Tampons can get "stuck" inside the vagina in a number of ways. Strings break. People slip a new tampon in without taking the old one out. Some forget to remove a tampon before having sex. However it happens, it can feel as though the tampon is out of reach or lost.
It's important to know that you can't actually "lose" a tampon in your vagina. It is possible for a tampon to move so far into your vagina that it's hard to grasp. And tampons that stay in your vagina too long are a health risk. Your risk of menstrual toxic shock syndrome (MTSS) triples when you leave a tampon in place longer than eight hours.
This article guides you through the delicate process of finding and removing a tampon that's hard to reach or "stuck."
Where a Tampon Can Go
Your vagina is a closed space. Once you put in a tampon, it will stay in the vagina until you take it out.
Think of your vagina as a pouch with one opening at the lower end. At the upper end or top of the pouch is the cervix, which is connected to the uterus. The cervix also has an opening, but it is so small that a tampon would never fit through it.
Why You Can’t Find the String
Your vagina is bigger than a tampon. The average vagina is about four inches long and about two inches wide. Two inches wide may seem narrow, but remember that the walls of your vagina are very elastic. They can stretch wide enough to let a newborn baby pass through.
A tampon applicator can easily fit into your vagina. And your vagina can expand as a tampon absorbs blood and becomes wider.
Most tampons are a little less than two inches long. It's possible for a tampon to move up to the top or back of the vagina. If that happens, you might not be able to see the string.
Your tampon is not lost. It may have moved farther up in your vagina, but it cannot go beyond the cervix, the tiny opening of your uterus. If a tampon is stuck in your vagina, it's important to remove it as soon as possible so you don't develop an infection.
It's really common to feel stressed or panicky if you can't see or feel tampon strings. Still, it's important to keep calm. When you get anxious or stressed, you can contract or clench different muscles in your body.
If you are upset about the “lost” tampon, you may tighten the muscles around your vagina. That could make it even harder to locate and remove the tampon.
How to Find the Tampon
First, take a deep breath and relax. The tampon is exactly where you put it—still in your vagina. You can take these steps to find it:
- Wash your hands well with soap and water.
- Sit on the toilet with your legs open a bit more than hip-width apart.
- Squeeze or press with the muscles in your vagina to try and push the tampon.
- If you are having a hard time squeezing the muscles of your pelvic floor, gently bear down as if you are starting to urinate.
- Gently insert two fingers into your vagina.
- Sweep your fingers around the inside of your vagina trying to feel your way toward the top and back of your vagina.
- If you can feel the tampon, grab it between your fingers and slowly pull it out.
- If you can’t feel the tampon, you may at least be able to locate the strings. If you do, pull the tampon out by the strings.
The first step is to relax as much as you can. Tightening your muscles will make it harder to find the tampon and take it out. You can locate the tampon by sitting on a toilet, gently inserting two fingers into your vagina, and sweeping side to side. Pushing down with your vagina muscles may bring the tampon into reach. Once you've found it, ease it out slowly.
If You Can’t Find the Tampon
Give yourself time to follow the steps described above. After a couple of tries, you will probably be able to find and take out the tampon. If not, call your gynecologist or a healthcare professional. You can make an appointment to have it removed.
If you're feeling embarrassed about asking for help, that's okay. You're not the only person to need help taking out a tampon that's moved way up inside the vagina.
It's not healthy for a tampon to stay in longer than eight hours. This increases the risk of infection, especially toxic shock syndrome (TSS). You should call your healthcare provider as soon as you realize you can’t remove a tampon yourself.
You can't lose a tampon inside your vagina. That's because there is only one opening large enough to fit a tampon. If a tampon moves to the upper end of your vagina, you may lose sight of the strings, but the tampon is still there.
To find it, sit on a toilet and move your legs apart. Using two fingers, gently sweep from side to side inside your vagina until you feel the strings or the tampon. Clamp the tampon between your fingers and slowly remove it. If you don't find it at first, breathe deeply, stay calm, and try again.
If you can't find the tampon, it's important to call your doctor or a healthcare professional to have it removed. Leaving a tampon in too long can cause an infection.
A Word From Verywell
There are many myths about menstruation. Lots of women don't know the facts. If you have questions, it's okay to ask them. The more you know about the anatomy of your vagina, the better prepared you will be to handle situations like a "lost" tampon.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you lose a tampon inside you?
No. Once a tampon is in the vagina, there is only one way out. It is possible for the strings to come off the tampon, making it harder to find. It is also possible to push a tampon out during a bowel movement and not realize it. It is physically impossible for a tampon to get lost in the vagina.
Can a tampon get stuck out of reach?
Yes, a tampon can be pushed so far into the vagina that you can have difficulty removing it yourself. This can happen if you accidentally insert a new tampon but forget to take the old one out or have sex without first removing the tampon.
You can try to push the tampon down the vaginal canal by bearing down like you would for a bowel movement. Then insert two clean fingers while bearing down. It may take several tries to reach the tampon and pull it out.
How does a doctor remove a stuck tampon?
If you can't get a stuck tampon out on your own, call your gynecologist. Your healthcare provider can remove the tampon using a small clamp used for surgical sponges. The procedure may be uncomfortable but it should not be painful.
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Billon A, Gustin MP, Tristan A, et al. Association of characteristics of tampon use with menstrual toxic shock syndrome in France.EClinicalMedicine. 2020;21:100308. doi:10.1016/j.eclinm.2020.100308
By Andrea Chisholm, MD
Andrea Chisolm, MD, is a board-certified OB/GYN who has taught at both Tufts University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School.
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Try to feel the area at the top of your vagina because this is where items like tampons often get stuck. If you feel the object, remove your finger then place 2 fingers into the same area, trapping the object between them, then try pulling it out gently.Will a stuck tampon eventually come out? ›
Will it eventually come out on its own? A tampon that has taken up residence in your vagina is unlikely to come out by itself, so it's important that you take steps to remove it. “Leaving it in or not knowing that you have a retained tampon can lead to serious health concerns,” Youngblood warns.How do you get a stuck tampon out without string? ›
Insert the index finger into the vagina to feel for the tampon (use a vaginal lubricant on your finger if you need to). Once you feel the tampon, see if you can move it to the vaginal wall with your finger still on the other side and pull it out that way.Why wont my tampon come out? ›
Tightening your muscles will make it harder to find the tampon and take it out. You can locate the tampon by sitting on a toilet, gently inserting two fingers into your vagina, and sweeping side to side. Pushing down with your vagina muscles may bring the tampon into reach. Once you've found it, ease it out slowly.How long can a tampon be stuck in me? ›
Tampon manufacturers advise that a tampon should not be left in for more than 8 hours. Occasionally, a rare but life-threatening bacterial infection called toxic shock syndrome has been linked to women using tampons.What happens if I left a tampon in for a week? ›
Leaving a tampon in for too long can lead to infections and rarely cause life-threatening toxic shock syndrome (TSS). TSS is typically caused by an overgrowth of bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus. Each year toxic shock syndrome affects about 1 in 100,000 women.How soon do toxic shock syndrome symptoms appear? ›
In general, TSS symptoms can develop as soon as 12 hours after a surgical procedure. Symptoms usually develop in 3 to 5 days in individuals who are menstruating and using tampons or menstrual cups.How do you know if you have a tampon stuck inside of you? ›
Pain or itching.
It's possible to have a tampon stuck up there and not really feel anything, says Dr. Greves. But you might also feel some vaginal itchiness or even soreness (think: pelvic cramping).
Can tampons fall out due to pelvic floor muscles issues? Tampons slipping out or not staying in can also signal that you need to check on your pelvic floor muscles. Tight pelvic floor muscles can be a big cause because it can push out your tampon, making it feel like it won't stay in.What happens if a tampon is left in for 3 weeks? ›
Leaving a tampon in for too long can lead to infections and rarely cause life-threatening toxic shock syndrome (TSS). TSS is typically caused by an overgrowth of bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus. Each year toxic shock syndrome affects about 1 in 100,000 women.
Clindamycin has a longer postantibiotic effect than penicillin. Clindamycin causes suppression of lipopolysaccharide-induced monocyte synthesis of TNF. Dixit et al reported successful treatment of a case of recurrent menstrual TSS after tampons were discontinued with rifampicin and clindamycin.