What to do if you lose your tampon

Tampons cannot physically get lost inside of you because the cervix is the end of the vaginal cavity and the small opening into your uterus is far smaller than a tampon. You can however lose track of the string, making it very hard to get out.

A lost tampon is not dangerous, but after a day or two the blood starts to decay, which can cause bacterial problems, so it is best to get an old tampon out as quickly as you can. Tampons usually will fall out by themselves once they are sloppy and full enough, so even if you forget, you will likely be alerted by the feeling of the tampon coming out slowly.

A ‘lost’ tampon needs to be removed as soon as possible, as it isn’t a healthy situation for your vaginal tissue and friendly bacteria, but keep in mind it sure isn’t an emergency – it will come out eventually. A tampon left inside the vagina for several days can start to smell like something died up there, literally, as it is old blood that starts to rot.

The forgotten tampon

It is common to forget you have a tampon in if there is no other sign that you even have your period such as cramping or a visible string. This is more common near the end of your period because there is no overflow to alert you, but can happen anytime.

Another common error is to forget you have one tampon in, and put another one in – because the tampon by then is so soft and squishy with blood, it doesn’t feel like anything and can get jammed up near your cervix.

How to get your ‘lost’ tampon out

First try squatting down and using your body weight to push as if you were trying to push out a poo in the woods (without actually pooing if you can avoid it!). If the tampon is full, you have a much better chance of it slipping out, because they get pretty slippery. If it is dry, however, you may need to wait a few hours before it gets wetter.

If you can’t get the tampon out

The tampon is made of cotton, and when it is full, it won’t pull apart so easily which means you can pinch a teensy tiny bit of it with your fingers or a pair of tweezers while squatting and bearing down. The wetter it is, the harder this is to do, but if you have nails, it is easier. If it starts to shred, you’re in a bit more trouble.

Be gentle when using tweezers, as the vaginal tissue actually isn’t very sensitive at all, and you can easily cause bleeding or damage. Make sure you can feel the tampon with your fingers and can get the tweezers in the right direction.

Remember to bear down and push it out at the same time, and eventually after some exertion on your part (take a break, have a glass of water if you need to) it will come out. Keep going – you can feel it right?

Sideways stuck tampons

Sometimes a tampon get stuck because it turns sideways, which often occurs after having sex with a tampon in, whereby the tampon gets jammed up against the cervix, sideways, and the string is up there too.

Note: Having sex with a tampon in isn’t dangerous, but it probably won’t feel as good for her, because there is a barrier to the cervix, which can be a real pleasure spot for a vaginal orgasm. It can also be mighty annoying to get the tampon out afterwards.

If engaging in penetration with a penis, once a tampon is lodged right inside, it doesn’t seem like the partner can tell if there is a tampon in, so long as it is quite a full tampon, not a fresh hard dry one.

If you really can’t get the tampon out

If you really can’t get the tampon out and it has started to smell and cause you some distress, you may need to get some assistance by a professional in these matters, i.e. your doctor, the local hospital or emergency room.

You want someone who can use a speculum, the plastic or metal device that gently opens the vagina so it can be inspected, or to have items removed.

Don’t worry – you will be ok! It will come out eventually.

Note: If you start to feel feverish or unwell please go to a clinic straight away for help. Check the symptoms of toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a rare staph infection that can be life-threatening.

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Jessica Lloyd - Vulvovaginal Specialist 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)