Have you ever had the experience of an uncomfortable tampon or one that looks as though only the side half of it has absorbed anything? So annoying. Why do tampons go sideways?
A BIT OF VAGINA ANATOMY
The vagina inside is surprisingly wide and stretchy, leaving plenty of room for things to move about. In our heads I think we picture it as a narrow tube rather like a hosepipe but actually, though narrow at the opening, inside it is quite a decent tubular space – it has to be to let a babies head out without damage to the vagina itself.
Imagine a tube that has been squashed. This shape means that we are narrow top to bottom (termed anterior to posterior in medical terms) but have plenty of room side to side. This is just like the shape of a mouth. Even open wide the mouth has a surprisingly small opening top to bottom but plenty of room side to side, in the cheeks.
Keeping with the mouth analogy, at the back of your mouth you have an epiglottis dangling down, at the back of the vagina tunnel the cervix dangles down; more like the size and shape of a nose. The cervix is pretty solid and though it pushes up out of the way during sex, it is quite easy to end up with a tampon nudging against it.
You will recognise this sensation, though you might not have realised what it was. Have you ever put a tampon in and then barely 5 minutes later you have an overwhelming desire to pull it back out ? It is just not right, or downright uncomfortable, almost as if your body is rejecting it? The cervix is the only bit inside with decent nerve endings (so if you knock it during sex it you might get a short sharp mild pain) but if a tampon is pressing on it relentlessly you get this strong urge to bear down and feel that the tampon is pushing out. Or alternatively the tampon itself comes up against the cervix as you insert it and as you keep pushing it tilts off sideways into the ‘cheek’ area giving you inadequate protection and that ‘half used’ look when you remove it.
Are you a visual person? I use a 3D model (and a piece of paper!) in this video to explain to Stephanie Taylor from Kegel8 how our internal organs are supported by our pelvic floor:
TIPS TO GET TAMPONS IN THE RIGHT PLACE
- Don’t rush the process (mums! you know you do)
- Visualise what you are doing. Keep contact with the back wall of the vagina (the bowel side) as you are putting the tampon in and it will end up underneath the cervix rather than on it. Aim for your back passage.
- Not all tampons are the same – some types expand widthways but others expand lengthways so they can effectively push themselves out as they become elongated when full. If you can’t picture what yours do, drop one in water and see what shape it becomes.
- Applicator tampons give you a bit more option to position the tampon before you let go – nice to use for the beginnings and ends of periods when the vagina is a bit drier and less easy to slide tampons in
- Pop a dab of lubricant (water-based) on the end of the tampon to help it slide in more easily
- If you feel your cervix is sitting very low since your baby try using a menstrual cup (like a MoonCup) instead of tampons – these are designed to sit closer to the opening of the vagina rather than deep inside (more like the position of a cork in a bottle).
How have you got on with returning to having periods and using tampons and sanitary pads? Any questions?