Tampon-Talk. Girls fear it and mothers find the conversations uncomfortable, but explaining how to use a tampon doesn’t have to be so hard. Every woman has a tampon story to tell. Some are terribly sad, some uneventful, and some are surprisingly hilarious. Your own personal story is a useful tool for starting these sometimes awkward conversations.
In all seriousness, girls do need specific guidance when trying tampons for the first time. Here are a few pointers so you can give your daughter specific and helpful advice on how to insert a tampon.
WARNING: You may find this uncomfortable but read on anyway. If you just can’t, pass this to an aunt or older sister who might be a better fit for teaching your tween to use a tampon for the first time.
1. Show your daughter a diagram of what the female reproductive system looks like.
Use visuals. Show her a diagram with a side-view of the female reproductive system and point out the angle of the vagina and how it slants towards the spine.
2. Tell your daughter to explore her own body.
Advise that she find her vaginal opening and insert her finger as far as it will go (wash with soap first) before trying to insert the tampon. Once she finds the opening and understands her own anatomy (which can be the hardest part) it will be much easier to start the process and save her the frustration and discomfort of poking herself a million times.
3. Be specific about how to insert the tampon into her vagina.
Tell your daughter how to insert the tampon into her vagina, step by step. Remove the wrapper, hold the tampon at a 45-degree angle, insert slowly and fully, press down on the applicator plunger, remove the applicator, make sure the string is sticking out. Helpful tips: If the tampon is even remotely sticking out of her vagina, it will cause discomfort and possibly pain, so tell your daughter to push the tampon in as far as it will go (without it hurting of course). Also, have her experiment with inserting the tampon while she’s sitting and while she’s standing with one leg raised. She may find adjusting her position gives her better access and a more comfortable angle for insertion.
4. Start with small (and plastic) tampons.
Plastic tampon applicators are the easiest to use. Be sure to buy small tampons geared towards tweens and teens.
5. Teach safe tampon use.
Fortunately, toxic shock syndrome is rare these days, but it’s still important to teach girls to use tampons safely. Specifically: wash your hands, use the lowest absorbency possible; change tampons every three hours; don’t leave tampons in overnight; and, consider using tampons for just a few days then switching out to pads or blood absorbent panties.
These aren’t the only methods to teach how you are supposed to wear a tampon for the first time. Some girls are successful even if they get no help at all. But any help at all can go a long way toward your daughter feeling comfortable with her body, and bravo for trying. Don’t forget to tell them how to take the damn thing out!