a medical professional for help removing it,” says Youngblood.
Call your GP or OB/GYN office, and if they can’t reach you, you may be referred to urgent care or express care, where you can be seen faster. A stuck tampon can usually be easily removed by a health care provider with their fingers or small tweezers. It may be uncomfortable, but it probably won’t hurt like an average pelvic exam.
And while your instinct might be to feel embarrassed about asking for help removing a stuck tampon, try to remember: you’re not the first person this has happened to, and you won’t be the last. His medical providers have seen this before and are there to help him, not judge him. Your health is more important than your pride!