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Retained tampon or other object

6-minute read

Key facts

  • Sometimes a tampon or another object can become stuck in your vagina.
  • A stuck object should be removed from your vagina as soon as possible.
  • If you have lost a tampon in your vagina, you may want to try removing it carefully yourself.
  • Do not try to remove large, delicate or fragile objects yourself because you may damage your vagina.

What is a retained tampon or other object?

Sometimes a tampon or another object (also known as a 'foreign body') can become stuck in your vagina. You may also forget a tampon is there.

Common objects that may get stuck in your vagina include those that are there for medical reasons such as:

  • tampons
  • condoms — or pieces of a condom if it has split
  • other contraceptive devices — such as a diaphragm

Other objects, such as a sex toy, can also become stuck in your vagina.

It's important that you remove the object as soon as possible. If you have tried to remove it yourself but failed, you should see a doctor.

What is a retained tampon?

A tampon is 'retained' when it has been inserted but later becomes either stuck or lost. Reasons for this may include:

  • putting in a new tampon before taking out the old one
  • having sex with a tampon in
  • simply forgetting about the tampon at the end of your period

It's possible to have sex or insert a second tampon while one is still inside as your vagina is elastic. This can cause the string of the tampon to get drawn in, making it difficult to remove.

If you forget to take a tampon out at the end of your period it can become lodged at the top of your vagina, next to the cervix. The string may still be noticeable.

Don't panic if a tampon gets stuck inside you. It's not possible for a tampon to get lost inside you. The cervix, at the end of the vagina, only has a tiny opening to allow blood or semen through.

What symptoms are related to a lost tampon or other object?

Signs that you may have a retained object in your vagina include:

  • vaginal discharge — it may be yellow, green, pink, grey or brown in colour
  • a bad smell from the vaginal area
  • a high temperature
  • vaginal itching, swelling or redness
  • pain or discomfort when passing urine (peeing)
  • pain around your pelvis or abdomen — below the belly button and above your genital area

When should I see my doctor?

A stuck object should be removed from your vagina as soon as possible.

You should visit your doctor or practice nurse if:

  • you cannot easily remove the object yourself
  • you think part of the object is still in your vagina
  • you are worried about whether you have put a tampon in and forgotten about it

You should also visit the doctor if you have an object in your vagina and any of the following symptoms:

  • a fever
  • pain, swelling or redness
  • an unpleasant smell or vaginal discharge
  • pain when you urinate (pee)
  • pelvic pain

You should not attempt to remove large, delicate or fragile objects yourself because you may damage your vagina. Instead, visit your doctor or emergency department as soon as possible.

When to seek urgent care

If a fragile object breaks, do not try to remove it any further — go to your nearest emergency department immediately.

Do not be embarrassed. Remember, the doctors and nurses have helped people in these situations before.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

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Removing a lost tampon or other object

If you have lost a tampon in your vagina, you may want to try removing it carefully yourself.

Self-care at home

To remove a tampon or other object yourself:

  • Wash your hands.
  • Squat down and push as if you are trying to have a bowel movement (poo) — this might help push the object down.
  • Insert one finger into your vagina and make circular movements.
  • Try to remove the tampon or object.
  • If you can't remove the tampon using 1 finger, try inserting 2 fingers — trap the object between your fingers and pull it out gently.

If you can't remove the stuck tampon or other object yourself, get medical advice.

Never try to remove an object with another object. You could hurt yourself and develop an infection.

Complications from a lost tampon or other object

The main concern with a lost tampon is toxic shock syndrome (TSS). This is very rare but can cause death.

You should change your tampon regularly — around every 4 to 6 hours depending on your flow. Most tampon manufacturers advise that a tampon shouldn't be left in for more than 8 hours.

Long term, a lost tampon or other object poses a risk of:

  • infection
  • fistula — a hole in your vagina that lets urine (pee), wind or stool (poo) pass through your vagina

Resources and support

For further advice, you should contact your doctor or call healthdirect on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


NHS (What if I forget to remove my tampon?), NHS (Can a tampon get lost inside me?), NHS inform (Stuck or lost tampon), The Conversation (Weird and wonderful things lost then found inside the human body)

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: March 2024

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