How to Insert a Tampon for Beginners
September 30 2021 | Written by Madi Hanaka (She/Her)
If there’s one thing more stressful than getting your period for the first time, it’s using a tampon for the first time. Inserting a tampon can be daunting, especially when it’s new and unfamiliar, and let’s be honest, the basic required diagrams on most tampon boxes aren’t doing new menstruators any favours. In this blog, we will be providing you with a step-by-step guide on how to put in a tampon, as well as tips and tricks from fellow menstruators to get you through your first time!
Step 1: Determine which style of tampons you like (applicator or non-applicator)
Walking through the tampon aisle can be overwhelming, especially when you’re just starting out. Between the wide variety of brands, sizes and prices, it can be difficult to determine which purchase will suit your needs.
There are two types of tampons: applicator and non-applicator. Applicator tampons are made from either plastic or cardboard and are generally more popular in North America as many find them easier to insert. As the name suggests, this type of tampon has an applicator around it - the tampon in this case isn’t actually visible until the bottom of the applicator is pushed up and the tampon comes out. Without an applicator, the tampon needs to be inserted into the vagina with your fingers and can be a messier process, although these tampons are just as effective. It’s always best practice to try out different options and determine what type works best for you!
Step 2: Select your absorbency/size of tampon
As a general rule, there are three basic absorbency levels to choose from, the bigger the tampon is in size, the more blood it will be able to hold:
Light: light tampons are typically the smallest, thinnest option, and would likely be the best size when you’re trying them for the first time. These tampons have the lowest absorbency level and are not suitable for those who have a heavy flow.
Regular: regular tampons are slightly bigger and more absorbent than light tampons. If you have a medium flow, these are a great option for everyday use.
Super: super tampons are one of the most absorbent options, meaning they’re also much larger/thicker than light and regular tampons. If your flow is really heavy, these will probably be the best option for you - some brands even have super plus tampons if you’re looking for something extra absorbent.
If it’s your first time using tampons, we recommend starting with the smallest, lightest option that would suit your needs. Once you become more comfortable, you can experiment with different styles and sizes to find what the best fit is for your flow.
Step 3: Wash Your Hands
Before insertion, wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap to prevent any dirt, germs or bacteria from getting into your vagina.
Step 4: Locate Your Vagina.
Before you try to insert the tampon, feel around with your fingers to locate your vaginal opening. If you’re unsure of where the vaginal opening is, refer to the diagram below and feel free to read this past blog all about anatomy. The vagina is located inside the labia (lips) and below the urethra (aka where you pee from). If you feel comfortable, you can use a handheld mirror or sit in front of a standing mirror to get a clear idea of where the tampon will be inserted.
Step 5: Get Comfortable.
One of the most effective ways to ensure a smooth insertion process is to make yourself as comfortable as possible, whatever that means for you! There are several ways to position yourself when inserting a tampon, so feel free to play around with different seated/standing positions to see what feels most natural to you. Here are a few popular positions:
Seated: sit on the toilet or a chair with your feet planted on the floor and your knees spread out to either side.
One leg up: stand with one foot on the floor and other on the toilet or a chair with your knee bent.
Standing: stand upright with a slight bend in your knees, as if you are starting to squat.
Step 6: Try Lubricant
This step is optional, but can make the insertion process much easier. If your flow is light, if you’re experiencing vaginal dryness, or if you’re just anxious and tensing up, lubricant may make inserting a tampon smoother. You can read about why your tampon may hurt in our blog: 5 Reasons Why Your Tampon May Hurt. Once you've determined why inserting your tampon is uncomfortable, you can try our water-based lubricant that is designed to perfectly coat your tampon with just one easy mess-free dip so that you can experience smoother tampon insertion. You can check it out here: Marlow Lubricant.
Step 7: Use and Remove The Applicator
Once the applicator is inserted, the grip (ridged part on the bottom of the applicator) should be almost or just touching your vulva. With one hand, continue to hold the applicator in place, with the other hand, gently push the bottom of the applicator until it stops and meets the top. Then, gently pull the applicator out, leaving only the string visible from the outside.
Step 8: Trash, Not Toilet
Now that you have the used applicator in-hand, wrap it in the packaging it came in, or in toilet paper, and throw it in the garbage. As mentioned in a previous blog, tampons and applicators are not biodegradable due to being contaminated with blood and should also never be flushed down the toilet.
Step 9: Test Your Comfort Level. How to Know If you have Inserted a Tampon Correctly
Wash your hands again, and take a minute or two to walk around to see how it feels. If it was inserted correctly, you shouldn’t be able to feel your tampon. If you can feel it, that usually means that it wasn’t inserted deep enough inside your vagina. If it doesn’t feel comfortable, you can try using your fingers to push it up a little further. If that doesn’t work, or if you’re not comfortable using your fingers, consider removing it and re-inserting a new tampon. However, keep in mind that pulling tampons out prematurely can be uncomfortable because their dryness can cause friction.
Step 10: Wait It Out
Once your tampon is comfortably inserted, go about your day! Tampons can stay inside your vagina for anywhere between 4-8 hours. If you’re unsure of whether or not it’s a good time to remove the tampon, gently tug on the string and see if it starts to glide out. If it stays put, that’s a good indication that the tampon is still fairly dry and can stay in a while longer. If it starts to glide out without force, it’s probably time to take it out and insert a new one.
Step 11: Remove The Tampon
When you’re ready to remove your tampon, get back in your comfortable position. While it may seem like you have to bare down, it’s not necessary to push it out - pulling on the string will remove it effectively. Once you’re seated or standing comfortably, gently pull on the string and allow the tampon to glide out. Wrap it in toilet paper, throw it in the garbage, and you’re good to go!
Feeling anxious or nervous about inserting a tampon for the first time is completely normal, but practice makes progress! The more you experiment with different positions and types, the easier it will get. That being said, if you experience any pain or major discomfort while inserting tampons, check-in with your doctor or gynaecologist to ensure there are no other concerns that may be causing this issue.
If you’re having trouble and feel comfortable around your friends and/or family, don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice on how to put in a tampon. If you don’t feel ready to try tampons, or if you don’t feel that they’re the right fit for you, that is totally okay - as always, do what’s best for you and your body.