With society increasingly focusing on the environmental impact of period products, people are being encouraged to use menstrual cups. But this often leaves those who have vaginismus out of the conversation.
I’m someone who struggles with vaginismus myself, which means that using a tampon causes a lot of stress for me – let alone using a menstrual cup. I remember a particular memory that is stained with frustration. I was crouched in a pub bathroom as my period had decided to surprise me on a night out. One of my best friends was on the other side of the door as she tried to guide me in how to insert a tampon. But no matter how much I tried, it kept hitting a “wall.”
Not being able to use a tampon might sound trivial, but there is nothing more heartbreaking and emotional than having your own body refuse to cooperate with you.
For those unaware, vaginismus is a physiological condition that can be caused by a multitude of things, such as abuse, infection, childbirth, or a variety of other natural or traumatic events. It results in the involuntary contraction of muscles around the opening of the vagina, which means the penetration and insertion of pretty much anything can be either really painful or extremely uncomfortable.
Not being able to use a tampon might sound trivial, but there is nothing more heartbreaking and emotional than having your own body refuse to cooperate with you. I was choking back tears in that pub bathroom, so frustrated that I couldn’t do something I thought all period-havers had the ability to do. I felt defeated and broken.
This is why I find the current conversation around menstrual cups nowhere near inclusive enough. The focus is too often on them being the only environmentally friendly option when there’s a bevy of other alternatives out there – such as period underwear and environmentally friendly pads.
Each person’s journey with their body is different, and it’s important that an individual finds what works best for them – no matter society’s expectations.
It was years before I learned that there were period products on the market that didn’t involve insertion, and I’d feel so much guilt and shame over my inability to use menstrual cups that I would often use my birth control to skip my period instead. Then add to that the guilt I’ve felt for buying generic pads from the chemist. These feelings are driven home by articles that say menstrual cups are the best period-product alternative, and the many writers who say they “don’t understand” why everyone isn’t wearing one.
The irony isn’t lost on me that I’ve been made to feel shame for a personal condition – and how I choose to cope with it – from those who claim to be period positive, especially when women have been shamed for their periods for as long as I can remember.
Even though I believe open and positive conversations around periods are important, we sometimes seem to forget that your period is something extremely personal. Each person’s journey with their body is different, and it’s important that an individual finds what works best for them – no matter society’s expectations.