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What are tampons?

A tampon is a cylindrical device made out of highly absorbent material. A tampon is inserted into the vagina during menstruation to absorb the menstrual flow.

The tampon has a long history which starts in ancient Egypt. Ancient medical scrolls discovered by archaeologists provide descriptions about the earliest tampons which were made of cotton, paper, wool and even a certain type of fern. Along the way, much has changed. The modern tampon was first introduced in 1933.

Tampons come in many sizes, shapes and colors. Different types of substances have different absorbent capabilities. Sometimes tampons are color-coded according to the absorbent capacity, so women with a heavy menstrual flow can easily choose a super-absorbent one.

Tampons also come in different sizes and shapes so that women can select a size and a shape with which they feel most comfortable. When tampons absorb menstrual flow, they expand.

Some expand radially, increasing their diameter, while others expand axially, increasing their length.

Inserting a tampon is very simple. Some tampons come with an inserter while some should be simply pushed in with a finger. The tampon should be inserted in such a way that it rests in the posterior fornix, covering the external opening of the uterus. Any other position is known to cause discomfort and sometime leakage.

Pain in the vagina while inserting a tampon

The vagina is a nerve-rich environment. Both the peripheral and the autonomic nervous systems supply the vagina. Sensory fibers reach the vagina along the pudendal nerve and the sacral nerve roots. The outer half of the vagina contains a higher density of sensory receptors compared to the deeper half of the vagina. Therefore when the tampon is not fully inserted women feel more pain than when the tampon is in its normal position. Superficial vaginal tears are similarly more painful compared to deeper tears.

Breaking the hymen for the first time is painful to some women.

Inserting a tampon may damage the hymen. Some women feel pain while inserting a tampon for the first time.

Selecting the wrong size and shape will cause discomfort due to unusual stretching of the vagina. Sometimes inserting a tampon without adequate lubrication may damage the vaginal wall, resulting in a burning pain.

Tampons expand when they absorb menstrual flow. Radial expansion is known to cause more discomfort than axial expansion. Choosing the right tampon can make all the difference.

Infections of the vagina and cervix may cause irritation of the surface epithelium. Inflammatory mediators secreted by the cells involved in acute inflammation (example: prostaglandin) stimulate pain receptors.

Tampon use has been linked to an increased incidence of pelvic inflammation and lower genital tract infections. A tampon acts as a growth medium for these harmful bacteria.

Allergy and atopy are other possible causes for pain. Some individuals are allergic to materials tampons are made of.

What you should do?

Selecting the right tampon is very important. Pay attention to the size, shape, absorbent capacity of the tampon. Avoid tampons if you are allergic to them. There is an increased risk of infection in tampon users. So maintaining good hygiene is essential. These infections respond well to good personal hygiene, antibiotics and supportive therapy.

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