Vaginismus, Menstruation, and Menstrual Aids
Vaginismus is the instantaneous tightening and closing of the vaginal opening in anticipation of penetration. Vaginismus is always an anxiety-base condition, with the main causes being fear of pain, fear of the unknown, and religious/cultural inhibitions. For more details and explanation, read our Vaginismus page.
Menstrual aids are products for managing the period blood – who wants to be messy or embarrassed, right?
Menstrual aids are divided into two types:
- External: pads/sanitary napkins (disposable or reusable), menstrual underwear, and absorbent fabrics;
- Internal: tampons, menstrual discs, and menstrual cups.
Historically, women have been quite creative in inventing ways to absorb period blood and you may want to read the fascinating narration, The History of Menstrual Hygiene.
There is no hierarchy as to which is better – it is a woman’s choice! Factors to consider when choosing include ease of use, cost, look and feel, appearance under clothes, absorbency level, ease of management in public bathrooms, discreetness, reusability, and market availability.
At times, personal and cultural comment will impact the young woman’s choice, including “do not insert anything into the vagina as you have to save it for marriage and husband,” or a comment such as “tampons are not healthy, and they cause Toxic Shock Syndrome,” or “you are not suppose to stop the flow of blood…” There is no merit nor science behind any of these deterring statements; all they do is frighten the woman and plant the seed for developing vaginismus.
While some women with vaginismus can put in a tampon/disc/cup, the majority will struggle with insertion, removal, and comfort while worn. In other words, vaginismus is not just about sex but rather about a disrupted vaginal use, with insertable menstrual aids being a challenge that deepens the anxiety about them, or an impossible option altogether.
No, please do not. Forcing penetration will only add to the underlying anxiety. If trying to insert – not force in – is not working for you, it better to seek treatment for vaginismus.
You have heard about it before, right? Or maybe it has been your own experience: a goodwill effort by your support system to have you ‘put it in.” In the majority of vaginismus cases, this won’t be successful and, instead, will cause more anxiety and the deepening sense of failure. But don’t give up – vaginismus treatment should sort it out just fine.
Oh, we surely heard this time and again: the patient managed to slide the tampon inside her, then became overwhelmed by the feeling of it inside her, or when trying to remove it, all which led to a panic attack and a trip to the doctor’s office or emergency department for removal.
Why did the tampon get stuck when it is such a safe product? Because of the vaginal anxiety, not because there is anything wrong with a tampon! Vaginismus is such a mind-controlled condition!
We offer such training to the many young ladies who want to ‘be normal and use a tampon’ when in summer camp, instead of having to come up with excuses of why they are not.
Not only is this a most valuable intervention, it also ensures that she is not going to develop vaginismus!
Having treated over 2000 women with vaginismus as of this publication date, we continue to be amazed by the thrill of our patients when they conquer tampons or the other insertable aids. They all express how relieved they are, empowered, and feeling that this is for THEM to enjoy month after month, as they choose to. It is a gift to themselves for many years to come.