Help! My Tampon Is Stuck
Tampons are one of the most convenient sanitary options to use while on your period. You shouldn't feel a correctly placed tampon inside your vagina, which is great—unless you forget it's in there or can't get it back out.
Fortunately, tampons can't actually get lost in there because the opening of the cervix is too small for the tampon to pass through. However, they can get stuck at the top of your vagina and be difficult to reach and remove.
"Retained tampons aren't lost. They get lodged in the posterior fornix of the vagina," said Kecia Gaither, M.D., a board-certified OB-GYN and a maternal-fetal medicine expert in the Bronx, New York.
Gaither stressed that OB-GYNs see this happen frequently, but they can easily remove a lodged tampon during a speculum examination. Before and after the tampon is removed, you should keep an eye out for signs of infection.
Answers to FAQs on tampons
Tampons are a single-use option that should be changed every four to eight hours to avoid potential infections. Reusable tampons exist, however, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not cleared or approved any reusable brands. In fact, the FDA discourages their use due to the potential increased risk of fungal, yeast and bacterial infections.
Of course, a tampon is a foreign object that stays inside your body for an extended period of time, so you should always wash your hands thoroughly and ensure you are in a clean environment when removing or inserting one.
Symptoms of a stuck or forgotten tampon
Zahra Ameen, M.B.B.S., a consultant OB-GYN at Cadogan Clinic in London, shared the most common signs you may have forgotten to remove a tampon:
- Severe or foul-smelling vaginal discharge
- Raised temperature/fever
- Pelvic pain
"In extreme and rare cases, the bacterial infection can spread into the bloodstream and cause toxic shock syndrome," Ameen added.
Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a rare but serious condition caused by an overgrowth of bacteria already present in the body. These otherwise harmless bacteria produce toxins when growing, and tampon use and certain burns, wounds, incisions and gynecological procedures can increase the risk of getting TSS.
TSS symptoms present suddenly, and you may experience the following:
- High fever
- Low blood pressure
- Watery diarrhea
- Sunburn-like rashes or red dots on the skin
- Eye redness
- Peeling skin on the palms and soles of the feet
Preventive measures include changing tampons and pads frequently; using the smallest absorbency tampon size possible, depending on your menstrual flow; changing to pads, period underwear or smaller tampons as flow decreases; and considering alternatives such as menstrual cups.
How to remove a stuck tampon
If you have a tampon stuck in your vagina, don't panic. Do the following:
- Start by gently pulling on the tampon string if it's outside and reachable.
- If you inserted another tampon with one already inside or had sex with one in, the string might be inside your body.
- In that case, you should still be able to find the string or feel the tampon with your fingers and remove it.
- Gently place your clean fingers into your vaginal canal to locate the string.
If you're unable to locate or remove the tampon on your own, you should seek assistance as soon as possible from your general practitioner (GP) or gynecologist, Ameen stressed.
"It is important not to feel embarrassed, as GPs and gynecology doctors see retained tampons frequently," Ameen said. "If you are unable to remove your tampon, then we advise that you see a healthcare professional as soon as possible to remove it before infection develops."
Once the tampon is removed, any potential infections can be treated accordingly.
When shouldn't I use tampons?
There are times when using a tampon is not recommended. It's advised you don't wear tampons at night, since you're supposed to change them every four to eight hours. You also shouldn't use a tampon for at least six weeks after giving birth and two weeks following a miscarriage, because using internal sanitary products, including menstrual cups, during this time can increase the risk of infections.
In general, tampons are a safe choice for most menstruators if you follow the instructions and replace them regularly. But if you do forget you have one in, don't fret. Remove the tampon as soon as you remember—and don't be embarrassed to get help if you need it. Be on the lookout for any signs of infection and talk to your physician immediately if you think you may be experiencing symptoms of toxic shock syndrome.