For some women, the vaginal muscles involuntarily or persistently contract when they attempt vaginal penetration. This is called vaginismus. The contractions can prevent sexual intercourse or make it very painful.
This can happen:
- as the partner attempts penetration
- when a woman inserts a tampon
- when a woman is touched near the vaginal area
Vaginismus doesn’t interfere with sexual arousal, but it can prevent penetration.
A gentle pelvic exam typically shows no cause of the contractions. No physical abnormalities contribute to the condition.
Sexual dysfunction can occur in both males and females and can usually be treated. It’s not your fault, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Nevertheless, these disorders can interfere with your relationships and your quality of life.
Experts don’t know exactly how many women suffer from vaginismus, but the condition is considered to be uncommon.
Types of vaginismus
Vaginismus is classified into two types:
when vaginal penetration has never been achieved.
when vaginal penetration was once achieved, but is no longer possible, potentially due to factors such as gynecologic surgery, trauma, or radiation.
Some women develop vaginismus after menopause. When estrogen levels drop, a lack of vaginal lubrication and elasticity makes intercourse painful, stressful, or impossible. This can lead to vaginismus in some women.
How do I know if my loved one has vaginismus?
- Burning or stinging with tightness
- Difficult or impossible penetration
- Uncomfortable penile insertion
- Unconsummated marriage
- Ongoing pain following childbirth, infections, cancer, surgeries or other issues
- Sexual pain of unknown origins
- Difficulty inserting tampons
- Difficulty undergoing pelvic exams
- Spasms during intercourse
- Avoidance of sex
How do I treat vaginismus as a woman?
- Learn about vaginismus so that you can become proactive in your treatment.
- Talk to your doctor. You will want to have both your general care physician, your gynecologist and a mental health professional involved in your treatment to be the most successful.
- Learn about your body so that you can identify where pain is and what is causing it and explain this both to yourself, your partners and your doctor.
- Work on retraining your pelvic floor muscles through kegel exercises.
- Begin treatment with a insertion of a small item; nothing larger than a finger and fingers are recommended. Move at your own pace to limit pain and muscle contractions.
- Begin to work your way up to vaginal dilators to help relax the muscles and prepare for eventual intercourse.
- Work with your partner on sensate techniques that help build trust, understanding and adjustment to intercourse without pain.
How can I help treat vaginismus as a partner?
- Be supportive. Remind your loved one that you still love them and support them so they can focus on treatment rather than worrying about being a perceived failure.
- Go through the steps together, learn what treatments will be happening and participate wherever you can.
- Celebrate every victory, even if it seems small.
- Be patient and stay positive. Treatment can be lengthy and you want to help your partner stay positive rather than letting them feel like a failure.
- Continue being intimate without intercourse. Explore other forms of intimacy that pleasure both parties.
- Learn everything you can so you are informed!
- Don’t become passive. Don’t stop being interested in sex and don’t cut off your own nature and desires. Re-channel them into intimate actions that both parties can enjoy.