Updated: Aug 7, 2020
You may be asking yourself, what is vaginismus and what do I do to prevent it? First, vaginismus is an unintentional condition that affects women during intercourse, specifically when penetration of the vagina takes place. It is painful and very uncomfortable due to the involuntary tensing of the pelvic floor muscles. Many women also feel this discomfort when having pelvic exams, while inserting tampons or while trying to use sex toys that involve insertion.
Vaginismus is more common than people think and it could happen to any woman! Even if they have been pain-free during intercourse in the past, this is what we would call, secondary vaginismus; primary vaginismus is when a woman has had pain every time something is inserted in her vagina and it could be real or imaginary; real meaning there's a pain when penetration takes place and imaginary when it happens because of mental stimulation.
Painful sex (dyspareunia) that can be measured by the visual analog scale (VAS)
Pain when having imaginary evocation of penetration, this activates the spasmodic contraction of the pelvic floor muscles resulting in discomfort
Painful vaginal penetration
Medical conditions of vaginismus are:
Structural abnormalities: endometriosis, vaginal stenosis, or trauma to the pelvic floor like surgeries, childbirth among others.
Inflammatory skin conditions
Visit your doctor!
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms it is very important to visit your doctor, NEVER auto-diagnose yourself. He or she will make an extensive review of your medical history (OB/GYN history) and will ask about your experience with vaginal penetration (whether real or imaginary) and make different associations with negative conditions like:
Fear of pregnancy
Loss of personal control during intercourse
It is very important, and we insist, that you visit your doctor or gynecologist if you presume or think that you have vaginismus, because you'd want to rule out an organic cause of your pain, to help release tension in your pelvic floor muscles and help you gain control over them (through desensitization techniques) and lastly to avoid couple conflicts. Yes, you heard that right, in some cases, this condition may result in sexual guilt, impotence, fear and/or abandonment by partners and can even lead to secondary impotence in men because of the lack of sexual intercourse, but this doesn't mean you should feel guilty, afraid or ashamed. It means you should take control of your body and if something isn't right you should be able to get the help you require.
But not to worry! Vaginismus is a TREATABLE CONDITION. The treatment will take time and will not improve after just one visit to the doctor, so be patient. Sometimes the treatment can be multidisciplinary, and may include a physiotherapist, a psychologist, psychiatrist, and/or physician. This could depend on the doctor and your condition, but it will all be okay.
The curious thing is that there are different points of view as to why vaginismus takes place, from the psychiatric point of view, it can be a reaction of sexual avoidance determined by a negative condition. Other times, vaginismus can develop because of anatomical or physiological changes, most of them with an emotional or mental component. And some people may even say that painful sex is as equal as anorgasmia, and it's not, this is very uncommon because most of the patients retain its clitoral excitability.
So no matter the reason or the symptom, you are not alone, don't be afraid or ashamed to talk about it, it's not in your head, it's not fake and it's more common than you think.
Adira advisor, last year medicine student interested in women’s wellness and promoter of a healthy lifestyle. You can find more of her content on @karantina_col where you'll find recipes and tips to a better wellbeing.
Botero Uribe, J., Henao, G., Londoño Cardona, J. and Júbiz, A., 2010. Obstetricia Y Ginecología. 8th ed. [Medellín]: [Corporación para Investigaciones Biológicas], pp.394-395.