Why You Definitely Shouldn’t Panic If You Think A Tampon Is Stuck Inside You

All these years of getting your period makes you a tampon expert now, right? Er, except for that heart-stopping moment when you go to yank out your tampon and…wait…where is it? Did you even have one in? Or is it…stuck? SOS.

First, breathe. A stuck tampon is more common and far less freaky than you might think. “Most of the time, a woman simply forgets the tampon is in there or she places a second one, forgetting about the first,” says Jessica Kiley, M.D., associate professor and chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

More good news: A tampon doesn’t really have anywhere to go—the vagina’s only about three or four inches deep, and the opening of your cervix is way too small to let a tampon pass through, says Kiley. So, a tampon is never really lost (whew).

Still, having a tampon stuck up there isn’t exactly something you want. Keep this info handy just in case one of your tampons goes rogue.

How do I know if I have a tampon stuck up there?

Your discharge will give you a hint: If it’s changing color to a thick yellow or even brownish red—yes, even when on your period—that might mean you left a tampon up there.

This is especially true when combined with other tell-tale symptoms like a musty or fishy odor that gets stronger (and fouler) as time passes, along with abdominal cramping, says Jessica Shepherd, M.D., M.B.A., ob-gyn and gynecologic surgeon at Baylor University Medical Center.

You might even feel a sensation of pressure thanks to a tampon being more deeply lodged or because you’ve put another one in (a.k.a., every girl’s fear when putting in another tampon).

On their own, these symptoms are definitely a sign you might have a tampon stuck—and need to get it out ASAP. But having a combo of these symptoms, in addition to fever, nausea, vomiting, or body rash could indicate something more serious, like Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), which happens when bacteria enter the bloodstream through tiny tears in your vagina. While this is rare, the longer you have a tampon up there (like, longer than the recommended eight hours), the greater the risk of TSS, so it’s even more reason to fish it out.

Okay, so what do I do if there is a tampon stuck?

Don’t panic—seriously. Your muscles clench when you’re anxious, even the ones down there. Contracting your pelvic muscles can make it harder to locate and remove the tampon.

It’s definitely okay to DIY. Pros recommend squatting over a toilet or standing with one foot elevated on a toilet cover or edge of the bathtub so that your pelvis is at an angle, which can help you access the tampon.

With clean hands (and cut nails, please!), insert one finger and gently sweep around to locate it. Grab and lightly pull. Don’t worry, you won’t hurt yourself or do any damage by reaching up, says Kiley, who recommends having some lube nearby for easier entry.

Once the tampon is outta there, Shepherd cautions against douching. Instead, briefly rinse your vagina with a shower head to clean up any blood or discharge. In a day, you should be symptom-free and back to your norm.

Well, what if I can’t find it, but something still feels off?

Go ahead and call your doctor. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about—they see this kind of stuff all the time. Pros of having an expert help? They get a full-front view compared to, well, barely any view when doing it yourself (yoga can only make you so flexible). Plus, your ob-gyn has all the tools necessary to, uh, get up in there—like a speculum, says Shepherd.

Another reason to make a visit? Worsened symptoms, especially when fever, pain, or heightened stench come into play. Sure it’s rare, but again, TSS is no joke. So ditch Dr. Google and have a consultation with your doc IRL, just to be safe.

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