?Halloween&Women Health Why Doubling Up On Tampons Is Seriously Problematic
🎃There’s something magical about tampons. Well, not literally magical, but there’s something pretty awesome about the way they work ~inside you~, go in one way, come out another way, and allow you to live your regular life even though you’re bleeding through your vagina nonstop for days at a time. When you’re menstruating, you insert a tampon, and it absorbs all the blood so it doesn’t end up in your undies. Simple. Genius. Of course, periods differ from woman to woman (and day to day), which is why there are different absorbencies from light to super plus. But what happens when super plus just won’t cut it? Many women go the tampon-with-a-pad-for-backup route. Others may choose to double up on tampons—as in, put two tampons in at once—which you might think would do the same thing. But actually, it’s a pretty bad idea. Here’s why.
For one thing, putting in two tampons at once basically doubles your chances of accidentally forgetting one in there.
It happens. Enough that there’s even a medical name for it. A forgotten or lost tampon that’s left hanging in the vagina is called a retained tampon. “The vagina is a fairly large space and two tampons could fit,” Alexander Chiang, M.D., assistant clinical professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, tells us. You may have put a second one in accidentally without realizing you already had one in there. If you purposefully put two in there, you may not remember to take them both out when it’s removal time. Either way, it’s no bueno.
The wayward tampon isn’t going anywhere (the cervix will keep it in the vagina), but as it sits it can cause a really foul smell, thanks to the bacteria building up around it. You may also experience other symptoms like fever, change in discharge, swelling, itchiness, and rash in the vaginal area. If you think you may have a retained tampon, you can try removing it on your own with clean hands. If that doesn’t work, you’ll need to enlist your gyno’s help
And doubling up on tampons also increases the risk of toxic shock syndrome.
Tampons are medical devices, and their safety has been approved according to specific use: one at a time, for up to 8 hours max. The reason there’s a time limit is because the longer a saturated tampon remains in the vagina, the greater the chance of developing toxic shock syndrome (TSS). “There is always the concern for toxic shock syndrome if the tampons are soaked and allow bacteria to grow,” Chiang notes. “This is a rare but possibly deadly risk.” TSS is indeed rare—current estimates say about 1 to 17 for every 100,000 menstruating women get it—but it can be really dangerous. It’s also important to use the lowest absorbency possible for your flow—more bacteria can soak into a more absorbent tampon, upping the risk of TSS. Using two is the opposite of that and you’re better off changing your tampon more frequently than doubling up.
If you bleed so much you need two tampons, you might have more than just a heavy period and should see your gyno to figure out what’s causing that bloody mess.
“If you feel your period is so heavy you need two tampons, then you should be evaluated by a gynecologist,” Chiang says. If you soak through one tampon or more every hour, or see large clots in your period blood (think: the size of a quarter), it’s likely your period is abnormally heavy and possibly indicative of a bigger problem. Heavy menstrual bleeding can be a sign of an underlying condition like endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, or fibroids. Figuring out what’s causing the bleeding will help you stop it from happening—and eliminate the temptation to double up on the cotton.