Vaginismus is a medical condition characterised by involuntary muscle spasms in the pelvic floor muscles, specifically the muscles around the opening of the vagina. These spasms can make penetration of the vagina extremely painful or even impossible. Vaginismus is considered a type of sexual pain disorder and can have a significant impact on a person’s sexual health and overall well-being.
There are two main types of vaginismus:
- Primary Vaginismus: This occurs when a person has never been able to engage in vaginal penetration, such as inserting a tampon, having a pelvic exam, or having sexual intercourse, due to the involuntary muscle spasms.
- Secondary Vaginismus: This develops after a person has been able to engage in vaginal penetration without pain, but later experiences the onset of muscle spasms and pain. It might be triggered by factors such as trauma, infection, surgery, or psychological factors.
Vaginismus can have various causes, including:
- Physical causes: Infections, medical procedures, childbirth, or trauma that have led to a heightened sensitivity or pain in the vaginal area.
- Psychological causes: Anxiety, fear of pain, past trauma, negative sexual experiences, or cultural/religious beliefs that contribute to the anticipation of pain during penetration.
- Relationship factors: Strained relationships, communication issues with a partner, or emotional disconnect can exacerbate the condition.
Treatment for vaginismus usually involves a combination of medical, psychological, and physical approaches:
- Medical interventions: Treating any underlying physical causes, such as infections or medical conditions, may help alleviate some of the symptoms.
- Pelvic floor physical therapy: This involves working with a specialised physical therapist who can guide individuals through exercises to relax and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which can gradually reduce the involuntary spasms.
- Counseling or therapy: Psychological counseling or sex therapy can help address any emotional or psychological factors contributing to the condition. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and desensitisation techniques may be used to manage anxiety and fear associated with penetration.
- Gradual desensitisation: This involves using vaginal dilators of different sizes to gradually and comfortably stretch the vaginal muscles over time, reducing the sensitivity and pain.
- Communication and support: Open communication with a partner, understanding, and patience are crucial to managing vaginismus. Couples therapy might also be beneficial.
It’s important for individuals experiencing symptoms of vaginismus to consult a healthcare provider, gynecologist, or a specialist in sexual medicine. Treatment plans can be tailored to the individual’s needs and can significantly improve their quality of life and sexual well-being.
“When Sex Hurts: A Woman’s Guide to Banishing Sexual Pain” by Andrew Goldstein, Caroline Pukall, and Irwin Goldstein
“Heal Pelvic Pain” by Amy Stein
International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health (ISSWSH): https://www.isswsh.org/
Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG): https://www.acog.org/
Medical Journals and Research Articles: