health

Explainer: Can you leave a tampon in overnight?

Tampons were the subject of many a horror story following the obligatory puberty talks at school. From getting lost to getting stuck and of course the oft-whispered ‘Toxic Shock Syndrome‘, tales and warnings were traded and passed down.

Turns out this confusion and mystery doesn’t really ever disappear – and the latest assumed knowledge we’re still puzzling about includes tampons and sleep.

Yes, we’ve all done it. Popped one in getting ready for bed, gone on a Netflix binge and not thought twice about it until we’re fighting with our alarm clock the following morning.

Watch: Can a tampon really get lost inside you? We find out. Post continue after video.

While most people are aware that you shouldn’t leave a tampon in longer than necessary due to risk of TSS, is wearing them overnight acceptable?

According to ob-gym Pari Ghodsi, M.D it all depends on your plans for the following morning, citing eight hours as the maximum time a tampon should be left in to reduce the risk of infection. If you’re planning a sleep in, then you’ve either got to be prepared to change it early or choose an alternative option.

“A woman may use all options at night to stop the flow of blood that she may use during the day. Her choice may depend on her flow. If she has very heavy flow, a tampon may not be able to absorb all of her menstrual blood overnight,” she told Glamour. (Post continues after gallery.)

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However according to Sapphire Medical Practice‘s Dr Dasha Fielder even eight hours is too long.

“You should absolutely not leave tampons in overnight and instead opt for pads while sleeping. You should be changing your tampon every three hours,” she says.

Oh god.

Reassuringly Dr Fielder says it’s not the end of the world if you’re busy with something and can’t for six hours as a one-off, but exceeding the time limit regularly can come with some risks.

Image: iStock

"You take the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome which is a rare but serious complication and a potentially life threatening complication," she says.

 "Women who are menstruating need to understand that leaving a tampon in for a too long can encourage the bacteria to grow which puts them at risk."
To minimise this, Dr Fielder recommends using tampons only for short periods of time such as when swimming or wearing clothes where a pad might make you feel self-conscious rather than regular use.
"Anything that is obstructing blood flow increases the chance of bacterial overgrowth and can result in Toxic Shock Syndrome. I recommend changing all sanitary products regularly every three to four hours, even pads!"
menstrual cups are better than tampons

Image: iStock

While it's important to put in perspective - less than one per cent of tampon users will get TSS or around one in 100,000 - it's worth being wary of.
The scary-sounding illness is caused by infection of certain types of bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus (Staph) infection.
Although the synthetic fibres and absorbency potential of tampons can make an ideal environment for the bacteria to breed, a tampon alone is not enough to cause TSS - you must already have the staph bacteria in your body.

"It’s the duration of a foreign material covered in blood [in your body] that allows the bacteria that causes TSS to breed," Dr Fielder says.

Don't freak out though - symptoms are not subtle so you'll definitely know if you're affected.

"Signs include nausea, abdominal pains, a temperature, feeling faint, a characteristic rash all over your body that is flaky," she says.

If you're worried or concerned, make an appointment with your GP.

Image: iStock.

Did you know you should change your tampon so regularly?

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