It could be anything from the angle or depth, to a condition of the vaginal muscles–let’s discuss why inserting tampons might hurt.
Menstrual products are supposed to make your period easier. But it’s time to rethink your go-to option if it causes pain.
You’re not alone if you’re not a fan of tampons: About 62% of women opt for pads, but only 42% use tampons. (1) Of the people who don’t use tampons, more than half said they find them uncomfortable.
There are several reasons it can be painful when you insert tampons. You can solve some of the problems on your own, like getting the correct angle and depth–with others, you may need to see your doctor.
Here are some of the most common questions our community has about inserting tampons.
What should I do if I’m new to tampons?
If you’re a beginner tampon user, please know that using tampons should not be painful. You shouldn’t feel it once you’ve inserted it correctly or when you wear it.
If you do, patiently try again–take your time. You’ve got fine print, diagrams and a new way to manage your period. If it’s your first period–it’s a lot!
And, if you have questions, check here for some helpful tips or reach out to us!
TINA tips: Did we mention how important it is to keep the tampon instructions? Go through them carefully to identify the parts of the tampon. Each brand can be slightly different.
Check out online video tutorials. Maybe a trusted friend or family member who can help walk you through it. Take your time and ask questions!
Feels like something is blocking my tampon from going in?
A medical condition called vaginismus can cause that blocking feeling–it can also make penetration of the vagina painful. That includes inserting a tampon or having sex.
Vaginismus causes the muscles of the vagina and pelvic floor to contract involuntarily, or spasm. That muscle tension causes the feeling that something is in the way when try to insert a tampon. (2)
Sometimes vaginismus can be associated with past sexual trauma or anxiety. (3) Although 1%-6% of women report having vaginismus, doctors believe it's fairly common and underdiagnosed because many are reluctant to discuss it. (4)
Here at TINA, we’re going to discuss it. Here’s why vaginal muscles can be tight:
- a recent vaginal childbirth
- an episiotomy (a surgical cut made at the opening of the vagina to ease childbirth) or other surgery
- intense exercise
- heavy lifting.
TINA tips: Vaginismus is treatable. Your doctor can refer you to a pelvic floor specialist who can address penetration-related problems and teach you exercises to ease and retrain your muscles.
Why does my tampon go in sideways?
When you feel a tampon going sideways, it’s because it may be knocking into your vaginal wall or cervix. That can happen because your uterus is tilted or you’re hitting nerves in your cervix.
It can take practice to position the tampon to insert it at the angle that works best for you.
A tampon can go in sideways if you:
- have a tilted uterus, causing it to be a challenge to get the correct angle
- knock it into the vaginal wall
- hit the cervix, causing a “bear down” reaction that causes you to tilt the tampon (4)
- have difficulty pinching and gripping the tampon (common with rheumatoid arthritis)
- have a condition that limits mobility or reach.
- Check the orientation of your tampon applicator and hold it perpendicular to your pelvis.
- If you notice when you remove the tampon that only half of it has absorbed fluids, you may have inserted it at the wrong angle.
- Try a tampon insertion aid.
Why does my vagina feel dry when I insert a tampon at the end of my period?
Vaginal dryness can happen when your flow lightens. That’s common toward the end of your period. (1) It can feel almost like being scratched or scraped if you insert a tampon when your vaginal canal is dry.
- Try a less absorbent tampon–something you’d use on a “light” day.
- Pick up lubricant to provide moisture.
- Wear a light pad or pantiliner when your period isn’t heavy.
Is something in the way of my tampon?
No, but it can certainly feel that way if you insert a tampon at the wrong angle! You may even be knocking into the vaginal wall.
Aim the tampon toward your lower back/bottom of your spine as you insert it (not up). You’ll know it’s in place when you don’t feel it.
- It takes practice to get the angle right–try again when you feel relaxed.
- Use a tampon without an applicator. That requires using your index finger for insertion, which offers more flexibility than a tube-shaped applicator.
- Try a tampon insertion aid to help ensure you get the angle right every time.
Why can’t I reach “down there”?
Some people can’t reach their pelvis to use tampons because inserting them isn’t easy for every body type or size.
Others may have a medical condition that prevents them from bending or reaching–or simply gripping–a tampon. A traditional tampon applicator can make it painful.
TINA tip: Using pads is an option. If you prefer to use tampons and are not able to, try a tampon insertion aid.
Why do I have stomach pain after inserting a tampon?
If you have a condition called endometriosis, you may feel a deep pain in your abdomen when you insert a tampon. It’s different from pain you might feel at the vaginal opening as you put it in.
With endometriosis, tissue similar to the tissue that lines the inside of your uterus, called the endometrium, grows outside of your uterus. The tissue acts like endometrial tissue, thickening, breaking down and bleeding with each menstrual cycle. However, it doesn’t have a place like the uterus and vagina to leave the body.
Sometimes endometriosis is asymptomatic until it someday causes fertility problems. But some people experience severe pain from the condition, especially during periods. (5)
Tampon pain associated with endometriosis may be similar to endometriosis dyspareunia, a type of pain felt during sex.
TINA tip: If you think you have endometriosis, reach out to a specialist in the condition to discuss the best resources for managing the condition and whether tampons are a good option.
Why does it suddenly hurt to put in a tampon?
A sudden pain in the vulva can happen from a condition called vulvodynia. The vulva is one of the most sensitive parts of your body.
Vulvodinia can feel like vaginal burning, stinging, rawness and aching. You may experience discharge, or pain and burning from urination, prolonged sitting or removing a tampon. Penetration, whether from sex or inserting a tampon, can be intensely painful. (6)
Although vulvodynia can result from fluctuating hormones, its cause is often unknown.
TINA tips: An experienced specialist can help you treat vulvodynia. Find out if an anesthetic ointment, prescription medication, physical therapy or locally applied hormones may be right for you.
What if my medical condition makes it painful to grip tampons?
If you have trouble using your fingers to grip or bending your wrist, inserting a tampon may be difficult, especially if you use a tampon with a traditional applicator. (9)
TINA tip: A tampon insertion aid can alleviate strain by eliminating the need to flex your wrist or bend your fingers.
Periods can be challenging. Inserting your tampon shouldn’t be. Now that you’re armed with solutions, you can wear tampons comfortably and with confidence!
- Borowski, Ann. Are American women turning to reusable and greener menstrual products due to health and environmental pollution concerns? [Internet]. December 2011. [Cited 2022 August 10]. Accessed from: https://scholarworks.rit.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=1547&context=theses
- Pain When Inserting a Tampon: Here's What Could Be Causing It. [cited 2023 Feb 20]. Accessed from: https://www.intimaterose.com/blogs/pelvic-pain/pain-when-inserting-a-tampon#:~:text=Vaginal%20dryness,tampon%20or%20use%20a%20pad
- Pelvic Floor Muscles. April 2022. [cited 2023 Feb 20]. Accessed from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/22729-pelvic-floor-muscles
- Tara Langdale. When Your Tampon Won't Go In, What’s Going on? January 2020. [cited 2023 Feb 20]. Accessed from: https://www.vuvatech.com/blogs/care/tampon-wont-go-in
- Why do tampons go sideways? Supported Moms. 23 May 2016. [cited 2023 February 20] Accessed from: https://supportedmums.com/why-do-tampons-go-sideways/#:~:text=the%20cervix%20deflects%20the%20tampon%20sideways&text=The%20cervix%20is%20the%20size,accident%20when%20inserting%20a%20tampon
- Endometriosis. [cited 2023 Feb 20]. Accessed from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/endometriosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20354656#:~:text=Endometriosis%20is%20a%20condition%20in,including%20the%20bowel%20and%20bladder
- Vulvodynia (VVS). [cited 2023 Feb 20]. Accessed from: https://middlesexmd.com/pages/vulvodynia-vvs
- Latman NS. Relation of menstrual cycle phase to symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. The American Journal of Medicine 1983. [cited 2022 August 11]. Accessed from: https://doi.org/10.1016/0002-9343(83)90789-1