We asked consultant gynaecologist Deborah Bruce from The London Bridge Hospital to answer those awkward questions…
1. What’s the longest a tampon can healthily be left in here?
“It depends on how heavy your period is – generally, somebody with a normal/heavy flow should be changing their tampon every four to six hours, but it can be more frequent if your flow is heavier. Changing them more often than that means your vagina can become painful and dry. It’s fine to sleep with a tampon in overnight, if you change it before you go to bed and immediately after waking. If you plan on a long lie-in (more than eight hours’ sleep) use a sanitary towel instead.”
2. Can it be used just for discharge?
“No. Never use a tampon in anticipation of bleeding, or for discharge because it won’t function properly and could harbour infection. Only use tampons when you need them – if you’re just starting your period and there’s hardly any bleeding, use a sanitary towel instead. Tampons need moisture to expand and fit properly, so only use them when needed.”
3. Can it get lost?
“It doesn’t happen often, but it is possible to insert a tampon and forget it’s in there – especially when experiencing heavy bleeding. Always stop and ask yourself whether you’ve removed your last tampon before inserting a new one – if you’re not sure or have forgotten, your GP can quickly examine you. Toxic Shock Syndrome can occur as a result of leaving a tampon in too long, so it’s important to get it checked out immediately.”
4. What’s the deal with Toxic Shock Syndrome then – is it common?
“I’ve been practising for 20 years and I’ve never seen a patient with it, so don’t be put off using tampons because of TSS. Tampon use is a factor in less than half of toxic shock conditions (it’s also spread in other ways like skin infections, surgery and burns – children and men can get TSS too). While it’s rare, it’s still important to be vigilant – if you experience flu-like symptoms and/or a bad odour down there, seek medical advice.”
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5. It fell out of the wrapper. Is it still OK to?
“Never use an unwrapped tampon – especially if it’s been lurking at the bottom of your handbag, as it will have been exposed to lots of germs and could cause infection.”
6. Why are they sometimes hard to remove?
“The first and last tampons of your cycle are usually the hardest to remove because you’re not lubricated enough. Switch to a tampon with a lower absorbency instead, and don’t change them too frequently. Obviously you don’t want to risk leaking, but leaving a tampon in long enough to absorb the moisture will make it much easier to remove.”
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7. Can they be used after you’ve had a baby?
“Bleeding after giving birth tends to be heavy, and new mothers are usually very sore so it’s important to be gentle. There’s also a higher risk of infection as your immune system is reduced during pregnancy. Because your cervix hasn’t gone back its original shape, infection can spread more easily, so use pads until the bleeding stops – and for your first couple of cycles after that, too.”
This article was originally published on cosmopolitan.co.uk
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