Whether you’re just starting to use tampons, or you’ve been using them for years, there are a ton of unanswered questions out there about these bad boys. Whether you’re curious about the risks of toxic shock syndrome, or you’re unsure about whether or not you’re inserting it correctly—we’re here to help.

What are Tampons?

Tampons are a type of sanitary product that’s used to prevent period blood from leaking onto a woman’s clothing. Tampons are a great alternative to pads if you’re looking for something that can be worn inside the vaginal canal instead of stuck to the underwear. Tampons are a great option for people who find pads to be uncomfortable, messy, or not absorbent enough.

When compared to menstrual cups, another product that can be worn inside the vaginal canal to prevent leakage and bleeding, tampons are much different. While a menstrual cup fills up with blood that needs to be poured out, a tampon absorbs the blood for easy disposal.

The type of sanitary product that you choose is up to you, your comfort level, and what works best for your lifestyle.

How Do You Insert a Tampon?

To insert a tampon, you should follow the directions listed on the box of the tampons that you purchase, as the instructions may vary slightly between different brands. There are two different insertion methods, based on whether you’re using a tampon with an applicator or a tampon without an applicator. If you’re using a tampon with an applicator, you can follow these steps:

  1. Wash your hands, remove the tampon from the packaging and find a comfortable position. You may want to sit, squat, or even put one leg up on the toilet.
  2. Find the opening of the vaginal canal and push the tampon applicator up and back, as the vaginal canal sits at an angle, back toward your spine.
  3. Once the applicator is inside your vaginal canal to the base of the larger part of the applicator, push on the smaller tube (so it goes inside the larger tube), pushing the tampon up and out of the applicator.
  4. Throw away the applicator and wash your hands.

Do Tampons Cause Toxic Shock Syndrome?

Yes, tampons do put users at a higher risk for toxic shock syndrome, but it’s incredibly rare. Toxic shock syndrome occurs when a tampon is left in the vagina for too long, causing bacteria to grow. A tampon should only be worn for 4 to 8 hours. When you use a tampon for longer than 8 hours, you’re putting your body at risk for bacteria growth.

What Size Tampons Should I Be Using?

When looking at tampons, you’re probably asking yourself, “what does the r on tampons mean?” The letters on the tampons state the size that they are. Tampons range from light to super plus depending on the brand. You should always choose the lightest absorbency possible for your period. Using a tampon that is too absorbent for a light period can put you at higher risk for toxic shock syndrome.

Because your period will change throughout the days or week that you have it, you should get a pack that has multiple different sizes in it. That way, you can use heavier absorbencies at the beginning of your period, and lighter ones at the end.

Are Tampons Right for Me?

Deciding whether or not tampons are the best choice for you is a really personal decision. The best way to decide whether or not they work for you is to try them out. If you don’t like them, there are always other options out there for you, like pads and menstrual cups!