Someone very close to me had suffered from vaginismus for a long time. I’ve witnessed the struggles that it can cause. It’s more than just about the physical pain. Vaginismus can affect confidence, relationships and even the ability to get pregnant. Although it’s thought to be a psychological disorder, the impacts are mental and physical.
I’ve chosen to use the term vaginismus. But it is also referred to as Genito-pelvic pain/penetration disorder. Terms often used along with vaginismus are ‘Dyspareunia’ and ‘Apareunia’. Dyspareunia is a general term for a condition which causes pain during intercourse. Apareunia refers to a condition in which a person is unable to have sexual intercourse.
What is Vaginismus?
Sufferers of vaginismus experience an involuntary tightening of muscles in response to vaginal penetration. The muscles that spasm can be the pelvic floor muscles, abdominal muscles, bulbospongiosus muscle and others. Physical exams will identify which muscles are spasming in each individual case.
Studies have shown vaginismus to be one of the leading causes of sexless marriages. Although someone can want to have sex and can become aroused, their bodies make penetration too uncomfortable and/or painful. It can affect women of any age and in any stage of their life.
*Disclaimer* I am a sex blogger, not a doctor. If you think you may have vaginismus I recommend speaking to your GP about your symptoms. It is curable and receiving proper treatment can stop the problem from worsening.
Speaking of symptoms, here they are:
⦁ Difficult or impossible penetration of the vagina. Can include intercourse, tampons, sex toys, gynaecological exam etc.
⦁ Pain during penetration of the vagina. Often described as a stinging or burning sensation. Can range from mild to severe depending on the person and situation.
⦁ Involuntary muscle spasms during intercourse and/or vaginal penetration.
The symptoms of vaginismus vary depending on the person. You may suffer from all these symptoms or only one.
Primary or Secondary
Primary Vaginismus – This term is used if someone has suffered from the first time they attempted penetration. It may have been discovered through pain in using tampons or through a painful gynaecological exam.
Secondary Vaginismus – This term is used when the sufferer has been able to achieve comfortable penetration previously. Usually, secondary vaginismus is quicker and easier to recover from than primary. Though this is dependant on the cause.
Global or Situational
Global Vaginismus – This term describes vaginismus that is present during all types of penetration. This regardless of the situation or object.
Situational Vaginismus – This refers to vaginismus that is only present under certain conditions. A sufferer may be unable to have penetrative sex but is still able to use tampons.
There are many factors that may contribute to the onset of vaginismus. They include both physical and emotional causes.
The Physical causes include:
⦁ Medical Conditions – There are numerous conditions included in this. Some of these are UTI’s, STI’s, cysts, cancer, yeast infections, psoriasis, endometriosis and vaginal prolapse.
⦁ Medications – Some medications may cause pelvic pain or vaginal dryness.
⦁ Childbirth – Especially true if there was trauma during childbirth.
⦁ Menopause – A reduction in estrogen can cause a decrease in natural vaginal lubrication.
⦁ Pelvic Surgery
The Emotional causes include:
⦁ Traumatic Events – This can include events such as experiencing sexual or emotional abuse. Even witnessing abuse can result in vaginismus, as can repressed memories of abuse.
⦁ Childhood Experiences – Our experiences as children can cause vaginismus. These experiences may be a lack of sexual education, the belief that sex is ‘bad’, exposure to shocking and explicit sexual imagery etc.
⦁ Issues With Sexual Partner – If you are in an abusive relationship a result of this can be vaginismus. Emotional detachment or a lack of trust in the relationship are also causes.
⦁ Anxiety and Stress – It will most commonly be anxiety revolving around sex, but this can include general anxiety. Anxieties may include the pressure of performance, guilt over condition and previously unpleasant experiences.
⦁ Fear – Some fears noted by vaginismus sufferers are a fear of losing control, fear of vagina not being large enough, fear of pain or a fear of pregnancy.
It’s important to note that in some cases of vaginismus there is no identifiable cause.
The treatments are usually dependant upon the cause. For instance, if the underlying cause is an infection, treating the infection may relieve vaginismus.
If the cause is likely to be a psychological one, sex therapy may be beneficial. Working through fears and anxieties, or dealing with past trauma. But, dependant upon where you live, there may be expenses involved in sex therapy.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
These will help you gain control of the muscles that are involuntarily spasming. I have a guide on pelvic floor exercises here. Depending on the severity of your vaginismus you may or may not be able to use kegel exercisers. Don’t worry if you can’t, there are exercises you can do without any equipment.
Explore your body in a safe and relaxed environment. You can try inserting your own fingers one at a time with lubrication. Make sure to take things slowly and gently. It’s important to get used to penetration under your own control before trying penetration with a partner.
This is an exercise in which you tense and release isolated muscle groups in a certain order. It is great for getting to know the muscles that are causing your vaginismus and to gain control over them.
If you can spare the expense then these are a great way to gradually get your body used to penetration. This training set includes 5 dilators increasing in size. The first with a tiny 1.5″ circumference. The process may take weeks or months depending on the severity of your condition. These do not stretch the vagina. The vagina is already large enough to take them in. The dilators just give your body a gentle way of getting used to the sensation of penetration.
I hope anyone suffering from vaginismus has found this guide useful. Remember to please see a GP if you think you may have this condition. It’s the best way to achieve a full recovery. If treated properly, it is a curable condition.
Have you suffered from vaginismus? Please share any advice or experiences in the comments to support other sufferers!
If you liked this post then check out my post on Sexual Anxiety!
Affiliate links have been used in this post.