Tampons and their effect on the vagina

Tampons are cotton products designed to absorb menstrual blood by being placed high up in the vaginal cavity near the cervix. They are held in place by the vaginal muscles, and unless full, don’t tend to move.

Tampons are one of the greatest inventions of all times, however not everyone can use them easily. There are some with applicators, and some that require a finger to push up.

Tampons can affect the vagina in several ways.

1. A tampon gets left inside the vagina for too long

If a tampon gets left inside the vagina for too long, the blood on it starts to decompose and smells like rotting meat. This is because it is rotting blood, and causes an overgrowth of bad bacteria that feed off the blood in the low-acid environment that menstrual blood creates.

This has negative implications for your vaginal cells because bad bacteria have negative impacts on cells, even sometimes causing cell death. Your vagina will not rot away, and you usually won’t get sick because you will notice before it becomes a huge problem. See the article about lost tampons for more information on removal.

2. Tampons dry your vagina out

This is kinda the point of a tampon, but if your vagina is feeling extra dry and uncomfortable, try using a small amount of water-based lubricant at insertion. Tampons absorb your natural lubricant, and therefore shouldn’t be used in the absence of your menstrual period unless you have a reason to do so. This might include mopping up extra fluids if you are going commando, wearing special underwear or you have a lot of discharge.

If you have excess vaginal fluids, you may have a problem that needs attention, as it is abnormal for there to be copious discharge. Reasons for this might include a yeast infection, a dairy intolerance (lactose is known to be mucous-forming) or another infection.

3. Tampons can cause small cuts to appear in or around your vaginal opening

Inserting tampons takes some practice, and sometimes a little help. If you find you are hurting yourself while attempting to insert a tampon, try using a brand that offers an applicator and a small amount of water-based lubricant. This can make the whole thing very easy and smooth, and cut free.

These cuts are called vaginal fissures or labial fissures and will go away by themselves. If you are causing yourself damage inserting tampons (you should not be causing damage), see our article on how to put in a tampon.

4. Allergies can cause small ulcers and pain or irritation on the vulva and inside the vagina

The most typical sort of vaginal allergy can be from latex and the plant fibres or manufacturing ingredients in tampons, and can get seriously uncomfortable. There is no evidence that latex is present in tampons or pads, but there are a lot of other irritants potentially present for sensitive people. The best way around a tampon allergy is to try 100% organic cotton tampons, without any dyes, bleaches or fragrances, and see if that helps.

If that doesn’t work, try the Moon Cup or another such device (but if you are hyperallergenic, check what the period cup is made out of first as it could be plastic or latex).

Need something cleared up about tampons? Ask Aunt Vadge.

 

Jessica Lloyd - Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica Lloyd - Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)
Read more about Jessica and My Vagina's origin story.