Vaginal Insertion + My Assumptions = Shoddy Support

I recently had a doula client for whom sticking things in her vagina was a very foreign idea.  No tampons, diva cups, keepers, or masturbation.  So when I explained the potential benefits of Evening Primrose Oil capsules for ripening the cervix, she was hesitant.

Oenothera biennis - Evening Primrose

Her attempts at perineal massage had been frustrating and she’d given up.  But I assured her that the capsules were much less labor intensive, and she went ahead and made the trip to the health food store.

After some negotiation around thinking she wouldn’t be able to reach her vagina to insert the capsules, she finally called late one night to triumphantly report that they were in.  But she also said they were uncomfortable and stinging her.

Uncomfortable?  Stinging?  I couldn’t think of any possible reason she could be experiencing anything like this, and it was alarming.  Had I told her something wrong?  Did she have something awful on her hands when she inserted the capsules?  Was she allergic?

So as I’m furiously googling away to make sure there wasn’t an emergency going on inside her vagina, she texts me.  “Ok so I think I’m stupid & figured out the issue.  I didn’t have them up far enough but I do now.”


She was not the stupid one here.  I was the one who knew that vaginal insertion wasn’t her thing, and it should’ve occurred to me to explain the process.  Instead I made assumptions and projected my own personal comfort with insertion onto her inappropriately.

So this is me smacking myself on the head and telling the world: inserting Evening Primrose Oil capsules into your vagina is like using a tampon–if you can still feel it, it’s not in far enough.

End embarrassed, apologetic rant.

4 responses to “Vaginal Insertion + My Assumptions = Shoddy Support

  1. I really identify with your client, I too am strongly against the insertion of foreign materials into the vagina, including (but not limited to) silicone or rubber menstruation cups, sex toys and herbal supplements/medicines.

    I wonder if her objection was due to prior experiences or philosophical. Mine is the latter, particularly in this case of induction/augmentation of labour. I think that her apprehension was her intuitive wisdom speaking and this should be acknowledged. I also think that her full range of alternatives should have been explored – the primary one being to try to wait for the baby and her body to ripen her cervix. Also she needlessly felt ‘stupid’ for not being to do something (insert the EPO) that is quite unnatural to begin with. Perhaps it is just me but natural bodily process, e.g. breathing, urinating or cervical dilation should neither be difficult no require assistance in a normal healthy woman.

    I hope you understand where I am coming from with my comment, I just think that it s a completely valid choice to NOT routinely insert foreign objects into your vagina particularly during pregnancy. I think the practice should be throughly researched by the individual and advised AGAINST by professionals due to the increased risks of infection, pain and the perpetuation of the subliminal psychological message that their is someone thing wrong with our genitals as they can not ripen or self lubricate or function in any capacity without help!

    • Well Michele, there is no such thing as some infallible process that “should neither be difficult no require assistance in a normal healthy woman”.

      What do you think about prenatal vitamins, breast shields that help get the rhythm of breastfeeding going right, or aspirin when you have a headache? What about aspirin when your babies fever is dangerously high? Where do you draw the line between what “should” happen “normally” – two intrinsically moralistic and exceedingly subjective concepts – and what YOU think is okay to use interventions for? Do you think that might be different for different people, or different situations?

      What if she was faced with the possibility of having to resort to more extreme interventions if her labor did not progress faster? What if she had done nothing and ended up with the baby passing meconium into the amniotic fluid? MAYBE using gentler methods of inducing labor rather than a more trauma-inducing intervention was healthier for the baby and the mother.

      What needs to be emphasized is a practice of really truly educating people about medical choices and their body so that they have the ability to understand what is best for themselves and consider their own needs, and then make those choices. That’s the bottom line. Please don’t push your fear of touching your vagina onto what’s best for others.

  2. Err excuse me Lavalier, but my comment was a response to the assumptions and cultural beliefs discussed in this post. I was merely stating that the doula client mentioned was not alone with the belief that it is “strange” or not the norm to routinely insert multiple foreign materials into your vagina for varying medical, sexual or menstrual reasons.

    Just because this is not a common or mainstream belief does not mean it is not a valid one. I am not sure why the genital insertion of various items was a “foreign” concept to this woman, which is why I asked for more details and added my own suggestions. It sounded (to me at least) from the tone of the post, like the doula assumed she was uneducated to this western medical routine practice and therefore not “doing it right”. My question was why do it at all? Oral consumption of Evening Primrose Oil (EPO) can garner the same results without the irritation, pain or increase risk of infection from vaginal insertion not to mention there are MANY other no/low risk, non painful, non medical options to try too.

    As I stated in my comment my objection (in this case) to induction via the vaginal suppositories of Evening Primrose Oil is philosophical. There is the male medical belief that women’s bodies are broken or deficient in some/ many ways, our bodies can not gestate, our cervixes can not dilate, our breasts can not lactate et cetera et cetera without a knight carrying pharmaceuticals to come and save us… Please! *I* simply do not believe this to be true, but it is such a longstanding and powerful myth I can see why you and others believe it. I do not believe that healthy women ever need to be induced nor do they randomly need to place some object into their vagina by the request of others especially when they aren’t aroused as this is when more pain is experienced.

    I find it interesting that you assume my opinions are fear based, this blog is called Cuntastic for goodness sake, surly this space is one where many female genital theories can be explored and discussed without others making distasteful judgements. My beliefs that the vagina can function perfectly without things being (often painfully) inserted to it and that this practice may cause more harm than good, actually have more to do with me being educated on my options for female genital care than being scared. Although I am a little afraid that so few women question what they are asked to do to their bodies and do not know that there are better/safer/healthier choices out there. Also I would not view this cultural act of inserting a strange object inside of you that caused irritation and discomfort (or even pain or infection) as “touching”. Call me crazy but yes I do think that all genital touching should be pleasurable, informed and consensual. I mean if a pregnant woman was healthy, had never had to use vaginal suppositories before and knew her baby would be born safely when it was ready, would she CHOOSE to put things into her vagina (even if it wasn’t uncomfortable or painful), NO *I* DON’T THINK SHE WOULD!

  3. I too experienced stinging and twinges of discomfort upon inserting these capsules directly onto my cervix. I think it is just slight discomfort bc the walls of your vagina are absorbing something they are not familiar with. But I agree, evening primrose oil is excellent for ripening the cervix.

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