The Truth About Tampons, Virginity, and Teenage Girls

Close up of tampons in glass
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When it comes to teens and the use of tampons, there are many questions and misconceptions. Sometimes, both parents and teens may wonder whether tampons will have an impact on virginity. Using a tampon has no impact on whether on not someone is a virgin.

Discuss facts about menstruation hygiene products with your teen so she understands exactly what is happening with her body—and that choosing to use tampons will not impact her virginity. She may hear kids at school discuss this with terms like "pop her cherry," "lose her virginity," or other crude phrases that can cause worry, confusion, and embarrassment.

It is also good to talk about what it means to be a virgin and the values your family has when it comes to sex. Also, note that virginity is not a medical definition but rather a cultural concept essentially designating those that have not yet had sex.

Using a Tampon Does Not Impact Virginity

Still, the question of whether or not using a tampon takes away a girl's virginity continues to worry many teens. They may be concerned that inserting anything (in this case, a tampon) into the vagina will somehow constitute sex. So, the question is really asking about two separate issues.

  • The first question is what makes a virgin and what "takes" virginity.
  • The second question is asking about the hymen and how it relates to virginity.

What Is a Virgin?

This is a complicated question and you might get different answers depending on who you ask. For women, the technical definition of a virgin is someone who has not had sexual intercourse where a man's penis penetrates her vagina. If this is your definition of virginity, then a woman is still a virgin after using a tampon. Others may define losing virginity more broadly to include any intimate partner sexual acts. Either way, using a tampon has no impact on virginity status.

What Is the Hymen?

The hymen is a thin membrane with no biological function that surrounds the opening of the vagina. From birth on, the hymen naturally thins and opens up. In fact, it often forms a half-moon-shaped or donut-shaped rim around the exterior opening of the vaginal canal. If the hymen stretches across part of the opening, there are often one or more holes in it. Sometimes, the hymen is very minimal or not there at all. All of those scenarios are perfectly normal.

Only rarely (between 1 in 1,000 and 1 in 10,000 girls) does this membrane cover the entire opening of the vagina. By the time a girl reaches puberty, there is usually more than enough space to allow menstrual blood to pass. If the hymen completely covered the vagina, menstruation would not be possible without surgery.

For the vast majority of girls, well before they reach adolescence and begin menstruating, the hymen tissue is thin enough to allow for the use of tampons without any discomfort.

What Does the Hymen Have to Do With Virginity?

Historically, the hymen has been looked at as the mark of virginity in many cultures. In some cases, when a virgin who has an intact hymen has sexual intercourse for the first time, the hymen will stretch and/or tear and bleed.

In the past, it was often assumed that if a girl didn't bleed after the first time she had sexual intercourse, she must not have been a virgin. This is completely false but this misconception persists in popular culture both in modern and traditional cultures. In fact, girls who have sex for the first time often do not bleed or experience any injury to their hymen, which is often simply a minimal rim of tissue around the vaginal opening that does not change with intercourse.

Truths About the Hymen

It is not typical for any woman's hymen to be fully intact, so its presence alone cannot be proof of a woman's virginity or experience with penetrative sex. Moreover, medical experts dispute the validity (and discourage the use) of the terms "intact" or "broken" in relation to the hymen, as they are inaccurate and sexist. Below are other truths about the hymen:

  • It can be very flexible and resist being torn, even after having intercourse.
  • Sexual intercourse does not make the hymen disappear or tear it away. More often, it may simply stretch as needed during intercourse.
  • The hymen can be damaged by tampons, medical vaginal exams, even certain kinds of vigorous physical activity.

A Word From Verywell

Virginity has to do with sexual activity, not the presence of a hymen or whether or not a girl uses a tampon. However, despite medical evidence to the contrary, worries about using tampons or "broken" hymens persist, causing unnecessary anxiety and shame for many girls (and parents). Learning more about their bodies, tampon use, and what virginity really means can help girls feel more confident about making the feminine hygiene choices that work best for them.

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Mishori R, Ferdowsian H, Naimer K, Volpellier M, McHale T. The little tissue that couldn't - dispelling myths about the Hymen's role in determining sexual history and assaultReprod Health. 2019;16(1):74. doi:10.1186/s12978-019-0731-8

  2. Ramareddy RS, Kumar A, Alladi A. Imperforate hymen: Varied presentation, new associations, and managementJ Indian Assoc Pediatr Surg. 2017;22(4):207-210. doi:10.4103/0971-9261.214451

Additional Reading
  • Kliegman, RM, et. al. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. Elsevier; 2015.

By Barbara Poncelet
 Barbara Poncelet, CRNP, is a certified pediatric nurse practitioner specializing in teen health.