Should I Give Tampons Another Try?
January 16, 2014 7:40 PM   Subscribe

The last time I tried a tampon, it was before the Clinton Administration. Should I give them another try?

38 year old here, period haver since age 13. I went through puberty before YouTube and helpful strangers on the internet, so my education on using tampons was limited to the terrible instruction sheet in the box.

My few tries when I was a teen to use them did not go well. I could always feel them and it bothered me. It also just freaked me out to have something stuck inside me while I was going about my day. I also had pain when taking them out. 25 years later, I have had two kids and am now graced with heavier periods than I've had since high school. Using pads for this SUCKS.

(I have talked with my GYN about solutions to this problem and am not interested in going back on hormonal birth control. At this point, my only permanent option is endometrial ablation and I'm not quite sure I'm ready for that.)

So, I'm thinking of giving tampons another try. Are there any good brands for beginners such as myself? Any tips for insertion or removal? Any good instructions out there on how to do it correctly or is it more of a trial and error kind of thing?

I have read about the diva cup, but I'm not interested.
posted by tafetta, darling! to Health & Fitness (53 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I hated tampons until I tried o.b. No applicator, pretty much just a wad of cotton. Remove the covering, stretch the base with the string (the package has diagrams), and insert using your index or middle finger.
posted by kellyblah at 7:42 PM on January 16, 2014 [19 favorites]

I had negative experiences with tampons until I started using OB brand, which don't have applicators. For whatever reason, the kind with applicators never feel quite right placement-wise. Inserting the tampon myself is always much easier, and more comfortable. You do have to wash your hands before using, but it's always been worth it or me. Plus, they are smaller profile and more discreet. Additionally, OB tampons have a much higher absorbency, I've found.
posted by ancient star at 7:45 PM on January 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yeah, try tampons again. What's the worst that could happen?

It occurs to me that there are probably youtube videos for this, but I'm afraid to google.

In general, if you've had children, you're probably a little more familiar with your body now than you were in junior high. You might not really need that much help in figuring out how to do this properly.
posted by Sara C. at 7:45 PM on January 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

My tips for addressing your original complaints...

- If you can feel it inside you, it is probably not far enough inside (YMMV, this is true for me and my anatomy). When using an applicator, this means literally pushing the applicator as far as I possibly can (while still being able to grasp the applicator enough to remove it). Sometimes I still need to push it a little further with my finger, OB style, after the applicator is out.

- If it hurts when you remove it, you are either not relaxing (relax, stupid! yeah, I know this is tough...) or you are removing the tampon before it's saturated. Dry tampon removal does suck, yeah. So even though you have these heavy! periods! now, do start with the lightest absorption level and move up as you become more comfortable.
posted by telegraph at 7:48 PM on January 16, 2014 [20 favorites]

Yeah, I think it'll be different this time, both biologically and technologically.

I would say start with the absolute least eco-friendly ones - get the full non-compact (you have to assemble those compact applicators and I find it a giant pain) plastic ones - I like Pearl, so you can get a feel for them sitting properly. Later you can move to cardboard or O.B. applicator-free.

Maybe buy a combo box of regular and super, and start with regular. If it is not a very heavy day, sometimes a super is too much and just dries you out. That is extremely uncomfortable to remove.

I still misfire at least once a month, usually not getting it far enough in so it feels like I've got to waddle around to accommodate it. That's hard to fix once it's committed, so if that happens you may have to take it out and start fresh.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:48 PM on January 16, 2014

Okay, here goes. We are about the same age, and I am here to tell you, there have been advances in tampon technology. Try using the (bad for the environment, probably) Tampax Pearl. I find the plastic applicator is easier/more comfortable to insert than the cardboard one. Start off using a smaller size than you think you need -- DEFINITELY don't start with the Super. Maybe even try a junior to see how it feels, although you'll have to change it pretty fast, and then work up. My best advice -- given to me when I was a teen by an older girl -- is NOT to start using them the first time at the beginning of your period. Wait until -- and I'm sorry for the mental imagery here -- you have enough of a flow to give yourself some lubrication happening. Occasionally it still hurts me to remove them -- rarely, but sometimes -- but my feeling is, don't remove them until you really need to, because dragging out a dry tampon is uncomfortable. Just yank 'em out, though.

I find o.b. to be really uncomfortable and hard to position, so you might have to do some trial and error to find your faves. If all other tampons were removed from the planet but o.b, I would seriously go back to pads. I HATE o.b. I can never get them up far enough, so I can really feel them rattlin' around up there. So do a little trial and error. You will make this work.

SO MUCH TMI ABOUT ME. You're welcome, internet!!!
posted by Countess Sandwich at 7:48 PM on January 16, 2014 [17 favorites]

People really, really like either o.b. tampons without applicators or tampons with plastic applicators. I find the latter is easier to go in. (No applicators are fine but not my favourite. Cardboard ones are much, much worse.)

The other option you could look into is the divacup/keepcup/similar. The disposable version is called Instead Softcup. I found a number of problems and moved back to tampons/pads, but know a lot of people who swear by them.
posted by jeather at 7:49 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, I have to differ from the consensus and say that plastic applicators can kind of... scrape going in. It doesn't hurt, but it's... ugh. I don't know, I personally can't handle it. Like nails on a chalkboard in your vagina. Augh.
posted by windykites at 7:54 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am super picky about this (and actually currently use a cup) but when I used tampons, I would only ever buy the non-applicator kind. They just seem way less flimsy, and if I use my own finger instead of a long wobbly tube to insert them, it's way easier to make sure it goes in far enough not to be felt. There's also this thing you do where you flare the base using the string- makes it more, uh, water-tight up there.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:54 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

For tampons, my recommendation is OB, smallest you need for your flow (so that it's not dry and uncomfortable coming out).

Alternatively: have you considered a menstrual cup? You can leave it in longer, and you may find it more comfortable, especially during insertion and removal.
posted by moira at 7:55 PM on January 16, 2014

I had several awful, incredibly painful experiences with tampons when I was younger, but I finally figured it out and found a good brand that worked for me and now you couldn't pay me to go back to anything else. Everyone's preferences are different, but I have tried a bunch of brands and am a big fan of Playtex, specifically the unscented Playtex Sport size Regular. I personally find using an applicator much easier, especially in the beginning when you're not used to positioning and securing the tampon on your own. I like these because I generally can't even feel it if I inserted it right (which I always do) and it securely stays in position unless I have to unexpectedly poop (and sometimes even then it stays just fine). I don't get any leakage and regular seems to be just the right size for me, Maybe this is TMI but I'm told I'm somewhat small down there, so if you're looking for comfort I think regular size would be fine. I would avoid super size tampons and if you aren't comfortable with the regular size, start with the light. I also avoid scented because 1. it's completely unnecessary if you are inserting them right and changing them when you need to and 2. Anything down there, can disrupt your PH in surprising and uncomfortable ways, so why take the chance? Before the Sport came out, I used the Gentle Glide and I was similarly happy, but I definitely like the Sport better. Hope that helps and good luck!
posted by katemcd at 7:57 PM on January 16, 2014

Just popping back into note that one of my own personal issues with o.b. is that I have very small hands and short fingers, which is why I can't get them up high enough. If you're in the same boat, word to the wise before you head to the drug store.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 7:58 PM on January 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't use any tampons but OB, not since I discovered them almost ten years ago. Definitely use a small size (like the regular even though you're having a heavy flow) and be prepared to change them often; that will help you not have pain on removal. Insertion is easier because you can move it much more intuitively with your finger.
posted by c'mon sea legs at 8:02 PM on January 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I actually never used tampons either until after my first child (at 28). They squicked me out and I couldn't figure out how to get them in right. I started using them about 6 weeks after my first child (healed quick) and was like WHY OH WHY WAS I NOT USING THESE ALL ALONG. They are sooooo much more comfortable than a pad. Try again, nothing bad can come of it. Worst case scenario you still hate them and you throw away the rest of the box.
posted by celtalitha at 8:02 PM on January 16, 2014

Also, I like the tampax pearl. The generic brand always have scratchier/crappier applicators IMO.
posted by celtalitha at 8:03 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I agree about trying the Pearl - I feel a twinge of guilt over the plastic applicator but they are the only ones I've found comfortable.
posted by joan_holloway at 8:04 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was never very good at tampons until I tried Tampax Pearl. They come in both a regular and a compact version. I find the compact version even easier to put in than the regular version, though with a bit of practice, I have learned to use both kinds. I still have considerable trouble with cardboard applicators.

I tried no applicator tampons like OB, but I had trouble with those, too. They're easier than cardboard applicators, but harder than plastic applicators for me. I wasn't squicked out by using my finger, I just dropped them a lot.

If you're not squicked out by it, once the tampon is inserted, you can push it in a little deeper, which is generally going to help with the always feeling it problem -- if you're feeling it, it's probably not in far enough.

My best suggestion though, would be to go to the drug store and buy the smallest box you can find of a few different kinds of tampons and then try them all -- opinions about what works are too different for any consensus to emerge. You can continue to wear pads while you're wearing them if you're concerned about leaks.

Also, regarding having them hurt when you take them out: the dryer the tampon and your vagina are when you remove them, the more likely they are to hurt. It's tempting as a tampon novice to always use super-plus ultra and change them at every opportunity, but a little lubrication helps (it helps when inserting them, too, for that matter), so you do want to wait until your tampon is fairly well soaked before removing it. Changing them more often than is necessary isn't better and it makes everything harder.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:08 PM on January 16, 2014

Yes, unfortunately I think the plastic applicator ones are more comfortable to use and easier to position, if you are going to use an applicator tampon. I only use nonapplicator ones when I am at home and can wash my hands before going spelunking.

Cardboard applicator ones are like the vajeeper equivalent of flossing with jute twine.
posted by elizardbits at 8:10 PM on January 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm also speaking up for the Playtex Sport. Whenever I used Tampax, it felt like it wasn't positioned right and I consciously noticed that I was wearing it throughout the day. Bonus points for the Playtex Sport as one of my favorite friends noticed that the brand had been writing motivational phrases on the wrapper, which is really funny when you're in your thirties and not an early teen hoping to feel better about yourself and hoping that the whole world doesn't realize you're on your period. We would text each other the phrases when we got our periods and when she suddenly didn't text me a phrase for five weeks, I realized she was pregnant.

"Reward yourself for goals achieved."
posted by icaicaer at 8:11 PM on January 16, 2014 [24 favorites]

Also I have about a half dozen friends who have had ablations and they are like OH GOD WHY DIDN'T I GET THIS SOONER. But yes, a very permanent solution and if you're not sure then ponder it a while longer.
posted by elizardbits at 8:12 PM on January 16, 2014

Wow, it's really interesting to see the divergent opinions here. Tampons are personal!

Yes, you should definitely give them a go again.

In my opinion:

+ ob/applicator free ones are weird and freak me out. I need some guidance.
+ Plastic applicators all the way! (Cardboard ones get oddly slippery when wet).
+ Kotex is my fav.

I'd recommend getting a few different boxes (it will be a bit pricy up-front) and try out a few different ones until you find the ones you like. In terms of application, I learned by trial and error and reading the pamphlet that came with the tampons.

Best of luck!
posted by too bad you're not me at 8:18 PM on January 16, 2014

The advantage of an OB tampon is that it's short and small and you should be able to get a better feel for your anatomy. Aim toward your lower back, not straight up, and push it in until it's past the opening. If you can feel it after all this, it's not high enough. This will help you figure out the right angle, which will help you use an applicator in the future.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:18 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Another vote for the Pearl, another guilt complex over the plastic applicator.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 8:19 PM on January 16, 2014

I have another vote for Tampax Pearl. (Also try the junior size too, just to get used to it.) Have you tried different positions while pushing them in? It's intuitive to sit on the toilet and spread your legs, but you can also try putting one foot up on the toilet or tub (Captain Morgan style as I like to imagine it.)

I also second that you should grab a few boxes and try some things out. Do you have any lady friends that you can pawn the others off on? (I would take free tampons if I knew my friend was trying to find her "brand".)

I have tried Tampax Pearl and Cardboard, Various Store Brands, Kotex Regular, Kotex Clicks, Playtex Sport, and probably a few others. I really like Pear. They glide in easily. (And yes a dry tampon coming out hurts!! That's not just you.)

OH and definitely don't shove, find the angle that it's comfortable sliding in and glide it along until it stops. Shoving it at the wrong angle can cause it to be misplaced.
posted by Crystalinne at 8:30 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Why I choose applicators over OB:

1. I find that if I am less than thoroughly slick, the exposed cotton of the tampon IMMEDIATELY seems to drag on me, making it hard to fit in past the introitus (the opening) and to push in far enough to feel comfortable.

2. In contrast, slick cardboard or plastic applicators don't stick and drag like an exposed tampon. If things seem a little resistant , I can gently press, rotate and wiggle the firm, slick applicator so that my lady business is open for business. If you need a little trial and error to figure out the right angle of approach, I find that an applicator helps a lot.

Of course, I also don't care much for silicone vibrators either compared to a slicker, softer plastic, so maybe one way you can make up your mind about which brand to start is to consider your preferences in pleasure devices. If you like silicone, you'll probably be OK with OB. If you don't, try an applicator.
posted by rosebuddy at 8:38 PM on January 16, 2014

I recommend the Tampax Pearl as well. Bad for environment, major points for personal comfort. I am a vegetarian and do not feel an iota of guilt using those because, hello, personal comfort. VERY important.

Astroglide or the like is helpful regardless of which kind you are using, and not just for insertion - it helps with removal, too, since there is at least some bit of moisture there to keep them from feeling like they have adhered to your inner bits. VERY uncomfortable when that happens.

If you try a kind and do not like it, try another kind. They vary in shape, size, expansion, etc. and depending your own shape in that area, a millimeter can feel like a mile. Sometimes drugstores will have little sampler packs of various brands, so have a look around.

o.b. seems, to me, to be the shortest but expands to be the widest, so beware of discomfort with removal on that one. Tampax Pearl seems to be middle of the road.

I would avoid anything with cardboard. My experience with cardboard applicators has been OUCH.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 8:40 PM on January 16, 2014

Position, position, position. Being in the right position to insert your tampon helps immensely. For some people that means having your leg up, or squatting, or some other position. Remember the vagina slants so you need to work out your best angle.

Personally, I hated applicators but when I felt I was too dry to insert a bare tampon, a little bit of water based lube on the tip helped a lot.

Just browsing the net shows that most tampon manufacturers have a 'how to' section on their website. Have a look at some of them for advice.
posted by Kerasia at 8:42 PM on January 16, 2014

Another vote for the plastic applicator tampons, and yes, like everyone who's voting plastic has been saying, Tampax Pearl. Both the cardboard applicator and the ob non-applicator scrape and hurt me, even on heavy flow days when you'd think the lubrication would be sufficient to counter that.

Counterpoint: I recently had to borrow a tampon at a friend's house, and she only had ob because she pinched herself with an applicator at one point! And could never go back. So YMMV A Lot.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 8:44 PM on January 16, 2014

If you do decide to try OB, for the love of all that is holy, do NOT get the "Pro Comfort" ones. They're covered with a plastic mesh thingus. They're supposed to help make insertion easier. But I find they really reduce the absorbency. And worse, I find that the bottom edge of it ... um ... kind of ... scratches on the way out. Ouch.

I LOVE regular OB, though.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 8:51 PM on January 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Same here, except one kid and slightly younger. Tampons have definitely changed. I just bought the cheap supermarket ones (Australian though) with no applicator and they're pretty damn straightforward.

I was using a luna cup, the soft silicon version of the diva/keep cup and it too was great, but the contortions I need to do to get it seated shift the IUD string and make me queasy, so I switched hesitantly to tampons.
posted by geek anachronism at 9:04 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

-another vote for playtex (sport or regular). Tampax pearl is OK but expands weirdly horizontally which makes it more uncomfortable coming out, cardboard applicators scrape horribly, and I could never get the hang of getting the OB ones in correctly, and not for squeamishness, either (I did the divacup thing fine). But I would take any one of these over pads. It's possible to forget you're wearing a tampon in a way you can never ever do with a pad, which to me felt like a gross wet diaper all the time.

-positioning is important, depends on anatomy but if it's at the wrong angle it will hit a wall and stop before it's high enough, and then you'll feel it all day - that's probably what happened when you were a teen. The applicator has to be totally in before you press down, move it around until that happens, even at what seems like totally bizarre angles.

-removal is pretty obvious, the hardest part is remembering to remove it within a reasonable time frame. You might want to use a pad/light liner instead for days you expect to be light, since it can be a bit uncomfortable to remove if it's too dry. And maybe also a light liner as a backup on the heavy days until you know how much absorption you need.
posted by randomnity at 9:30 PM on January 16, 2014

Oh lord yes. My roomates in college taught me about tampons and I could not be more grateful. It's way cleaner and it's a good way to deal with heavy periods: a tampon + a pad.

As far as feeling it: Get the ones with a plastic applicator -- the cardboard ones are extremely unpleasant. I like Kotex, but Kotex Sport and Tampax Pearl are smaller plastic applicators you might like. You need to insert completely and once it's up to the ridge where the two parts of the applicator meet, THEN push it all the way into the applicator. If you don't get it far enough inside you, you will feel it and it will be awkward. Also, it may seem obvious, but adjust the string so it's not tugging away or press on any sensitive areas before you leave the bathroom. Then you really shouldn't feel it after a minute.

Never tried o.b., but it sounds unpleasant to me. A plastic applicator will slide inside of you very easily. Anything cardboard or cotton will feel weird, IMO. If you have your period, the blood and discharge (sorry) will be lubricating the insertion of the applicator. If you feel a plastic applicator going in beyond the awareness that it's happening, I'd say your period isn't heavy enough and use a pad. A plastic applicator should not "scrape" or anything someone else described here.

As far as it being unpleasant to remove: You need to only use it when your period is heavy. If I don't think I can saturate the tampon, I use a pad. Tampons feel gross to remove if they are dry. And if they are too dry, they can require a pretty strong tug to get out, which doesn't feel so nice. Use them on your heavy days and they will be very easy to remove. Stick to pads when it's a light flow.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:55 PM on January 16, 2014

I'm about your same age. Like other above mentioned, I hated the applicator kind - they never went far enough in, and they were awkward and painful to put in with the applicators. And then they just always felt uncomfortable. o.b. solved that for me, and they were even more discreet due to the smaller size - a definite plus for me, because I hated being afflicted with the monthly annoyance! Never considered trying at alternative to o.b. after that, was too happy with them.

I hated pads even more than tampons, thus my determination in those junior high years to find SOMETHING that worked. Let me tell you, I was horrified in the hospital when I had my first kid and was given those pads that clip onto those elastic string things. Oh that made me miserable - it felt gross and leaky and even more naked, and I felt SO sorry for those who had to deal with them every month until better options were invented. I was SO pleased when, at a different hospital for my second child, they gave me what amounted to Depends or the like. I was in love. That solved the leaky, half-naked, it's not going to stay put, feeling - and I made sure for my third and fourth that I had my own on-hand just in case they didn't provide them!
posted by stormyteal at 10:00 PM on January 16, 2014

Sidenote: I prefer applicator tampons because when I insert non-applicator tampons it leaves the cuticle on said finger blood-stained. No matter what I do. Yeah I wipe my finger off immediately, and wash with soap and water, and moisturize, all to no avail. I work in an office and am often handing things to people and typing. Ew. I usually just end up having my nails done once a month to hide it because applicator tampons are nearly impossible to find in Australia (SADNESS).

Note that I did not go back to pads. Disposable pads steam me up and give me yeast infections. They are the most uncomfortable things ever, and I hate feeling leaky.

Un-saturated tampons do hurt to pull out. Use a smaller tampon, and if you need back-up (sleeping, movie, bus ride...) wear a fabric pad. They're usually flannel; it feels like underwear and is infinitely more comfortable - I attach them to my undies and then wear tights or leggings or something to hold everything snugly in place (but I'd do that with disposable pads too). You can get reusable pads at Whole Foods or on Etsy. To clean them, soak them in cold water overnight and throw them in the laundry. (If you're only using them as back up/peace of mind there will rarely be significant amounts of blood and are REALLY easy to wash. If there's no/little blood I'll skip the soaking. Like underwear.)
posted by jrobin276 at 10:57 PM on January 16, 2014

Just a suggestion: if you buy several brands and decide against some, could you donate the unwanted remainders to a homeless or abused women's refuge? Way too many women have no funds for sanitary supplies. Imagine not having any...
posted by Cranberry at 1:16 AM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wow, am I really the only person who prefers the cardboard applicators? I find the plastic ones scratchy and uncomfortable, and it's kind of difficult for me to get the applicator-less in to the point where they feel right (ie not at all). I didn't know I was such a weirdo!

Another note about why using tampons might be easier now than when you were a teenager: you say you've had children. Most especially if you gave vaginal birth, and even if you did not, you're likely to be a bit more capacious down there these many years later. It just happens, I am told. I don't remember whether it's the divacup or some other brand, but I know there's one menstrual cup which recommends that women over 30 use the larger size even if they haven't had children. So, you know, that might help too.

But yeah, I'll be the lone voice speaking out for cardboard applicators here. I think they're just fine. But I guess I understand now why I sometimes have to hunt through entire shelves to find them in the forest, as it were, of plastic...
posted by Because at 1:17 AM on January 17, 2014

I used to swear by applicators because I had trouble getting o.b.s in the right place. Over a decade later, I made the switch and found the lack of applicators easier. If I get the angle wrong without an applicator, I can feel it right away and adjust; if I get the angle wrong with an applicator, I end up poking myself and sometimes bending the tampon. Ouch.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:49 AM on January 17, 2014

I agree with a lot of the above advice: choose a few different types (non applicator, tampax pearl, etc) in light or junior to start with, make sure you're angling back as you insert, you'll need a little lubrication (blood works well for this), don't use them on light days because pulling out a dry tampon sucks.

One thing I wanted to mention is that, although I dearly love tampons and am so glad I have them, there are some less than ideal things about them and I can't use them them for my whole period. When I first get my period, flow is too light to use them so I use liners or light pads instead. Then, on the second day when my flow is heavy enough to use them, I still can't use them because I get bad cramping on that day and for some reason the tampon makes this exponentially worse. It's so miserable. But once the cramping goes away I can happily use them until towards the end when it's spotty and I'm back to liners and light pads. Also, during really heavy flow times I often wear a tampon and overnight pad to bed to prevent leakage. Also also, when i have to poop, often the tampon will fall out. I can't flush tampons with my plumbing so to avoid having to fish around in a toilet bowl of poop to retrieve a tampon I remove them before pooping. Of course with the not removing dry tampons thing, this means timing my poops and tampon changes somewhat...

These are all personal things that I've learned about myself through years of tampon usage and I'm sure your body has its own unique quirks that you will find out, too. I wanted to share mine though so that you know that there are some quirky things that you can experience with tampon usage and you might not pick up on them all right away. You might try a tampon once and it doesn't work but that could be the brand, the type, the part of your cycle, or some other variable that you'll pick up on eventually when you notice a pattern. They are amazing though so I hope it's not too discouraging to go through the experimentation phase until you figure out what works best for you. Good luck!
posted by neznamy at 4:56 AM on January 17, 2014

Whatever you decide, I am a firm believer that this will go much easier if you're familiar with your own anatomy. Every woman's vagina slopes differently, and if you've never stuck a finger up yours whilst perched on the potty for example, you are literally taking a stab in the dark when trying to insert things.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:02 AM on January 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's been a few years since I had to deal with tampons, (thank you Mirena, no periods for me!) but I used to love O.B. and found them much easier to use. But I can see how an applicator might be better for some beginners (nthing plastic over cardboard). You should definitely try both. Before O.B. I used to use regular old Kotex. I see lots of people recommending Tampax and Playtex, but I seem to recall some of these have a stick-type plunger on the applicator, and the applicator kind of tapers off. I always found those hard to hold onto and awkward to push in. Kotex (at least back when I last used them) has a lip at the edge of the applicator that was much easier to hold, and the plunger was a hollow tube that was as wide as the applicator. It just felt a lot sturdier and easier to angle correctly.

On that note, yes, position matters. I found slightly squatting, or one leg up on the tub was easiest, but experiment. And just since no one else has mentioned, remember toxic shock is a (rare) possibity. Remember to change often enough, and don't forget when you have one in there.
posted by catatethebird at 5:27 AM on January 17, 2014

If you do decide to try OB, for the love of all that is holy, do NOT get the "Pro Comfort" ones.

I came in here to say the opposite. I find that the plastic-y bit really does help with insertion and removal. Which just goes to show you that your b est bet is to try a bunch of different kinds out.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 6:48 AM on January 17, 2014

When I used tampons (hooray for Mirena!), Tampax Pearl was my best and really only option. I would definitely recommend.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:56 AM on January 17, 2014

Another vote for Tampax Pearl - nothing else really worked for me.
And, another Yay, Mirena!!
posted by mazienh at 7:15 AM on January 17, 2014

I use Seventh Generation or Natura care applicator free. OBs aren't made with pure cotton and give me vaginitis.
posted by brujita at 7:35 AM on January 17, 2014

Another late tampon adopter here. My gyno gave me advice about pain with insertion, if you have that--she said to sort of push out/resist a little as you're inserting the tampon. It reduced my pain considerably! And yes, cardboard applicators are the devil.
posted by zoetrope at 7:44 AM on January 17, 2014

When I was learning how to use tampons (which took a long time; I think I didn't succeed until I was 17 or so), the breakthrough came when I realized you aim sort of towards the tailbone, instead of upwards. I am another pro-plastic applicator person.
posted by chowflap at 8:08 AM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I like OB. But I do have a heavy period too and so using OB can be really messy on those days. I wouldn't worry too much about washing your hands every time before you use them if you do find you like them.. It's not a bad idea but vaginas were designed to have contact with non sterile objects like hands and.... Other stuff.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:47 AM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Agree for my specific anatomy as well, aim towards tailbone works.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:48 AM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've never been able to work out how to insert applicator tampons, couldn't seem to get the angle right and just ended up poking my insides.....can't say I've ever really noticed pink finger tip issue using non applicator ones, as long as I wash my hands properly.

If you have difficulty inserting tampons either as a rule or during lighter flow times I'd suggest using the tiniest amount of water based lubricant to cover the tip and a bit down the sides of the tampon before trying to insert it. That tiny amount of lube helps overcome any 'drag' but does not impact absorbancy. Can make all the difference.

But as you say your periods are heavy consider using a menstrual cup. Much easier to insert so you don't feel them and even on heavy days much less need to remove and empty.
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:07 AM on January 17, 2014

I tried and failed miserably with tampons a few times after I had my first period. I gave them another go after I'd finally had sex for the first time (I was a late bloomer), thinking that maybe my hymen had been the problem previously. I only had success with plastic applicator-type tampons - they seemed to slide in effortlessly. Cardboard applicators often "squished" out of shape in my hand when I gripped too tightly and were rendered useless.

Also, make sure the tampon is fully saturated for painless removal (the one time in my experimental trials I managed to get a Rely brand tampon in place, I naively removed it only about two hours later and the pain at pulling out an expanded but mostly dry wad of cotton was unbearable). And as a poster above mentioned, experiment with insertion. I found that aiming less upward and more toward my tailbone was ideal and once inserted thusly I couldn't feel it inside me.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:08 AM on January 17, 2014

Joining in to say yes, aiming toward the tailbone - but also, if you're feeling resistance, try aiming (pointing or tilting, hard to describe) a little more to the right or the left. What I do is push the applicator and tampon in, then I push the tube in to push the tampon out, and then I use the applicator to push it in a bit more.

I use the tampax pearl or the target/walmart generic versions of the same. You can always try a bit of lube if you really need it, too.
posted by lemniskate at 2:16 PM on January 17, 2014

Go to your local big discount store and head for the area where they sell travel sized beauty/hygiene stuff. They will normally have two or three different brands with 3-5 tampons in each box. Or check the vending machine in the restroom at your local movie theater.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 8:22 PM on January 17, 2014

I am with Because. Cardboard applicators are my preference. I have a box of OBs that I bought on the road and they are sitting in the back of the cabinet, as I find them so uncomfortable.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:00 AM on January 18, 2014

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