Pain From Tampon Insertion: What Can Cause It?

There are a few different reasons that might be the cause.

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When your period arrives, there are several options to choose from when it comes to hygiene products. You might choose to use pads, menstrual cups, period underwear, tampons, or a combination of the products.

If your go-to choice is tampons and you've gotten familiar with using them, you might become worried if it suddenly hurts to insert one. Here are some possible reasons why you might experience pain or discomfort when using tampons.

You're Experiencing Vaginal Dryness

Sometimes, it's slightly painful to insert or remove a tampon simply because your vagina is dry. One possible reason for dryness is that your flow may be very light. You may also be drier after childbirth or when estrogen levels are low during breastfeeding or during perimenopause. Using a lubricant should help relieve the dryness and make it easier for the applicator to slide in.

Your Pelvic Muscles May Be Tense

Your pelvic muscles may not be relaxed enough while you put the tampon in or pull it out. See if it helps to take a deep breath and then completely release your pelvic muscles before you attempt to remove or insert the tampon. Additionally, although it's uncommon, some women have a condition known as vaginismus—per MedlinePlus—which makes the muscles of the vaginal canal tense up, and they may feel a tearing or burning sensation if anything is inserted. Doing Kegel exercises often helps relax the pelvic floor. But for some women, vaginismus is related to underlying stress or anxiety about sex, and counseling may be helpful.

You May Be Dealing With Vulvodynia

If you would describe the pain as more of a stinging when you put a tampon in, it could be a sign of vulvodynia, a pain disorder that affects the vulva. According to MedlinePlus, this would be considered localized vulvodynia where the pain comes from pressure in one part of the vulva due to situations such as inserting a tampon, having sexual intercourse, or sitting too long. Treatment varies from woman to woman: Some find relief by using a cold pack or taking a low-dose antidepressant. Switching to cotton menstrual products and underwear may also be worth a try.

Vaginal Cysts Could Be the Issue

If you're having trouble getting a tampon in at all, there's also a possibility that you have a cyst—a small sac typically filled with fluid either on or in the vaginal lining. A cyst can form if the vaginal wall gets injured during childbirth or surgery or due to a bacterial infection, as noted by MedlinePlus. It usually doesn't cause much discomfort. If the cyst is small and isn't really bothering you (aside from obstructing your tampon insertion a bit), you probably don't need to treat it. Some vaginal cysts go away on their own. But if it's growing in size or causing real pain, it could be infected and may need to be surgically removed or drained.

Furthermore, experiencing pain with tampon use could also indicate cervical inflammation, endometriosis, or an infection caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Because the cause is not always immediately clear, you may want to stop using tampons if it's uncomfortable and visit your gynecologist, who can perform a pelvic exam to get to the root of your pain and find a solution.

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