September 16, 2019
You are going away on a family vacation to the beach and your 12-year-old daughter is disappointed that she will get her menstrual cycle during the trip. She wants to know what she can do to avoid having to wear a pad during her menstrual cycle. You wonder if your daughter is too young to start using tampons.
That’s a common question asked in my pediatric and adolescent gynecology practice. It is helpful to know that once a girl starts to get her menstrual cycle she can use tampons. There is no specific age requirement for tampon use, however girls need to understand how to use them safely. Some girls might not be interested in using them, and it is OK to wait until they feel emotionally ready to try it.
Talking to your daughter about tampons will help her feel more comfortable. Tampons come in many different sizes (usually light, regular, super, and super plus). Tampons have three different types of applicators: cardboard, plastic, or no applicator at all. It is normal for girls to feel nervous the first time a tampon is used. It can be helpful to explain that the muscles in the vagina can sometimes tense and this can make tampon insertion more challenging. The more relaxed during tampon insertion, the easier it will be.
Each box of tampons includes directions, and your daughter should read them. Providing tips to your daughter also can make her first time easier.
Here are some tips for first-time users:
· Wash your hands before tampon insertion.
· Using a mirror to know the location of the vaginal opening can be helpful.
· Selecting a light tampon in a plastic applicator is a good choice. Plastic applicators allow for the smoothest entry.
· Inserting a tampon when menstrual flow is moderate-to-heavy allows for easier insertion.
· Applying a small amount of vaginal lubricant on the tip of the tampon can help it glide into place.
If a tampon is placed correctly it should not be felt after insertion. If there is discomfort after insertion it might not have been inserted properly. If so, remove the tampon and try inserting a new one. If unsuccessful after several attempts, it is important to schedule a visit with a pediatric and adolescent gynecologist, pediatrician, or family medicine physician for an evaluation. Some girls might be born with a very small hymenal opening, which could prevent tampon insertion.
Tampons should be removed and replaced every four-to-six hours even if menstrual flow is light. Tampons should not be worn to sleep at night. They should only be used during a menstrual cycle.
If using tampons, it is important to educate your daughter about a rare medical condition called Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). TSS is caused by bacteria, not by tampons. A tampon inside the vagina can create an environment where bacteria can grow, and this can cause a severe infection. If wearing tampons and symptoms of sudden high fever, rash, vomiting, and dizziness occur, the tampon should be removed and a doctor should be consulted immediately.
Dr. Rachael L. Polis is a pediatric and adolescent gynecologist at Crozer-Keystone Health System. She sees patients from newborn to 25 years old in Crozer-Keystone OB/GYN offices in Broomall, Media and Upland. Call 610-619-8300 for an appointment.