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.
What Is Vaginismus?
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. Pelvic exams typically show no cause for the contractions and no physical abnormalities contribute to the condition. Dyspareunia is the medical term for painful sexual intercourse, and it has often been confused with vaginismus, but dyspareunia could be due to cysts, pelvic inflammatory disease, or vaginal atrophy.
Types Of Vaginismus
Vaginismus is classified into two types:
- primary vaginismus: when vaginal penetration has never been achieved
- secondary vaginismus: 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.
Causes Of Vaginismus
There is no scientific research that suggests why vaginismus happens. The condition has been linked to past sexual abuse or trauma, past painful intercourse, and emotional factors. In some cases, the fear of having sex or the fear of being sexually intimate with someone can also trigger vaginismus. In some cases, there are no direct causes that can be found.
To make a diagnosis, your doctor will do a physical exam and ask about your medical and sexual history. These histories can help give clues to the underlying cause of the contractions.
Symptoms Of Vaginismus
Involuntary tightening of the vaginal muscles is the primary symptom of vaginismus, but the severity of the condition varies between women. In all cases, constriction of the vagina makes penetration difficult or impossible. If you have vaginismus, you can’t control or stop the contractions of your vaginal muscles.
Vaginismus can have additional symptoms, including fear of vaginal penetration and decreased sexual desire related to penetration. Women with vaginismus often report a burning or stinging pain when anything is inserted into the vagina.
If you have vaginismus, it doesn’t mean that you’ll stop enjoying sexual activities altogether. Women who have the condition can still feel and crave sexual pleasure and have orgasms. Many sexual activities don’t involve penetration, including oral sex, massage, and masturbation.
Treatment For Vaginismus
Vaginismus is a treatable disorder. Treatment usually includes education, counselling, and exercises.
Sex therapy and counselling
Education typically involves learning about your anatomy and what happens during sexual arousal and intercourse. You’ll get information about the muscles involved in vaginismus too. This can help you understand how the parts of the body work and how your body is responding.
Counselling may involve you alone or with your partner. Working with a counsellor who specializes in sexual disorders may be helpful. Relaxation techniques and hypnosis may also promote relaxation and help you feel more comfortable with intercourse.
Your doctor or counsellor may recommend learning to use vaginal dilators under the supervision of a professional.
Place the cone-shaped dilators in your vagina. The dilators will get progressively bigger. This helps the vaginal muscles stretch and become flexible. To increase intimacy, have your partner help you insert the dilators. After completing the course of treatment with a set of dilators, you and your partner can try to have intercourse again.
To perform Kegel exercises, repeatedly tighten and relax your pelvic floor muscles, which control your vagina, rectum, and bladder.
You can locate these muscles when you’re urinating. After you begin to urinate, stop the stream. You’re using your pelvic floor muscles to do this. You may feel them tighten and move. These muscles move as a group, so they all contract and relax at the same time.
Practising these exercises helps you control when your muscles contract and relax. Follow these steps:
- Empty your bladder.
- Contract your pelvic floor muscles, and count to 10.
- Relax your muscles, and count to 10.
- Repeat this cycle 10 times, three times a day.
To successfully strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, don’t engage the muscles of your abdomen, buttocks, or thighs when doing these exercises.
Sexual dysfunction can take a toll on relationships. Being proactive and getting treatment can be crucial in saving a marriage or relationship.
It’s important to remember that there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Talking with your partner about your feelings and fears about intercourse may help you feel more relaxed. Your doctor or therapist can provide you with ways to overcome vaginismus. Many people recover and go on to live happy sexual lives.