Vaginismus, a condition characterized by involuntary muscle contractions of the vaginal wall muscles, can be quite frustrating to manage. While the path to overcoming this condition is often characterized by determination and patience, something like a menstrual cycle can get in the way of this. One of the more frequent questions I get asked is if its best to dilate during your period. The answer isn’t so straightforward, so let’s take a look at how the menstrual cycle can impact your vaginismus recovery.
Exploring the Menstrual Cycle Phases and Sensations During Dilating
The menstrual cycle is a complex interplay of hormonal changes, muscle tension, and various physiological shifts. For individuals dealing with vaginismus, these fluctuations can influence the ease or difficulty of dilation.
Let’s look at how dilating may feel during each phase of the menstrual cycle:
Menstrual Phase (aka period week):
During the menstrual phase, women often experience a release of muscle tension, providing a potential window of opportunity for dilation. The increased blood flow and hormonal changes contribute to a relaxed state for some, making this phase a more comfortable time to engage in dilating exercises. Some even appreciate how the period can act as a “free lubricant” for a week or so (which if you’re spending any amount of time with dilators, you know how much lube we go through!). However, heightened sensitivity due to inflammation might pose challenges for others. It’s essential to approach dilation with awareness and adjust techniques based on your unique sensations. Knowing, understanding, and listening to your body during the mestrual week can help guide you in whether or not to dilate during your period.
The follicular phase, characterized by the days following menstruation until ovulation, is a great time for dilating. With decreasing muscle tension and increased estrogen levels, individuals may find this phase the most comfortable for dilating. The pelvic floor tends to be more accommodating, and sensations may be less intense, promoting a sense of progress for those overcoming vaginismus.
As ovulation approaches, estrogen levels peak, enhancing natural lubrication and potentially reducing friction during dilation. Some individuals may find this phase the most favorable for dilating, experiencing a combination of heightened relaxation and increased ease. However, it’s crucial to stay attuned to your body’s responses, as individual experiences may vary. You vaginal canal also lengthens during your ovulatory phase and naturally becomes more inviting for guests like a penis (or a dilator).
The luteal phase, occurring between ovulation and the onset of menstruation, brings about changes in hormonal balance. Progesterone levels rise, and some individuals might notice increased muscle tension and sensitivity. Dilating during this phase may require additional care, including slower progression and heightened attention to relaxation techniques. Adjusting the dilation routine based on these hormonal fluctuations can contribute to a more supportive experience. It’s important to note that often we can see a digression of dilator progress during this week- handling this with self-compassion and grace will be key for your recovery!
The Individual’s Choice: To Dilate or Not to Dilate During Menstruation
It’s important to emphasize that whether to dilate during menstruation is a highly personal choice. Some women find this time to be particularly beneficial, experiencing increased relaxation and a sense of empowerment. In fact, many of my clients have seen some of their biggest break-throughs while dilating during their period. Others, however, may find the pain and discomfort too dysregulating, choosing to skip dilation during their period.
The Decision to Dilate: Showing Up for Yourself
Regardless of whether you choose to dilate during your period, it’s crucial to recognize that missing a week of dilation won’t set you back significantly. What matters most is that you consistently show up for yourself and your body- and sometimes taking a week or so off is the best way to show up for your body. Every step, no matter how small, is a victory in the journey toward overcoming vaginismus.
Tips and Tricks for Dilating During Your Period
For those who choose to dilate during their period, here are five tips and tricks to enhance comfort and effectiveness:
- Use Extra Lubrication: Since hormonal changes can impact natural lubrication levels, consider using a water-based lubricant to reduce friction and enhance comfort during dilation. If you’re having a heavy bleed day, you may not need this, but just pay attention to what you’re body is needing.
- Warm Compress: Applying a warm compress to the pelvic area before dilating can help relax muscles and alleviate discomfort. This can be especially beneficial if muscles feel more tense or inflamed.
- Get Comfortable in your Space: If you’re worried about making a mess, staining a towel, or the sight of blood, you’re going to have a more difficult time connecting with and listening to your body. Practice mindfulness and set up a space emotionally, mentally, and physically where you feel comfortable and safe.
- Adjust Dilation Size: Consider adjusting the size of your dilators based on your comfort level during menstruation. Starting with a smaller size and gradually progressing can help manage any increased sensitivity.
- Choose the Right Time: Select a time for dilation when you feel most comfortable and relaxed. This might vary from person to person, so pay attention to your body’s cues and find a schedule that works for you.
Navigating vaginismus is a unique and personal journey, and understanding how your menstrual cycle may influence the process is a valuable aspect of self-discovery. Recognizing and considering the cyclical nature of the menstrual cycle and its impact on muscle tension, lubrication, and sensitivity, can help youto make informed choices regarding when and how to dilate based on your body’s needs. Ultimately, the goal is not just to progress physically but to foster a positive and compassionate relationship with your body, embracing the ups and downs of your unique journey toward overcoming vaginismus.
If you’re looking for more ways we can learn to use our body’s natural abilities to heal vaginismus, let’s chat! My Mind-Body-Sex Reset Vaginismus program offers a holistic approach that targets your nervous system to help you move past dilators to more fun things. Schedule a free consultation call to learn more!