You already went through the awkward and frustrating experience of learning how to insert a tampon once (while your mom stood on the other side of the bathroom door asking, “How’s it going?”). You spent your school days worrying that your tampon “just wasn’t quite sitting right.”
Fast-forward a couple of decades later, you suddenly find yourself reliving the nightmare. You thought you had mastered the art of tampon insertion, yet it feels like your tampon is always one sneeze away from just sliding right out. Is that normal?
“As the tampon fills with blood, it will expand [and] become more slippery, and then maybe slip out,” says Jennifer Wu, MD, ob-gyn at Lenox Hill Hospital. “This is your sign that you do need to change your tampon at that time.”
That makes sense, but what if your tampon feels like it’s about to escape and it hasn’t even been in that long? That can normal, too: Your body, and especially your vagina, may go through drastic, oh-so-beautiful changes in adulthood that can affect how your tampon fits and feels. (Yep, we’re referring to childbirth.)
How Childbirth Changes Your Vagina
“After childbirth, the vagina does change somewhat, and patients will often say that their tampon feels different,” says Dr. Wu. “It feels like it angles in differently or feels like it’s coming out a little bit more because the opening to the vagina may be larger.”
One significant way childbirth may alter the vagina is known as pelvic organ prolapse, according to the American Urogynecologic Society. As your sweet houseguest develops in your uterus during pregnancy, it streeeetches the pelvic floor. Your pelvic floor muscles are like a hammock that holds up all your pelvic organs (the vagina, cervix, uterus, bladder, intestines, and so on).
The pressure placed on all those internal organs during pregnancy and childbirth can cause a drop, or prolapse, of the organs. This not only can affect your tampon fit and positioning, but it can also lead to stress incontinence (i.e. a leaky bladder) or feeling like you can’t fully empty your bladder when you go. (Here’s more info on stress incontinence you should know.)
Using Tampons After Childbirth
“After childbirth, a woman may need to place the tampon deeper,” says Dr. Wu. “They may need to angle it in differently, [or] they may need to use a different size.”
For mild vaginal changes after childbirth, you can strengthen up your pelvic floor again with some good, old-fashioned Kegel exercises. Learn more about the right way to do a Kegel and lifestyle tweaks for incontinence here.