Vaginismus (also known as vaginism) is a sexual problem affecting women. It causes penetration to be painful or impossible due to the tensing of the vaginal muscles. Sufferers may also experience difficulty inserting tampons or undergoing gynecological examinations. This leads to a fear of sex.
It is an emotional and psychological condition. The causes of it are psychological, leading to a physical manifestation. This vaginal tightness may cause sexual discomfort, burning or tearing sensations, pain and inability to penetrate.
Vaginismus is the main cause of unconsummated relationships, and it can put relationships under great strain. It is extremely frustrating to be unable to physically engage in pleasurable sex and sufferers often feel abnormal and embarrassed about the condition. The anticipation of pain or sexual ‘failure’ further contributes to and reinforces the symptoms of vaginismus. This can lead to avoidance of penetration or generally turning your vagina into a no-go zone. This exaccerbates feelings of failure, or general squeamishness about your vagina.
Types of vaginismus
Primary vaginismus: This is where a woman has never at any time been able to have pain-free penetration due to the tensing of the vaginal muscles. Some women with primary vaginismus are unable to wear tampons or complete pelvic examinations. Often, this condition means that couples are unable to consummate their relationship.
Secondary vaginismus: This is vaginismus that develops after the woman has previously experienced successful penetration. The occurance of vaginismus may appear quite random.
Dyspareunia: This is a medical term that simply means ‘painful intercourse’ and is used to describe all types of sexual pain.
How common is vaginismus?
It’s impossible to know how many women suffer from this condition as there exists no centralised body that collates information on vaginismus. Many women suffer in silence and feel too embarrassed to tell their doctor. The water is further muddied by incorrect diagnoses from doctors and other specialists.
However, from my personal clinical experience, it is THE most common symptom that I treat. Hopefully you will find this reassuring as it can be easy to believe you’re the only one suffering from this problem! In fact, at the time of writing this page, over a third of my clients are vaginismus sufferers.
Vaginismus – a ‘hidden’ problem
Most of my vaginismus clients have told me just how difficult it was to even find a name for the condition. There exists a real lack of information about the problem, leading to sufferers feeling even more confused and isolated. Men with sexual problems have it easier! There is a great deal of information about conditions such as premature ejaculation – the name is commonly known. To make matters worse, the very name ‘vaginismus’ is not the easiest to pronounce!
Diagnosis – How do I know if I have vaginismus?
You could visit your GP go to a sexual health clinic if you think you might have vaginismus. You may feel embarrassed about seeking help, but it is useful to be able to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms. If your GP suspects vaginismus, they may be able to refer you to a specialist, such as a gynaecologist. There are many specialists out there who have varying degrees of experience with vaginismus, but one who is a knowledgeable and astute will be able to correctly diagnose the problem.
It is certainly possible that you have vaginismus if you answer yes to these questions: