We all want and expect that sex will feel great and bring pleasure. The truth is, though, that it’s very common for some vulva owners to feel pain during sex. For some, the discomfort is so severe that they are physically unable to have sex.
If this sounds like you, you could have Vaginismus, a condition that causes the muscles around the vagina to spasm on their own. This makes penetration very painful and, in many cases, impossible.
Despite affecting almost 12–21% of vulva owners in North America, Vaginismus is rarely talked about. As a result, many individuals are left for years not knowing what’s going on with their bodies or how to rectify it.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel for those with the condition, and there are treatments that, with time and effort, can make sex possible and pleasurable.
The most important thing is to recognize that you have it, which can be extremely difficult if you feel embarrassed or uncomfortable talking about it with other people. Here’s what you should know about Vaginismus.
What is Vaginismus?
This medical condition is characterized by uncontrollable pelvic floor muscular contractions, spasms, and cramps. This might be tightness, cramping, pressure, or discomfort.
These involuntary contractions are usually linked to stimuli (either psychological or physical), such as an anxiety or trauma reaction to sexual penetration or simply an involuntary non-psychological response to pressure or touch in that area.
This can make sexual activity, tampon use, and even a gynecological checkup unpleasant or even impossible.
The pubococcygeus (PC) musculature is the most commonly afflicted muscle group by this ailment (responsible for orgasms, intercourse, bowel movements, urination, and childbirth).
Facts About Vaginismus
- The condition may worsen with time, but it is curable.
- It is non-contagious and involuntary (not your fault).
- Symptoms, severity, and type might differ from person to person.
- Both medical and psychological reasons can cause Vaginismus.
- Treatment can be beneficial.
Do I suffer from Vaginismus?
Although only a medical practitioner can provide an official diagnosis of Vaginismus, many crucial signs may suggest you have this condition. Should you encounter any of these symptoms, consider seeking the advice of a licensed medical professional.
Just know that, while it’s tough to discuss, the situation is more prevalent than you think, and you’re not alone. Your body is communicating with you for a reason. Listen to it, and you’ll be one step closer to conquering any difficulties you’re facing.
Types of Vaginismus
The primary type, often known as “lifelong vaginismus,” causes pain and discomfort whenever something penetrates (or attempts to penetrate) the vagina.
People who have the primary type have always had the condition. It is usually first felt when attempting to use a tampon, having first-time intercourse, or when a doctor performs a pelvic examination.
Secondary vaginismus patients have previously accomplished painless penetration. A life event, change in medical status, new health condition, or life stress may occur, making penetration difficult.
People with this type of Vaginismus may suffer pain or difficulties following penetration.
What are the Symptoms and Signs of Vaginismus?
Dyspareunia (painful sex) is the most common symptom of Vaginismus and is frequently the first sign of a problem. Although the discomfort associated with intercourse usually subsides when the penetration (or attempted penetration) is completed, this is not always the case.
Many women describe the discomfort as a burning sensation, pressure, or as if the penis has hit a block. Women suffering from Vaginismus may also experience bleeding.
However, sexual intercourse is not the only source of pain. It is usual to experience pain or discomfort when using a tampon or during pelvic examinations.
Other common symptoms are as follows:
- Inability to insert a tampon
- Inability to insert a sex toy
- Sexual activity-related fear or pain
- Loss of sexual desire or performance anxiety
- Pelvic or wall muscle spasms
- Hypertonic pelvic floor: unpleasant or painful, lengthy, persistent contractions
- Hip, hamstring, low back, and abdominal muscular tension
Symptoms might be minor to severe, are involuntary, and may not improve without intervention or therapy.
Vaginismus can cause significant emotional and psychological discomfort, lowering the quality of life and making it difficult to maintain healthy sexual relationships.
What to do if you have Vaginismus
If you suspect you have Vaginismus, the first step is to see your doctor; don’t be shy to request a female doctor if it helps you feel more at ease.
The examination may be uncomfortable, but your doctor will talk you through it and explain everything. To better understand your discomfort, they’ll ask you a few questions about when you feel pain. They’ll also check if your symptoms indicate anything else, such as a urinary tract infection (UTI).
If you have Vaginismus, several therapies are available, and it may take some time to discover the one (or combination of treatments) that works best for you. Four out of five people can enjoy pain-free intercourse after vaginismus treatment.
Treatment options include:
A vaginal dilator is a plastic or silicone rod used to relax and reduce discomfort in the pelvic floor muscles. Think of it like a medical dildo!
You gently insert the dilator (with lube) each week for a few minutes. You may work at your speed and gradually increase to a larger dilator when ready. Involving a partner may be a terrific way to establish closeness, but remember that you’ll need to be in charge of the situation.
Exercise might help you regain control of your muscles if you suffer from Vaginismus. Pelvic floor stretches, similar to yoga, can help you strengthen the muscles surrounding your vagina.
Vaginismus Exercises You Can Do At Home
PELVIC FLOOR BREATHING
Start by lying on your back with your legs straight out in front of you. If lying flat is uncomfortable, prop your legs up with one or two pillows. Pay attention to your breathing and try to expand your belly and rib cage.
Imagine them slowly rising up and out like an umbrella opening during the inhale. Allow the ribs and belly to return to their resting position on the exhale.
Getting Better With Each Exercise
Continue the breathing pattern and focus on your pelvic floor to advance this workout. This diamond-shaped set of muscles is placed between your tailbone and pubic bone from front to back and between your sit bones from right to left.
Notice how the pelvic floor dips down on the inhale and then rises back on the exhale. This movement is very slight, and you may perceive it as the tailbone falling toward the floor on the inhale and rising off the floor on the exhale.
This exercise can be performed while you’re seated on a firm chair. The chair might help deliver feedback during the workout by offering additional sensation to the pelvic floor. Keep this slow breathing pattern going for two minutes.
HAPPY BABY POSE
Start by lying on your back. With your legs apart, bring your knees up to your chest, then reach for your big toes. Softly bend your knees and push your feet toward the ceiling. If your hips or hamstrings are tight, use a towel or yoga strap behind your knees to extend your reach.
Maintain this position while breathing deeply and allowing the pelvic floor to relax. Hold this posture for 2-3 minutes.
To help with balance, start by standing near a sturdy and steady object. A kitchen counter or a handrail is ideal, but a firm chair can also suffice.
Press your hips backward and drop into a deep squat while holding onto the counter or chair back for support. Breathe deeply into your rib cage and visualize dropping your pelvic floor, just like you did in the previous exercises. Hold this position for 1-2 minutes.
Mindfulness exercises can also be beneficial. You can reduce your anxiety and gain control of your Vaginismus by focusing on your breathing and filtering out undesirable ideas. Meditation, journaling, and adult coloring books are excellent methods to accomplish this.
Physical Therapy for the Pelvic Floor
Your doctor may suggest pelvic floor physical therapy. This therapy is intended to help persons with various pelvic floor disorders, including Vaginismus.
A physical therapist will assess the strength of your pelvic floor muscles and devise a strategy to help strengthen them, which may include exercise and even electrical stimulation.
Physical therapy has the benefit of being more likely to be successful since it is tailored to your specific requirements. According to studies, patients describe it as very rewarding/beneficial.
Counseling and therapy
If you feel a psychological condition is causing your Vaginismus, counseling might help you work through your issues and reduce your anxiety.
As previously stated, Vaginismus can be caused by physical and psychological triggers. Many people with the disorder have already suffered trauma or abuse, particularly in the context of sex.
Individuals will respond differently to treatment and counseling. Cognitive behavioral therapy gives you coping strategies by examining how your ideas and behaviors impact your Vaginismus.
Sex therapy examines methods for improving communication and intimacy with your spouse. You can boost your confidence in the bedroom by discussing your doubts and concerns.
Botox and surgery
Some clinics offer botox to treat Vaginismus, which relaxes the vaginal muscles. While studies have shown that it can assist with symptoms, it’s important to remember that while Botox can help with the physical issues caused by Vaginismus, it won’t help if there are any underlying psychological concerns.
Remember that you’re not alone
Vaginismus can be uber frustrating, especially if you crave sex but know you’re having difficulties with it. The most important thing to keep in mind is that your condition does not define you. Many people with Vaginismus believe they are “broken,” but this is not the case.
Most people with Vaginismus can still get aroused, which means they can still enjoy oral sex, foreplay, and gentle masturbation. Take your time, and never be ashamed or embarrassed to tell your partner to stop or slow down.