When you first get your period, tampons can seem a little intimidating — and a LOT more so after you hear scary rumors swirling around. Tampons cause toxic shock syndrome! You can lose a tampon inside you! It’s enough to make anyone a little nervous about the prospect of using one during your flow. And in a world that stigmatizes female health and sexuality so much already, it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction.
That’s exactly why HelloGiggles did some myth-busting about all things tampon-related. We talked to doctors and experts about everything we thought we knew about tampons that’s actually a flat-out lie:
Myth #1: You shouldn’t use tampons because of toxic shock syndrome.
Growing up with horror stories about toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is enough to make many people stay away from tampons altogether. However, although TSS is something to be aware of, it shouldn’t keep you from using tampons, said board-certified gynecologist Dr. Felice Gersh of Integrative Medical Group of Irvine.
“While TSS is a very serious condition, it is also quite rare,” Dr. Gersh told HelloGiggles. “In essence the only way for a woman to contract TSS is if a certain kind of pathological bacteria exists in her vaginal canal; from there if the woman were to use the most highly absorbent tampons made out of certain materials—overgrowth of this bad bacteria could occur causing TSS.”
In fact, Dr. Tosin Goje, Cleveland Clinic OB/GYN, told HelloGiggles earlier this year that he often sees women who inserted a tampon weeks ago and are only coming in because of resulting bad smells. “I have never seen a patient with a retained tampon present with symptoms of TSS and, upon removal of the tampon, none of the patients subsequently developed TSS,” Dr. Goje told us.
You should still change your tampon at least every eight hours, but there’s no need to worry if it takes you a bit longer.
Myth #2: Using a tampon means you’re not a virgin.
This myth about tampons floated around middle school and high school like tater tots on the caf floor. Supposedly if you’ve used a tampon, you’ve broken your hymen (the membrane that covers the vaginal opening) and thus lost your virginity. While you very well may have broken your hymen, the concept of losing your virginity to a tampon is totally bogus, said Nicole Cushman, MPH, executive director of Answer, a national program dedicated to providing comprehensive sex education.
“There is no single, agreed-upon definition of virginity, so this myth is problematic to begin with,” Cushman told HelloGiggles. “It is tied to a limited definition of virginity that assumes vaginal penetration is necessary for someone to lose their virginity. While it is possible that a tampon could break the hymen, that does not mean the person is no longer a virgin if they’ve never had intercourse.”
Myth #3: You can “lose” a tampon inside you.
When you’re first using tampons, that string can seem so darn delicate, and it’s easy to wonder. . . what if it breaks? Can a tampon get lost inside you?!
Don’t fret — it’s impossible to lose a tampon inside your body. “The vagina is not an endless tunnel!” Cushman told us. “The vaginal canal is only about three to five inches long, ending at the cervix. . . a tampon may shift around a bit during use, but it can’t get lost inside you.”
Debra Brooks, BA, MD, Attending Physician at GoHealth Urgent Care, added that if your tampon feels like it’s stuck inside you, try to relax your muscles. “[A tampon] cannot get through the cervix or pass into the rest of the body; it will always be somewhere in the vaginal canal, and can be removed when you relax,” she told HelloGiggles.
Myth #4: You have to change your tampon every time you pee.
It can be weird to go to the bathroom with your tampon in, but it’s not dangerous, and you certainly don’t have to change your tampon every time you pee. “The vagina, the bladder, and the GI tract are all separate systems that do not interconnect,” Dr. Gersh told HelloGiggles. “Because the vagina is not connected to the bladder, the urethra or the GI tract, a tampon does not block exodus of urine or bowel movements.”
In fact, if you have a small bladder and pee often, changing your tampon every time could end up being uncomfortable because there will continually be a somewhat-dry tampon going in and out. Although it saves time to do everything at once on a bathroom break, consider your tampon-changing to be a separate event!
#5. You can’t wear tampons overnight.
It can seem scary to leave your tampon in overnight, especially if you’re afraid of the aforementioned toxic shock syndrome. But Dr. Kelly M. Kasper MD of the Indiana University Health Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, assures us that the danger surrounding leaving tampons in overnight is a myth –but it used to be based in fact in the medical community.
“In the past, when tampons were first introduced, we didn’t understand what sort of dangers could be involved in their usage,” Dr. Kasper told us. “And the materials originally used for tampons weren’t the best, so as a result, there were certain dangers associated with tampons.”
However, now, doctors have a “very clear understanding” of TSS risks and tampon materials have changed over the years, Dr. Kasper continued. “So, if you’re looking to wear one overnight, you can!” she said. “I say that with the caveat that if you’re someone who’s looking to sleep for up to 12 hours, wearing a tampon overnight may not be for you. But for many young women, wearing a tampon overnight, for up to eight hours, is completely safe.”
#6. You can’t use tampons for your first period.
Tampons can take a bit of practice and they may seem overwhelming if you’ve never put anything inside your vagina before But there’s no reason that you can’t use tampons beginning with your first period. It’s all about personal preference!
“As long as you have proper instructions from the insert in the tampon box, articles you’ve read, education by a parent, friend, family member or doctor, there’s no reason why a young woman can’t use tampons for her first period,” Dr. Kasper told HelloGiggles.
#7. If you use tampons instead of a menstrual cup and/or reusable pad, you’re a bad person.
This is one of the newer myths about tampons as a result of the recent wave of reusable period products, like period panties, reusable pads, and menstrual cups. Yes, these eco-friendly products are great! However, they can also lead to women shaming other women for using tampons — and you should *never* feel like you’re a bad person for using what’s comfortable for your body.
“Every person’s body and preferences are different, so it’s a good thing that we have so many options for managing our periods — including tampons, pads and menstrual cups,” Cushman said. That said, trying out new options is always good, because who knows? You could end up falling in love with a new period method!
But what you decide is up to you. Its your body — and its your period.