If you're here because you just realized your tampon has been stuck inside you, don't panic. Seriously, it's actually so common (and not to mention, treatable), that there's a name for it: retained tampon. A retained tampon happens when a tampon becomes stuck in the vaginal canal.
But before we get into how TF to get a stuck tampon out, let's clarify one thing: your tampon cannot get lost in your body. "The vaginal canal is a closed, contained space, so the tampon can't go into your abdomen or another part of your body," says Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, family physician at One Medical.
So how are you supposed to get a tampon out when you can't find its string? Are you going to get an infection? Is everything going to be OK down there?! Seventeen chatted with Dr. Bhuyan to answer all your pressing questions and debunk common myths about dealing with a retained tampon situation.
Sooo how can a tampon even get stuck?
According to Dr. Bhuyan, while they are several ways this can happen, it's usually one of two scenarios: either people forget they have a tampon inserted in them and have sexual intercourse, or they try to put in another tampon.
So if it happens to you, don't be embarrassed — Dr. Bhuyan says doctors see it all the time, and it's natural for people to sometimes forget. You're not meant to feel your tampon in you, after all.
What happens when a tampon gets stuck?
When you have sex or insert another tampon when you already have one in there, your tampon can be pushed to the back of your vaginal canal, making the tampon string unreachable, says Dr. Bhuyan.
Can you get an infection?
While it's stuck in your vaginal canal, the tampon can hold onto different bacteria and that bacteria can grow on the tampon, resulting in an infection. Though the type of infection varies, Dr. Bhuyan says the most common is vaginitis, which causes an inflammation in the vagina. But for the most part, simply removing the tampon (whether it's you or your doctor who does it) often resolves the infection, she says.
Though there are some cases where the infection can spread through the whole vaginal canal, it's totally treatable with an antibiotic. Not every person who has a retained tampon ends up needing an antibiotic, according to Dr. Bhuyan.
While getting Toxic Shock Syndrome (more commonly known as TSS) is a possibility when a tampon is stuck in your vagina for days or even weeks, it's super, super rare. TSS is caused by a specific type of bacteria called staphylococcus aureus, and it can get into your bloodstream, making you very sick, says Dr. Bhuyan. But again, it's quite uncommon nowadays, so don't stress too much about it.
What should you do if you can't get a tampon out?
Breathe. Seriously, you want your muscles to be relaxed when you try to get the tampon out! Dr. Bhuyan suggests first trying to remove the tampon on your own. First, wash your hands with soap and water. Then, either get into a squatting position or put one leg up on the toilet seat, and reach into your vagina to see if you’re able to hook the tampon and remove it, she says.
If you're having any difficulty finding your tampon string, don't push into your vag or use any other objects (like tweezers) to get it out. Dr. Bhuyan says some people make this mistake and accidentally skin your vaginal area. So no matter what you do, do not use any tools to try to find your tampon string!
When should you see a doctor?
If you've attempted using your hands and are still having trouble, your best move is to see your doc. "Don't delay seeing a primary care provider," says Dr. Bhuyan. "If you delay and leave a tampon in there for days or even weeks, it can actually end up causing an infection." Once you're at your physician or gynecologist's office, she says it should be pretty simple for your doctor to spot and remove the tampon.
What are symptoms of a retained tampon?
Sometimes you really might not remember whether you have a tampon in you, or you could forget you ever put one in. (and according to Dr. Bhuyan, it really is more common than you think!) If this is the case, there are usually a few symptoms of a retained tampon that you can spot.
"Odor is the most common [symptom]," says Dr. Bhuyan. "It's a foul, perhaps even fishy odor." Additionally, other signs of a retained tampon includes a high fever, vaginal discharge that's not typical for you (like thick, yellow or green), pelvic pain, and a rash in the vulvar area.
While these symptoms are certainly indicators of a stuck tampon, if you have any symptoms that aren't consistent with your baseline, Dr. Bhuyan says it's a good idea to pay a visit to your doctor.
Should you still see a doctor if you're able to get the tampon out?
TBH, if you're able to get the tampon out on your own, and your symptoms resolve immediately, Dr. Bhuyan says you're probably fine. But if your tampon is out and you're still seeing symptoms, there's a possibility that you could have a vaginal infection that needs to be treated.
But it really does depend on how uncomfortable or comfortable you are, so if you feel like you'd like to get checked out by an expert, there's never any harm in doing so!
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