Lost Tampon: Symptoms (Odor, Infection) & How to Remove Stuck/Forgotten Tampon

A forgotten tampon that lasts 1 to 3 weeks can result in unusual odor from the vaginal area, discharge and even an infection.

Vaginal odor and infection as well as discomfort are some of the symptoms of a tampon lost inside you. The truth is, it should eventually come out on its own after soaking heavy with menstrual blood and other vaginal discharges.

But what if it doesn’t? Here’s a guide on how to find and remove a stuck tampon safely and what to do afterwards.

Lost tampon or stuck tampon
Lost tampon or stuck tampon

It is not uncommon to find a woman inserting a new tampon, and forgetting to remove the one that was previously in the vagina. Also, there are women who have intercourse with the tampon still in place, hence leading to a case of a lost tampon.

A vagina happens to be quite elastic, which makes it easy to insert one tampon, a second one and even engage in intercourse with them forgotten inside.

Smaller tampons for instance are very easy to insert. As such, the one that had been inserted previously will end up being pushed harder and farther with the new insertion.

When this happens, it will be turned sideways, and will be compressed into the farthest end of the vagina, leading to the its string being drawn in.

Can a tampon get lost inside you?

In most cases, a stuck tampon is a one that has been forgotten inside the vagina.

  • After completing her monthly period, you may simply forget to remove the last one you used.
  • Older and mid-life women have also been known to use tampons as a way of preventing exercise induced urine loss, which in some cases leads to losing them when they forget to remove.

For the menstrual plug to get lost, there is usually some degree of compression and sideway movements. Otherwise, you would easily notice the string hanging from your vaginal opening when wiping or cleaning the area.

In rare cases, vaginal discharge and a foul odor may occur. In such a situation, days or even weeks will have elapsed for these symptoms to start manifesting themselves.

How can you know?

There are instances where you may be unsure on whether you left a tampon inside or not. When there is uncertainty, you will need to do your own self examination to establish whether there is something inside your vagina or not. To start the investigations, you will need to:

  1. Start by washing your hands
  2. It may be ideal for you to take a shower to allow you to relax, as well as ensure that you will not get grossed out in the course of your investigation
  3. Place on leg on your bed’s edge, toilet or tub. You can also choose to squat in either one of these places
  4. Reach inside your vagina with two or three fingers, for as far as your hand can allow
  5. Allow your hand to feel around to determine whether there is anything in there or not
  6. If you are able to feel your way to the cervix without running into the plug, then chances are that you did not lose anything inside there
  7. You have to ensure that you feel around your internal folds, taking time to carry out a thorough search before making the decision to withdraw
  8. In case you did not find anything, but are still nervous, you can visit your nearest clinic for a proper confirmation

You should not worry or feel embarrassed about asking for help from your doctor as you will not be the first woman to have lost such a menstrual accessory in her vagina.

The doctor will be able to check for you as a way of easing your mind and ensuring that in fact, there is nothing, that was left inside you.


Tampons cannot go upward through your uterus and become lost in your abdomen as many women assume. Your vagina can be equated to a tube sock or a blind pouch. Your cervix is located at the deep end. Here, there is a small opening, which allows for semen and blood alike to pass through.

The opening is not easy to open as it is hard. Research has shown that these items cannot cause any other damage to your cervix or vagina.

For a woman with stuck or forgotten tampon, the primary concerns are infections, pelvic pain, vaginal discharge, and odor. You may experience small amounts of clots in your menstrual blood if a tampon gets stuck inside your vagina.

Some of the symptoms and side efects you should expect include:

1. Infection

Given the small size of the majority of tampons that are available in the market, it is no wonder that women at times forget to remove the tampons when they are done with their periods, or insert a new one without removing the one that had been inserted early on.

With a retained tampon, there is always the possibility of getting an infection. Toxic shock syndrome, though rare, is one of the symptoms that manifests itself with severe infection at the end of menses.

Toxic shock syndrome

TSS (toxic shock syndrome) occurs when the staphylococcus aureus bacteria release toxins (poisonous) into the woman’s bloodstream.

When this happens, it causes the woman to experience shock symptoms. Additionally, these toxins can also damage the body tissue as well as important organs in the body, which may ultimately lead to death if they are not addressed.

Even though it has not been fully established how such materials lead to the development of TSS, researchers have linked it to the length of time that the high absorbency tampon gets to stay in the vagina without being removed.

Researchers believe that bacterial toxins often start developing on this tampon, which then end up being absorbed into the woman’s bloodstream.

You can lower your chances of getting TSS by:

  1. Making sure you wash your hands before and after you have inserted it
  2. Ensuring you do not insert more than a single piece at any one time
  3. Change your them as recommended on the purchase pack
  4. Making sure that you alternate tampons with sanitary towels whenever you have your periods
  5. If possible, making certain you utilize low absorbency ones
  6. At the end of your period, ensure you remove the last tampon
  7. Before going to bed, insert a fresh piece, and proceed to remove it in the morning

When you have an infection that has developed into TSS, the following symptoms may present themselves”

  • Tiredness
  • Aching muscles
  • Confusion
  • High temperatures above forty degrees
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

2. Foul vaginal odor and discharge

As a woman, forgetting to remove your tampon after your period may lead to minor complaints, which may then develop into more serious complications with time. The absorbent material creates a conducive environment for the growth of bacteria.

The bacteria then attach to the material before starting multiplying inside the vagina. During the initial days, you may experience a foul or unpleasant smell coming from your vagina, which could with time develop into a more serious problem.

In summary, the symptoms you can expect include:

  1. An unpleasant smelling discharge
  2. Lower abdominal pain
  3. Brown-greyish or yellow discharge
  4. Blood infection leading to a high fever accompanied by more serious symptoms.

Common causes of stuck tampons

  1. Forgotten tampon — it is one of the leading causes of being stuck inside the vagina, more so during the last few days of your monthly period. Did I remove or did I forget to remove it? At times, you may be unable to remember whether she removed it or forgot about it
  2. Sexual intercourse — generally, you should not engage in sex when you still have a tampon inside you. But, from time to time, it may happen for a number of reasons. Having sex with a it still inserted will make it compressed, which will then push it further inside the vagina.
  3. Faulty strings —in some cases, a string can be broken, or end up being coiled inside your vagina, when taking part in daily activities e.g. exercises.
  4. Use of small tampons—for some reason, there are women who choose to use tampons that are very small. Using a tampon not intended for your size will lead to it, together with the string being pulled up to an extent that you can’t feel it.

Will it eventually come out?

By itself, a forgotten tampon is not considered to be dangerous. But, once a day or two have elapsed, the blood absorbed by the plug will begin to decay, and this may lead to the development of bacterial related problems. It is, therefore, ideal to ensure that an old tampon is removed as soon as possible.

Normally, a used tampon will fall out by itself once it becomes full and sloppy enough.

As such, even if you were to forget about it, you would likely be alerted of its presence by the feeling of something coming out from your vagina.

If it starts to smell before you have had the chance to remove it, or before it has come out on its own, you may need to seek medical assistance, to ensure that it does not cause you any further distress or embarrassment.

How to find it if lost?

As mentioned above, if you were to forget to remove your tampon, say at the end of your period, it could end up being compressed at the top most part of the vagina. It is something that can make it difficult for a woman to pull it out, or even feel it.

However, you should not panic, even if the tampon is stuck inside you. You should keep in mind that there is no way in which such a big object can end up getting lost inside the vagina after it has been inserted.

To find it, you should use your fingers to try and grab the string and pull it out.

In case you are not able to achieve this task, make sure that you visit your nearest health clinic or general practitioner’s office as soon as you can. The personnel at the clinic or at the GP’s office will be able to find the tampon and remove it for you.

According to WebMD, a tampon should not be left inside your vagina for more than 8 hours, as it may lead to unforeseen complications. It will be particularly important to find the lost tampon as soon as possible if:

  1. You notice an unpleasant vaginal discharge or smell
  2. Have a high fever (temperature)
  3. Experience pain in the pelvic region

How to remove it

And what about getting a stuck tampon out? Do not be embarrassed about it, as it is normal for these plugs to get stuck inside the vagina. This can happen for a number of reasons including exercise. Often, you will be able to dislodge it if stuck quite easily.

But, if you are unable to do so, make sure you visit your doctor immediately, to alleviate the risk of getting an infection.

Preparing to remove the tampon

Act fast: You have to ensure that this problem is taken care of immediately. Some women may put it out of their minds because they are embarrassed about the stuck tampon, which would only lead to them putting their health at risk. It becomes riskier the longer it stays in you.

Relax: In case you had already started tensing up, ensure that you relax, as being tense will only worsen the situation. Try and remember whether you took it out or whether it is still inside you. If convinced that you did not remove it, keep in mind that it is not really stuck or lost. It is only that your vaginal muscles are holding it, until you remove the tampon.

  • You should not freak out as your vagina is a really small place that is enclosed, which means that this tampon will not stay there forever.
  • Take a bath beforehand and ensure that you relax before you can make any attempt to get it out. When you are tense, it will lead to you clenching your muscles, which will make the retrieval process much harder.

Follow these steps:

1. Wash your hands clean hands are clean

Given that you do not want to introduce any germs to your vaginal area, take time to first clean your hands. Observing proper hygiene measures helps in preventing further complications as well as infections.

  • You may also want to clip your fingernails before you can insert them inside your vagina. Long fingernails can make the process a bit painful.
  • Ensure you find a private place e.g. a bathroom for hygienic reasons. Your lower clothing will need to come off to ensure that the retrieval process goes on smoothly.

2. Squat or sit down

Getting out a stuck tampon is much easier when you are squatting or sitting down. When you are unable to find it immediately, you should try out different positions.

  • Try and prop your feet on your bathtub or attempt squatting over your toilet bowl.
  • You should bear down, as though you are giving birth or straining to have a bowel movement. At times, straining down will force it to come out.

3. Insert a finger inside your vagina as you exhale

Once in a squatting position, place your finger inside the vagina, making sure to reach as far as you can. Once inserted, make circular motions in the area between the cervix and your vagina. It is the area where most tampons get lost.

  • When you find it, you may need to insert another finger. You should catch the cotton cylinder in the tampon using your middle fingers, before you can attempt to pull it out.
  • If you are unable to get to the piece, do not dig around inside your vagina for more than ten minutes. Instead, get in touch with your physician.
  • It will probably be easier for you if you use the longest finger. However, women have different vaginas, so you can choose to use any finger.

4. Pull the string

In case you can see the string, tug it lightly as you are squatting with your body close to the surface. Your knees and feet should be spread wide apart, but not so wide that you are sitting down on the ground.

  • Slightly tugging on this string helps you see whether the string will be able to come out on its own, as this would make things much easier for you. You can always try using different positions if the string does not come out immediately.
  • In most cases, the string tends to be stuck inside the vagina with the rest of the tampon, and it may therefore require a few minutes before it can come out.

What to do after removing it

If you discover the lost tampon inside your vagina yourself, and are able to remove it successfully, you do not necessarily have to do anything more than this.

Even if it had been in your vagina for a few days, you will most likely not have any infection to worry about.

In case you notice a slight vaginal odor, you should not be concerned. Your vagina’s ability to normalize the bacteria living in that environment is quite good, and it will most likely adjust itself, allowing it to return to normal conditions within a few days.

However, if you experience any pain, have a persistent discharge, or have any kind of irritation, you should see your physician.