My experience with tampons started rather late!
Growing up, I knew there were such things as tampons but since my mum never used them, when I started my period at 10, I was introduced to disposable pads and that was that.
Somehow, I got the understanding that inserting anything ‘up there’ was breaking your virginity and with my religious background, I didn’t even think about trying tampons.
At school, I would miss out on swimming lessons once a month, and I never learned to swim properly because of that.
So, upon discovering that vaginismus was a thing, I read a lot of stories about how women knew about vaginismus when they struggled with inserting a tampon as a teen. And I thought ‘hey, maybe I’d like to try this one day?’.
One of my goals is to learn to swim. (I am constantly reminded of how important being able to swim is when watching those disaster ship-sinking movies!).
When I was able to insert dilator 3, which is quite a lot bigger than a Tampax lite, I was pretty confident about trying a tampon.
Oh boy – did I realise that dilators and tampons are two different ball games!
Firstly, dilators are smooth in texture whereas tampons are drying!
At first I had a lot of difficulty with the texture of how it felt at the vaginal opening, it was scratching and uncomfy. There were a few occasions of trying tampons unsuccessfully and throwing those tampons away – it was discouraging.
So what I did was to break it down step by step. Here’s what I did:
- Since I could do dilators when lying down in bed, legs open, body relaxed. What if I tried to insert the tampon when I am not on my period, inside the applicator in the same position, and just aim at getting it in half way? The first few times my hand was shaking and it barely made it in the entrance, but I kept trying every now and then.
- When I managed the first step, I thought, what if I tried now to insert it all the way, and then take it out (with it still inside the applicator) just like a dilator? Again, my hand was shaking a lot and I felt a lot of anxiety. I would say my anxiety was 10/10 at this stage. With deep breathing to calm myself, I did eventually managed to insert it.
- Now that I could do that, I need to understand how a tampon differs from a dilator in terms of pushing through the applicator and removing the applicator after. I watched some Youtube videos to help me understand this, and also practiced pushing through using a tampon as a test, with my fingers, just to get a sense of the pressure I would need to apply.
- After managing step 2-3, I tried to use a tampon when I was on my period, during a heavy day. With a towel underneath me on the bed, I tried to insert the tampon while lying down in bed, legs opened, body relaxed. Deeply breathing, I managed it! I was feeling very excited, but also freaked out that something was inside me! I couldn’t feel it (which meant I inserted correctly- yayyyy!), though I could feel the string which was a bit weird. I literally texted my friends at 11pm saying ‘OMG I got a tampon in!’ haha..!
- The first time I went to remove it was uncomfortable and I experienced a pinching feeling. It was because I didn’t know how hard or not hard I had to pull on the string, and in which angle. I did a DEEP breath while pulling on the string. It came out bit by bit with deep breathing and pulling. The anxiety of that experience was 10/10. It wasn’t pain, just pinching and discomfort. I remember feeling so relieved it came out and I just celebrated my first tampon use! That was November 2020.
- The first few times of using a tampon I was anxious, I won’t lie. I’d be looking at the clock and count the hours until I need to remove and feel anxiety. But I also wanted to be able to use tampons, so I persevered, and I am so glad I did. A key for me was to celebrate each tampon use, and pat myself on the back!
- After the first time, when I was lying down on my back to insert. The next time I tried a kneeling position on the bathroom floor (the perks of working from home eh) and it went in ok. Then the next time I tried squatting, and then on semi-sitting down position. Each time it went in gave me the confidence that ‘I COULD DO THIS!!!’
- Yesterday I noticed I didn’t even think twice about inserting a tampon. By now I’ve probably used tampons 9 times? My anxiety was minimal, at like 1/10. I had 100% certainty that it would go in. If it didn’t go in straight away it was probably I wasn’t angling it right and I’d just take a deep breath and try again. When removing, I didn’t think twice, I managed to remove successfully and I will describe the sensation as like a big sigh from my body, a relief that the tampon is out. And my vaginal muscles felt quite good after.
So here’s my step by step experience.
Often we think of progress as categorical: either it’s IN or it’s NOT. But if we break the whole thing down into small steps, it becomes a lot more achievable.
That is my approach anyway!
I love the freedom of being able to use tampons just because I CAN!
I love the clean feeling during my period of not having the sticky pads on my vulva and being able to have more movement without any gross feelings around my genitals area.
I still use pads (reusable ones) in between tampon use and I love that I have more choice now around period products.
Maybe one day I will even be brave enough to try a menstrual cup!
– C.G. (33 years old, London)
P.S. I invite you to read more about my journey on my blog More Than Vaginismus!