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Sometimes tampons can be a real pain to take out, especially if your period has slowed to the point that the tampon is basically dry. Personally, I find that scenario even more unbearable and anxiety provoking than the times I’ve struggled to find the string. The worst part is that there’s really no way of knowing that the tampon is dry until you go to change it, and it suddenly feels stuck. I know from experience how painful that can be — as if it’ll be wedged up there for all of eternity. So I enlisted the help of Washington-based ob-gyn Ruth Arumala, DO, MPH, FACOG, who shared some insight on why this happens, as well as a few tips and tricks for taking out a dry tampon.

What Causes a Tampon to Feel Stuck?

According to Dr. Arumala, tampons most often feel stuck due to a lack of lubrication — meaning, the tampon hasn’t absorbed enough blood for it to slide out easily. This can happen if you try to remove it too soon (experts recommend changing your tampon every four to eight hours, or more regularly on your heaviest days), as well as toward the end of your period, when the bleeding isn’t as heavy.

Your tampon might also be dry if your period started and then stopped. “Sometimes patients experience stop-and-go periods, where they start bleeding, have a brief hiatus, and then continue bleeding,” Dr. Arumala tells POPSUGAR. “During this time frame, there is no blood (or not enough) to lubricate the tampon.” Whatever the cause, a dry tampon can feel nearly impossible to remove.

However, a tampon can also be placed too deeply into the vagina — in an area doctors call the posterior fornix — which can be uncomfortable and make removal more difficult. “This is a small area underneath the external face of the cervix,” Dr. Arumala explains. “The lip of the cervix and the wall of the vagina envelope the tampon, almost creating a suction-like grip.”

How to Take Out a Dry Tampon

If your tampon feels stuck, you can minimize the pain of removal by applying a lubricant to your fingers and gently guiding it out. Here’s how to do it, according to Dr. Arumala:

  1. Thoroughly wash your hands with unscented soap.
  2. Lubricate your fingers with a water-based lubricant.
  3. Sit on the toilet with your legs shoulder-width apart (as if you were doing a squat).
  4. Take a few deep breaths to help relax your pelvic-floor muscles.
  5. Insert your fingers into your vagina, and reach for the tampon’s string.
  6. Wrap your fingers around the string, and gently tease out the tampon. If that doesn’t work, you can remove the tampon by slipping your fingers beneath the tampon and gently pulling it out.

If you find yourself needing more room or a better angle, Dr. Arumala recommends moving from the toilet to the shower. In the shower, you will have no interference from the toilet bowl and can even use a mirror to get a better visual; repeat the same exact steps in a squat position. Sitting in a warm, unscented bath, either before or after trying to remove the tampon, may also be beneficial, as “it can help with relaxing pelvic muscles,” Dr. Arumala explains.

If you’re unable to remove a tampon that’s been in for nearly eight hours, Dr. Arumala says you should see a doctor immediately, as there is a potential risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a severe bacterial infection commonly linked to super-absorbent tampons. You don’t have to wait until the eight-hour mark, either. In fact, it’s preferred that you come in sooner rather than later — TSS, while relatively rare, isn’t something you want to gamble with.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Matthew Kelly

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