Inserting a tampon can be intimidating for first-time users and may cause pain if inserted incorrectly. But understanding the basics of how to use tampons properly can help you get the hang of it and reduce discomfort in the future.

Choosing the right tampon size

Tampons come in different sizes and absorbency levels. Choosing the right one for you can help prevent leaks and minimize pain.

You'll know the size is right if you are able to wear the tampon comfortably for four to eight hours without leaks and the tampon is evenly soaked when you remove it, says Sophia Yen, MD, CEO and co-founder of Pandia Health, abirth controldelivery service.

The different tampon sizes on the market include:

In general, you should use the smallest tampon that will effectively absorb your flow, Yen says. Otherwise, using a tampon that is meant for a heavy flow when your period is light can cause discomfort and pain, especially with removal.

A step-by-step guide to inserting a tampon and choosing the right size for you

Donna Gin Baick, MD, an associate clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UCI Health recommends starting with the smallest size and if you fill or overflow your tampon within four hours, try going up a size. On the other hand, if you have a lot of white areas after removing the tampon after 4 to 6 hours or it feels dry when you remove it, then you should consider a smaller size.

The size of your vagina also affects the type of tampon you should use. For example, a younger adolescent may need a smaller tampon than a middle-aged person, says Baick.

How to remove a tampon

To remove a tampon, sit on the toilet and gently pull the string. The right size tampon should slide out without pain or resistance, Yen says. However, if your period is light, you may encounter some slight resistance.

You should change your tampon every four to eight hours, or more often if your flow is heavy and you are leaking.

Do not leave your tampon in for longer than eight hours as this can increase the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) — an infection that can lead to organ damage and, in rare cases,death. However, tampon manufacturers have improved the materials and manufacturing of tampons, so this syndrome is very rare.

Symptoms of TSS include:

If you suspect you may have TSS, seek immediate medical care. Treatment of the condition requires intravenous (IV) fluids andantibiotics.

Insider's takeaway

Tampons are menstruation products inserted in the vagina to absorb blood flow during your period. Inserting a tampon can be uncomfortable if you do it incorrectly or are using the wrong size. The right size for you will depend on your anatomy and your menstrual flow.

In some cases, difficulty inserting a tampon could be a sign of a more complex health problem, like vaginismus, a condition that causes involuntary muscle spasms. Baick says. If you've tried different sizes and are still having trouble inserting a tampon without pain, consult your doctor.