What’s Vaginismus ?
Vaginismus is a condition which causes a woman’s vaginal muscles to uncontrollably spasm upon penetration, such as her partner’s penis or a tampon. The tight squeezing can also cause discomfort or pain, making it very difficult to have a normal, enjoyable sex life.
Experts aren’t entirely clear on the causes of vaginismus, but it does seem to be linked to anxiety around sexual intercourse. However, it may be impossible to tell if the psychological anxiety is causing the physical symptoms, or if the pain is the cause of the anxiety.
The primary symptom of vaginismus is vaginal pain during penetration. The pain may disappear after the inserted object is removed, or it may linger afterward. The pain is sometimes described as a sharp, ripping feeling or a feeling that the object or penis is “hitting a wall.”
In some cases, women only feel pain during sex. In others, the pain strikes during insertion of any object, such as tampons or instruments used during a pelvic exam.
Vaginismus Treatment Options
Treating vaginismus can be done right in your own home and on your own time, with exercises designed to help you control and relax your vaginal muscles.
This is a two-stage process called progressive desensitization. It is meant to be performed at your own pace. You can progress to the next stage when you feel you are ready.
Stage 1. Kegel exercises
Kegel exercises focus on strengthening and controlling the pelvic floor muscles. Squeeze the muscles you would use if you were trying to stop urinating. Hold for two seconds and then relax. Perform a set of 15-20 at a time. You can do this multiple times each day.
Stage 2. Insertion
After 3-5 days, try to perform Kegel exercises while inserting your finger into your vagina. Start with a shallow insertion (up to about half an inch into your vagina), and work your way up to your whole finger, then two fingers, then three.
It’s a good idea to try this with a lubricant or while in the bathtub. If your muscles start to spasm, you can remove your finger, focus on relaxation, and then try again.
Communicate about your Condition
For many women, vaginismus is psychologically linked with anxiety, and physical treatment alone may not be enough. Therapy can help. Your gynecologist can refer you to a therapist who specializes in these issues.
If you have questions about your condition and your course of treatment, make an appointment with your gynecologist. Although this complicated condition may be embarrassing to discuss with your doctor, rest assured that your gynecologist understands and is here to help. Many patients find it easier to write down their symptoms and concerns in a diary that they can bring to their appointment.