hand with tampon

Why do tampons go sideways?

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?  Why do tampons go sideways?

There are few reasons why tampons move about:

#1 There’s more space inside the vagina than you think

The vagina is surprisingly wide and stretchy. This is essential for babies heads to come out. However, also leaves plenty of room for things to move about. Especially for tampons to go sideways.  

I think we mentally picture the vagina as a narrow tube – rather like a hosepipe. However, though you can’t see much at the opening, inside the vagina there is quite a decent space.  The vagina is a tube, but not an evenly shaped one. It’s more like a squashed tube, wider side to side than top to bottom.

This clever shape helps to let a babies head out without damage to the vagina itself. 

The pelvic floor muscles should support the tube from below and from the sides. However, the pelvic floor muscles can be stretched and weakened by:

  • pregnancy
  • childbirth
  • straining for constipation
  • pressure from chronic coughing
  • or lots of lifting

As a result the vagina tube can feel more “gapey” or spacey – and it’s easier for tampons to drift off centre or tilt to one side.

#2 The cervix deflects the tampon sideways

If the end of the tampon comes up against the cervix it can tilt. Maybe off sideways giving you inadequate protection. Or giving that ‘half used’ look when you remove it.

The cervix is the opening to the uterus (womb). It sits right at the back of the vagina tube. It dangles down from the top of the tube (similar to the way your epiglottis sits right at the back of your mouth). The cervix is the size and shape of a nose.  You can put your finger inside and find it.

The cervix is pretty solid. Though it pushes up out of the way during sex, it is quite easy to accidentally knock into it by accident when inserting a tampon.

# The tampon annoys the cervix

Have you ever put a tampon in but 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?  

This is because the cervix is the only bit inside with decent nerve endings. If you knock it during sex it you might get a short sharp mild pain and find yourself shifting position. If a tampon is relentlessly pressing on the cervix you get this strong urge to bear down and feel that the tampon is pushing out or that you need to take it out.  Have you ever had this sensation?

A video to show why tampons go sideways

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 towards your tailbone
  • 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).   
  • make time for your pelvic floor exercises with particular emphasis on the sides. Follow the videos in our Pelvic Floor School.

How have you got on with returning to having periods and using tampons and sanitary pads?  Any questions? Join the conversations on instagram @propelvic

Content Disclaimer:

The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this article. Amanda Savage disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this article, blog or video.

14 thoughts on “Why do tampons go sideways?”

  1. My cervix is so low the last day of my period that a tampon can’t go in. It is painful. The rest of the time I can use a tampon no problem. This is the 2nd cycle after a miscarriage. I have delivered other children without this happening. This is the first time. Sex is fine, it’s just that last day.

    1. Hello. I am glad you asked such a useful question. Lots of women notice that the cervix can sit much lower in the vagina at different parts of their cycle, especially just before or during your period. At this time of the month our oestrogen levels are lower which affects the pelvic floor muscles too. If the muscles are already a bit weakened from your previous pregnancies, you may be finding that they are very tired by the end of the period and just can’t support the cervix well enough. The cervix has lots of nerve endings so if it gets knocked by trying to insert a tampon that will be very painful. The pelvic floor muscles are really important to help support the organs during all the lifting and carrying of the day. To try to improve things, first work on your muscles for a few weeks – even improving them by just 20% you should feel more supported through your whole period. Meanwhile, perhaps change to a pad during the evenings of the first days of your period (to give the muscles a rest from the weight of supporting a tampon) and then on that last day, instead of a tampon you could try a menstrual cup (Mooncup is the brand they sell in Boots). These are designed to sit lower in the vagina, just inside the opening, rather than further back where a tampon goes. It will leave plenty of space for a lower sitting cervix. They are a bit of a knack to learn to use but a really useful alternative to a tampon. Great for travelling and lots of women also find them more reliable at night than tampons can be. Do let me know how you get on?

  2. When I was inserting my tampon the plastic part was ok but when I tried to push the actual tampon in it went in kinda crooked and it’s like my vaginal wall wouldn’t let it go straight and I wanna take it out cause I’m scared it might hurt me but it don’t actually hurt I tried to fix it with my finger but it didn’t wanna work. I am 15

    1. Hi Hope. I hope you feeling comfortable now. Tampons are definitely an art form! The good news is that tampons are cotton wool compressed into a tampon shape so though they can be uncomfortable at the wrong angle they can’t damage you. If it feels like there is nowhere for the tampon to go except into the wall of the vagina my (educated) guess is that you have got the applicator too deep inside you. Then the problem is that the tampon comes out of the end of the plastic and there isn’t enough room left in the tunnel for it to fit. If this happens again and you feel you are a bit deep – the trick as you push the tampon in is to remember to let the plastic applicator come back towards you as you push the tampon through it. You want the tampon to take the place of the applicator – and withdraw the plastic applicator. If you are accidentally holding the applicator too firmly it can’t get out of the way! Also, there is a nice video by Lilets brand in which they suggest that to get the applicator position right only insert the plastic to the first ridge – see here https://youtu.be/aO9_xFzb6aM. Let me know if that helps?

  3. Hi so I have a question… My tampon flips upside down and I insert it properly… And I’ve used many different sizes and it happens with the regular and super sizes the most. But only the kotex brand…. I tried other tampons and didn’t have that issue.. but it does happen occasionally with these other brands. It also was really high in my cervix? Or vaginal opening. Idk sorry I’ve never really talked about this stuff. Didn’t really have anyone to teach me about this..

    1. Hi Renae. That one is a puzzle! I assume you mean that they turn around so the string is at the back and hard to reach? You may find that you would suit an alternative way of managing your period. Perhaps a menstrual cup (great quiz to see what might suit you here: https://putacupinit.com/quiz/) or the clever new absorbent underwear (Good Housekeeping did a thorough review of UK options earlier this year: https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/health-products/g27421796/best-period-panties/). Best wishes. Amanda

  4. Thank you so much for this information about flipping and turning tampons, I thought I was going mad!

  5. Hi. So this is strange and probably unrelated but is it possible that tampons changed my vagina shape? I used to have an “innie” and I changed my tampons last month, since that my vagina has totally changed shape and now I have an “outie” which is horrible and uncomfortable. I haven’t seen anything on line about vaginas changing shape and the only thing I can think that causes this drastic change is changing my tampons. Any advice? It’s really getting me down

    1. Hi Sarah. I am not aware of tampons changing vagina shape. My guess is that this is just a co-incidence.
      However, it sounds like you may have had some movement of the vagina walls towards the opening which is why it feels different to before. This can occur from straining (eg constipation) or changes in hormones showing up weak pelvic floor muscles. If this is not getting better naturally, ask your GP to “have a look” and they will be able to see what might have changed and why.

  6. I’m having a new issue with my current period where the tampon will be inserted properly but when I take it out it has a bend to it, as if it’s started curving into a ( shape. I do frequently have the sideways problem as explained in the article— is this caused by the same issues? Or could it be size related? The tampons I’m using currently are bigger than the ones I’ve used in the past since my flow is heavier. Do I need to downsize, or is it an anatomy issue?

    1. I would hazard an educated guess (?!) that the bigger-than-before tampon gets soft as it fills with menstrual flow and then bends into the natural shape of your vagina. Is the larger tampon achieving what you want it to do? If it is comfortable when inside, comes out easily and is absorbing without leaking you might not even consider it an issue, just what tampons can do! Understanding what is happening hopefully makes this not a worry. However , if your flow is heavier, the tampon is uncomfortable or not filling well, you may prefer to change tampons more frequently or explore options like menstrual cups?

  7. i’m 16, i can’t seem to put a tampon in all the way. i’ve tried it a couple times, it goes in fine with no pain but at a certain point (about halfway) it seems like i can’t push the tampon in any further and feels like like i’m hitting my cervix? It feels like my vagina is just short if i can’t put it in all the way. and makes me nervous for future experience like sex because will i even be able to have it i have a short vagina ?

    1. Hello Ana, I experienced this when I first tried to use tampons. Ask your doctor (you can ask for a female doctor) for advice – for me it turned out to be vaginismus which was simple to treat. I thought I wasn’t ‘normal’ in that department but here I am now with two grown up daughters many years later.! Ask someone you trust to come with you to get some advice. X

  8. I am also having this issue, when I pull my tampons out they can be mishaped or feel like they’re caught/wedged on something which is quite painful. Or like you described and only absorbing anything from one side. Is there a fix to this? While still using tampons.

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