Whether you are the parent of a teenage girl who is about to hit puberty or you yourself are nearing adolescence, you are probably faced with more questions than answers when it comes to the major transformation that is about to take place. One of the most common questions asked by teens and pre-teens who are curious about their changing bodies is, "Can a tampon break your hymen?"
What is a hymen?
A hymen is a thin membrane that surrounds the vaginal opening. Although this membrane can come in a variety of different shapes, most girls have a hymen whose shape is similar to that of a half-moon. When a teenage girl reaches puberty and begins to menstruate, the menstrual blood can easily flow out of the vagina through the opening in the half-moon-shaped hymen, which is situated at the lower portion of the vaginal opening.
Different types of hymens
Imperforate hymen: The half-moon is by far the most common shape of a hymen; however, some girls have what is called an imperforate hymen, which means the membrane covers the vaginal opening completely and restricts the flow of menstrual blood from exiting the body properly. Blood that backs up into the vagina can cause an abdominal mass to develop and is often accompanied by abdominal or back pain. Girls who suffer from an imperforate hymen are typically diagnosed during their teenage years and undergo surgery to remove the extra tissue in the hymen and open up the vaginal opening so menstrual blood can freely flow out during their cycle.
Microperforate hymen: A microperforate hymen is similar to an imperforate hymen in that the thin membrane of the hymen stretches across the entire vaginal opening; however, it differs in that a tiny hole in the hymen typically allows menstrual blood to flow out properly. Although this small vaginal opening is large enough to prevent menstrual blood from backing up and causing a slew of health issues associated with puberty like its imperforate counterpart, girls who have a microperforate hymen often struggle to insert a tampon. Other times, a tampon can be fit into the vaginal opening, but it can be challenging to remove once the blood is absorbed and the tampon begins to become enlarged. Treatment for a microperforate hymen consists of removing extra hymenal tissue and creating a larger opening, which allows menstrual blood to pass through uninhibited.
Can a tampon break your hymen?
Whether your hymen is half-moon-shaped or you suspect the membrane covers your vaginal opening completely, you may be wondering if inserting a tampon can break your hymen. While it is indeed possible for a tampon to break your hymen when it is inserted into your vaginal opening during your menstrual cycle, it is much more likely that your hymen will stay intact until your first experience with sexual intercourse. The fragile membrane that comprises the hymen can be stretched or torn as a result of many activities, ranging from riding a bicycle to doing gymnastics, but typically the hymen will remain intact when a tampon is inserted through the membrane as it stretches to accommodate the object.
If your hymen does break when you are attempting to insert a tampon, you will likely experience a small amount of bleeding, which is from a tiny tear that occurs in the membrane and will heal on its own. If you are having difficulty inserting a tampon and suspect you might have a perforated or microperforated hymen through which a tampon cannot pass, schedule an appointment with a family doctor or gynecologist to have it checked out.