Will this tampon kill me?
February 4, 2009 9:27 PM   Subscribe

So, um, I discovered today that I put a tampon in and I can't remember when. Guessing sometime between 48 hours and 7 days ago. I feel fine. Do I still need to worry?

I'm not usually so scatterbrained, but my current cycle is all screwy which doesn't help. I got a Mirena IUD put in last August (my second), and like last time, I bled nonstop for a while and now I am bleeding unpredictably (and waiting hopefully for the no-period thing to start again). So I wear pantiliners and whenever the spotting becomes too heavy, I pop in a tampon.

I remember thinking the past couple of days that it was nice not to have spotting but didn't think much of it because it's been so random. Today I was pooping when suddenly I felt a little weird down there, and then the tampon came out. I am sure that I didn't put it in today or yesterday. I don't remember using one at all this week. It is possible that it has been in since before I had sex with my husband (twice) on Saturday, though I would hope we would have noticed something funny (we didn't).

I am hesitant to call my gynecologist's office to ask about this, because, well, I don't like the staff there very much and I don't want to become fodder for office gossip. So, I'd like to know if anyone has ever had this happen, and if so did you feel OK afterwards but then develop problems later on? Or has anyone talked to their gyno about this? I know YANAD but I know I can't be the only woman this has happened to.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This is normal.
Foreign Body
Lost and forgotten tampons are the most common foreign body found in the vagina (nsfw images), although other objects are occasionally found. Women with this problem complain of a bad-smelling vaginal discharge which is brown or black in color. The foreign body can be felt on digital exam or visualized with a speculum.

As soon as you suspect or identify a lost tampon or other object in the vagina, immediately prepare a plastic bag to receive the object. As soon as it is retrieved, place it in the bag and seal the bag since the anaerobic odor from the object will be extremely penetrating and long-lasting.

Have the patient return in a few days for follow-up examination. Normally, no other treatment is necessary, but patients who also complain of fever or demonstrate systemic signs/symptoms of illness should be evaluated for possible toxic shock syndrome, an extremely rare, but serious, complication of a retained tampon.
posted by jessamyn at 9:30 PM on February 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

The only thing I can think of is Toxic Shock Syndrome, though it is far less likely to contract than it was in years past. If you get any of the symptoms, I would contact your doctor.

In regards to your doctor, I would either switch to a place where you feel safe (as you feel that patient/doctor confidentiality will not be held at this location) and can trust the doctors and staff there, even with the embarrassing questions. They've heard it all, most likely, and you shouldn't feel embarrassed to call up and ask them about anything you're experiencing.
posted by itchie at 9:32 PM on February 4, 2009

As long as your not experiencing any symptoms of TSS (fever, fainting, diarrhea, headache, muscle ache) you're probably fine. IANAD.
posted by All.star at 9:33 PM on February 4, 2009

If you're thinking TSS (as the posters above mentioned) you'd pretty much know it already. If you develop the symptoms in the next few days, let your doctor know. I guess you could be at a heightened risk for a yeast infection right now, but you'd probably know that too. And yeah - you need to feel comfortable with your doctor to share the embarrassing stuff.
posted by barnone at 9:35 PM on February 4, 2009

You're not the only one this has happened to. I accidentally left one in for about 48 hours one time and experienced no problems. If you feel at all ill, I'd definitely call your doctor.

And yeah, you really deserve better than gossipy medical staff. Nobody should have to deal with that.
posted by corey flood at 9:45 PM on February 4, 2009

To those who say she should feel comfortable with the doctor, I think it's the staff that she's concerned with. My gyno is incredibly super mega awesome, but her staff SUCKS. This is the case with almost every doctor's office I've ever been to. It seems that medical staff with good manners are rare. And you can't get to the doctor without going through the staff...

OP-If you're concerned about your doctor's staff, you could always ask to talk to one of the nurses, if that's possible. Usually they're at least better than the general office staff.

Also, this sounds like a great question for Vagina Pagina. I'm actually surprised that I couldn't find a question like this on there already. I think you have to make an LJ to ask, but if you can't find what you're looking for here, there are a lot of women who know a lot about gyno issues on there to help.
posted by fructose at 9:49 PM on February 4, 2009

Just to be safe, you should talk to your doctor about it. If you can't talk to your ob/gyn about this, it is time for a new ob/gyn -- no matter the reason!

FWIW, I went to a new ob/gyn recently, and after the litany of questions she asked me, I realized that I could probably never lob anything crazier at her than what she's probably already seen a thousand times over.
posted by pazazygeek at 9:56 PM on February 4, 2009

I am hesitant to call my gynecologist's office to ask about this, because, well, I don't like the staff there very much and I don't want to become fodder for office gossip.
As gynecological mishaps go, I think this one probably rates pretty low. I doubt it would be worthy of office gossip.

I wouldn't worry about it, though. I did this once and there were no dire consequences.
posted by craichead at 9:57 PM on February 4, 2009

This lady forgot her tampon for ten days and then blogged about it, with all the gross details. She was fine.

If you want a checkup to be sure everything is fine, you could go to a Planned Parenthood office (if you live in the US).
posted by clearlydemon at 10:18 PM on February 4, 2009

Has this video been linked here yet? It is informative and good and makes you feel less grossed out about your body! The song is atrocious but the woman is nice. Also she IS a doctor.

You may want to make sure that *all* of the tampon came out, if you aren't certain.
posted by Mizu at 10:29 PM on February 4, 2009

Rachel Shukert relates a horrifying anecdote about a forgotten tampon in her memoir. All I will say is that if you don't like your gyno and/or her/his staff, find another and get an appointment pronto.
posted by brujita at 10:48 PM on February 4, 2009

I had an ex who left one in for two weeks (thankfully, this was before we were dating); I think she called he father, an MD but not an OB-GYN, who told her no worries.
posted by orthogonality at 11:01 PM on February 4, 2009

Oh course, I'm sure her father asked her about her sypmtoms before telling her no worries; your case may differ.
posted by orthogonality at 11:04 PM on February 4, 2009

My mom worked for a doctor and said that this was not an uncommon occurrence. The doctor and staff will have heard of this/seen this before, so don't feel shy about it. I echo the others who have said that there's probably nothing your doctor and staff can be surprised by, so don't worry about stuff like this to the point where you won't go to the doctor when you DO need to.
posted by OolooKitty at 1:58 AM on February 5, 2009

I did something very similar, and it was there for about a week; in fact, it was my doctor who caught it in the course of a regular exam. The staff was pretty matter-of-fact about it, and my doctor was amused, but still gave me an antibiotic as a "just in case" measure.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:40 AM on February 5, 2009

My Dad is an OBGYN and this is not at all uncommon. Call them, but you're probably fine.
posted by pointystick at 7:37 AM on February 5, 2009

On more than one occasion I've removed a tampon, replaced it with another only to realize several days later that at some point during that period I'd screwed up the order. Meaning: I put in a new one without removing the first, didn't catch that mistake the next (few) times I changed the tampon and unknowingly was two-timing for several days. As fantastically unappealing as that is, (and I really can't believe that I've done it more than once (gah), it always turned out to be fine. I'd check for stray bits, use pads or a cup for the rest of this cycle, and unless you get any flu-like symptoms, you're probably fine.

Oh, and if you don't want to get a new gyn, then leave a message for her/him and specify that you have a medical question that you only want to speak to the doctor about. Even if the staff are dicks, they'd be stupid to let patient/doctor communication go unanswered.
posted by 8dot3 at 7:44 AM on February 5, 2009

I've done this - and for probably more than a week - my best friend has done this more than once and I'm sure many many other women have done it as well. I didn't go to the doctor; neither did my friend; we're totally fine. In my friend's case, she has been fine for several years. I did get the flu some seven months later but I don't think they were connected. So, IANAD, etc., but if I were you I wouldn't even bother calling the gyno unless you have the best health insurance in the whole world OR if you feel sick, etc., within a few days.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:31 AM on February 5, 2009

[a few comments removed - please don't turn this thread into a diva cup discussion]
posted by jessamyn at 10:01 AM on February 5, 2009

Another good resource for this sort of awkward question is Columbia University's Go Ask Alice website. They address this situation here and pretty much agree with what everyone else is saying. Also addressed here (mentioned today on Salon.com)
posted by TedW at 10:14 AM on February 5, 2009

Toxic shock syndrome is set in motion by bacteria that grow in a vagina that is very dry for a long time, hence the warning on the package to choose the lowest absorbancy you can. I think TSS isn't a worry but I would be on the look out for a yeast infection. Personally, I wouldn't be worried at all.
posted by Foam Pants at 1:31 PM on February 5, 2009

I, too, think you will be fine as this is pretty common - it's called "suit". Once you are sure you are OK (& have taken antibiotics as a precaution) and can look back at this oversight with a sense of humor, check out this OB/GYN answering machine message that pokes fun at our reasons for visiting our ob/gyn, explains "suit", and pretty much verifies your distrust of the office staff.
posted by ourroute at 8:35 PM on February 5, 2009

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