Every child gets nervous doing something for the first time, whether it’s riding a bike or starting school – and using tampons for the first time is no different. As a parent, here’s how to be there to help to make everything a little bit less daunting.
While your daughter may have started her period a while ago, and knows how to use sanitary pads, tampons can seem like a whole new ball game. It’s only natural that she’s going to feel anxious, embarrassed, and keen to get it right – and you’re in a brilliant position to support her. But how do you tackle such a tricky subject, and what advice should you give? Here’s a no-tears guide to taking on tampons together.
Pick Your Moment
It’s important to find the right time for a tampon chat – ideally when you’re alone together, at home, and she’s relaxed and in a good mood (yes, we know that’s not always easy with teenagers!). If she doesn’t want your help straight away, let her know you’re always available whenever she feels ready to talk.
Give Her Homework
Many teens find using tampons frustrating because they don’t really understand their own bodies, or how everything fits together “down there.” It may help to print off a couple of simple anatomical line diagrams from the internet – for example, showing the vaginal, urethral and anal openings – and send her away, with a mirror, so that she can get acquainted with where everything is.
Talk it Through
Have a box or two of tampons ready and open a couple to show her. Slender, ultra-slim, low-absorbency ones, like Tampax radiant tampons, are best for beginners, and plastic applicators are smoother and easier to learn with than cardboard ones. Talk her through how to insert a tampon step-by-step [see below], demonstrating the process in mid-air, so she can see exactly what’s going on. Once she’s happy, she can have a go for real. And tell her to thoroughly read the safety instructions on the box.
How to Insert a Tampon
- Wash your hands (with soap) and dry them.
- Find a comfortable position. You can stand with one foot on a toilet seat or bathtub, or squat down, whichever feels easiest. Take a deep breath and relax – if you’re too nervous, the muscles down below will tighten, making things more difficult.
- Unwrap the tampon and hold it with the fingertips of one hand – almost as if holding a pen – with the string pointing downward.
- With your other hand, open up your labia (outer vaginal lips) and find your vaginal opening with your finger rather than the tampon. It’s the hole between your urethra (where you pee) and your anus (where you poo).
- If you’re using a tampon without an applicator, hold it at a slight 45-degree angle and gently slide it into your vaginal opening. Then, use your pointer finger to push it in further until it feels comfortable. The string of the tampon should be hanging down outside your body.
- If you’re using an applicator tampon, hold the applicator at an angle and slide it inside your vaginal opening until your fingers touch your body. Then, still holding the outer tube of the applicator, use your index finger to push the inner tube of the applicator (the bit containing the tampon itself) inside your vagina, almost as if you were plunging a syringe. Then, gently pull out both tubes, leaving the tampon inside. The string should be hanging down outside your body.
- When it comes to removing a tampon, wash and dry your hands, and then gently pull on the string until the tampon comes out. Used tampons (and wrappers and applicators) should always be disposed of in a sanitary bin rather than flushed down the toilet.
Persuade Her to be Patient
Most girls worry about how they’ll know they’ve inserted a tampon correctly, and the simple answer is ... she’ll know it’s right if she doesn’t know it’s there! If she can feel the tampon, it’s likely it’s rubbing against the muscles at the start of the vaginal opening and isn’t in far enough.
In this case, she shouldn’t worry – just pull it out and try again. Practice makes perfect, so reassure her she’ll probably need several tries before she gets the hang of it. Using slim tampons and attempting to insert one when her flow is medium/heavy will be easier than when it’s light. Popping a small blob of vaginal lubricant onto the end of the tampon first may also help.
Bust Any Myths She Might Believe
Teenagers love to talk, and it’s likely your daughter will have heard all kinds of wild stories about using tampons. You can help by separating the facts from the fiction:
- “Can a tampon get lost inside you?” No, the vaginal passage is like a cul de sac; it has a closed ending – the cervix – so there’s nowhere for a tampon to go. Even if you can’t locate the string, which is very rare, you can still pull a tampon out with your fingers if needed.
- “Will using tampons tear your hymen?” It’s unlikely. The hymen is a piece of super-elastic tissue surrounding or partially covering the vaginal opening, and it stretches to allow a tampon in.
- “Is it possible to put your tampon up your pee-hole?” No, your urethral opening is tiny and doesn’t stretch, so there’s no way a tampon can accidentally slip inside.
What’s the funniest thing you heard when you were younger about using tampons? Let us know in the comment section below.