Put A Cup In It

Vaginismus | The Ultimate Guide to Menstrual Cups & Discs

Vibrant pink background with a pair of light turquoise underwear laid flat. On top is a paper cut out of a uterus and a menstrual cup. Overlaid text reads: Vaginismus | Are Menstrual Cups & Discs An Option?

If you’re someone who experiences vaginismus, you may wonder if a menstrual cup or disc can work for you when it comes to managing your period. While it does require inserting and removing something from your vagina, using a menstrual cup or a menstrual disc with vaginismus doesn’t have to be a nightmare and it is possible.

What Is Vaginismus?

Vaginismus is the body’s natural response to a fear of vaginal penetration. This could be from a psychologically based fear or one caused by physical trauma (e.g. abuse, surgery, childbirth, endometriosis). It happens when you attempt to insert something into your vagina, and the vaginal muscles spasm and become so tense that it’s either impossible or painful.

Vaginismus can occur in individuals of all ages, whether they’ve had penetrative sex or not.

There are two types of vaginismus identified by professionals; primary and secondary.

Primary vaginismus describes the condition when the individual has never experienced vaginal penetration.

Secondary vaginismus describes when vaginal penetration has been achieved in the past, once or multiple times, but is no longer possible.

What Are The Symptoms of Vaginismus?

Symptoms of vaginismus can vary widely between individuals but most often are related to pain or discomfort during vaginal penetration. It can also present as pain or stinging during sex or while wearing a tampon. Even the fear of pain or discomfort that you haven’t experienced yet can stop you from being able to insert anything or make it so frustrating that it doesn’t feel worth it.

Aside from physical symptoms, emotional symptoms of vaginismus can manifest in anxiety around penetrative sex, pelvic exams, or managing menstrual cycles.

What Are The Causes of Vaginismus?

Many factors can cause a person to experience vaginismus, and it should never be discounted, no matter the reason. Common possible causes can often be trauma related, whether physical or emotional. This can include complications during childbirth, poor experiences with IUDs, or recurring vaginal infections like UTIs and yeast infections.

Endometriosis can also cause vaginismus. This is when tissue that typically grows inside the uterus starts to form in other areas of the reproductive system. It can cause a lot of pain in the pelvic region and contribute to unusually heavy periods. The result of the chronic pain and discomfort caused by endometriosis can be a contributing cause of vaginismus, and understandably so.

Vaginismus can also occur in those who have had vaginal or reproductive surgery.

Can I Use A Menstrual Cup or Menstrual Disc If I Have Vaginismus?

The short answer is that it’s possible to use a menstrual cup if you have vaginismus, but it may take some patience with your cup and yourself. It’s also worth noting that we have heard from plenty of people who were unable to use tampons due to discomfort, but have been able to use a menstrual cup or disc comfortably.

The size of the cup you use can make a difference. If you’re intimidated by a larger cup, or try one and find it uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to try a size or two smaller. Most menstrual cup companies have options when it comes to size and capacity. The same goes for discs. To look for the smaller options, sort our cup chart or disc chart by diameter.

Inserting a menstrual cup or disc may be challenging at first for those who experience vaginismus, but we think it’s well worth being patient with yourself and trying these handy devices.

Tips For Using A Menstrual Cup or Disc With Vaginismus:

Most of these tips come directly from our Put A Cup In It Community. If you have more questions, I highly recommend asking there.

  1. Be patient with yourself; it’s ok if it takes practice
  2. Get to know your body, and get comfortable with it
  3. Try inserting and removing your cup/disc while not on your period to get used to it
  4. Using a silicone safe lubricant can help make insertion easier
  5. Break the seal of your menstrual cup before you try to remove it (you can do this by pushing your finger in enough to reach the rim before pulling the cup)
  6. Talk to a pelvic floor therapist — they can help! (I have a few listed at the bottom of this page)
  7. Consider vaginal dilators (under the supervision of a pelvic floor therapist)
  8. Try pelvic floor exercises for vaginismus

As one user in our group shared, they were able to overcome their vaginismus and now use one of the highest capacity menstrual cups on the market without any discomfort or pain.

If you ultimately find that inserting a menstrual cup or menstrual disc still doesn’t work for you, you can always use a traditional pad, reusable menstrual cloth pads, or period underwear to avoid something that makes you uncomfortable.

Ways To Manage Vaginismus

Treatment for vaginismus generally focuses on managing the body’s reflexive physical response (vaginal muscles tightening). There are a number of different therapy options that be helpful.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) aims to use interventions to reduce negative thinking that contributes to mental health conditions.

When it comes to vaginismus, this type of therapy can be helpful in figuring out whether your thoughts and feelings are a factor in making vaginal penetration a challenge and help you find ways to manage them.

Sex Therapy

A sex therapist is a qualified healthcare professional who specializes in helping people with challenges regarding sex. Most counselors will work with either individuals or couples to help people find comfort and pleasure in sexual activity.

Sex therapy is similar to other types of treatment in that it works by talking through your experiences, thoughts, and feelings around sex to help develop management skills and healthier ways to respond when issues arise.

Topical Therapy

Topical lidocaine is sometimes prescribed to ease the pain of sexual intercourse. It can be applied to the vaginal opening 10-15 minutes before intercourse. Some professionals may also prescribe muscle relaxors for vaginismus, though this is a less common approach to treatment.

Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy

General physical therapy aims to relieve pain caused by an injury, and pelvic floor physical therapy does the same for your vagina. A trained physical therapist can help you practice stretches and exercises that will help relax your pelvic floor muscles to make sex, intercourse, or inserting a menstrual cup easier.

Vaginal Dilator Therapy

Vaginal dilators are tube-shaped devices that gently stretch the vaginal walls to help you get more comfortable with the feeling of vaginal penetration.

Size and diameter vary depending on your needs, and most dilators are made of silicone, plastic, or glass. It should be noted, though, that one study found no difference between using dilators or fingers to perform the task of gentle stretching.

Resources For More Information & Tips

There are so many amazing educators, doctors, & therapists on social media who give of their time to help educate about topics like these. Here are just a few you may find helpful (definitely search :

⭐ Dr. Sara Reardon

Website: The Vagina Whisperer & Instagram: @the.vagina.whisperer

⭐ Sameera Qureshi, MS OTR

Website: Sexual Health for Muslims & Instagram @SexualHealthForMuslims

⭐ Dr. Alex Hill

Website: Onco Pelvic PT & Instagram: @OncoPelvicPT

3 Responses

  1. Thank you so very much for this! Knowing that using cups is still an option brings me so much hope 😁

    if i may ask, does the softness/firmness of the cup matter? or is it only matter of size?

    thank you so much for making amazing periods possible!

    1. It’s little bit of personal preference. Some people prefer that it be firmer to open easier against tense muscles, while others like it to be softer — though that can make it harder to open.

      1. Thank you so very much! 😁 I had not thought about those aspects. You guys are amazing and I hope that everyone’s having a wonderful holiday 😁 Thanks so much again 😁!

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