Of all the organs that make up the human body, the vagina is, without a doubt, the most fascinating. Not only can it birth small children via its ability to shape-shift, but it cleans itself, too. We know, pretty cool, right?
That said, despite being awesome, sometimes the vaginal muscles can suddenly tighten up when you try to insert something into it, which can cause a whole lot of not-so-awesome pain. This frustrating condition is known as vaginismus and might be more common than you think.
Are you interested in learning more? We can help.
Read on to discover everything you need to know about vaginismus, including what it is, how it happens, and the best tips to treat it.
What Is Vaginismus?
Vaginismus is a sexual disorder characterized by the involuntary contraction of the pelvic floor muscles. It affects up to 1% of the female population and often represents a physical manifestation of an underlying psychological issue.
The symptoms of vaginismus can be mildly painful or even severely painful for some ladies — and not to mention emotionally frustrating since they have absolutely no control over it.
This uncomfortable tightening can happen when a sexual partner attempts vaginal penetration, when inserting a tampon, or even when touched near the vagina.
Primary vs. Secondary Vaginismus
Believe it or not, the spasm-based definition of vaginismus was proposed by a group of French physicians in the early 19th century.
However, as more was learned about vaginismus, the condition appeared to be just one possible cause of painful intercourse (aka, dyspareunia) and was eventually moved under the umbrella of genito-pelvic pain/penetration disorder or GPPPD for short.
What was also discovered is that there are many different types of genital or pelvic pain — and they can affect people of all ages. Due to this, vaginismus is grouped into two main categories:
- Primary Vaginismus is a lifelong condition in which the spasming begins the very first time a person tries to have penetrative sex or insert an object like a tampon or toy into the vagina.
- Secondary vaginismus develops after a person has already experienced the expected joys and pleasures of sexual intercourse. In other words, this type of vaginismus isn’t a lifelong condition as it can occur at any stage of life.
What Does Vaginismus Feel Like?
As with many female health concerns, it’s sometimes challenging to get the correct diagnosis for vaginismus which can leave you with months or even years of pain and frustration.
While the symptoms can vary from person to person, the most common include:
- Dyspareunia — aka painful intercourse. You may experience tightness or unbearable pain that can feel like a burning or stinging sensation.
- A fear of penetration
- Involuntary contraction or muscle spasms in the perineum
- Pain during a pelvic exam or tampon insertion
- Penetration that is difficult or impossible
As mentioned earlier, vaginismus pain can range from mild to severe in intensity.
What Causes Vaginismus?
When examined by a healthcare provider, women typically don’t show any signs of anything being wrong, making vaginismus quite difficult to diagnose. Many believe the condition is the body’s reaction to a fear of penetration — whether that fear is conscious or not.
That said, it’s not fully understood why vaginismus happens, but many emotional and physical factors may play a role. They include:
- Fear of intercourse (intimacy or pain)
- Childhood trauma
- Growing up with strong religious views on sex
- Fear of pregnancy
- Relationship problems
- Damage to the vagina, such as from childbirth
- Previous sexual abuse or sexual trauma
- Pelvic surgery
- Medical conditions like sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or endometriosis
Having a urinary tract infection (UTI) can also cause vaginismus. These painful infections happen when bacteria enter the urethra, ultimately infecting the urinary tract. The good news is that they can be treated.
If you suspect that you might have a UTI, make an appointment with your gyno. We also suggest taking UTI Don’t Think So — a powerful supplement made of 36mg of PACs (proanthocyanidins), cranberry fruit extract clinically proven to maintain good urinary tract health so you can feel comfortable, confident, and protected on a daily basis.*
How Can Vaginismus Be Treated?
From pain and discomfort to sheer frustration, vaginismus can certainly put a damper on your sex life. It can interfere with relationships in more ways than one and cause stress, low self-esteem, and a feeling of inadequacy. But don’t fret —there are many things you can do to help treat vaginismus.
Here are a few tips:
Tip #1: Therapy and Counseling
When something is wrong, it doesn’t hurt to talk it out. Personal and sex therapy can help you understand any psychological causes for vaginismus — such as the fear of penetration — and work toward creating an effective solution to treat it. Treatment may include relaxation techniques like meditation to help decrease stress and anxiety.
With that in mind, it’s important to note that some women with vaginismus have very loving and intimate relationships without having sex. In other words, every relationship is different, and whereas some women may benefit from therapy to make sex more comfortable, others may not.
Tip #2: Kegel Exercises
Kegel exercises provide an easy way to help women regain control of their nether regions. These effective exercises are repeated contraction and relaxation of the pelvic floor muscles, which are the muscles that control the vagina, urinary bladder, and rectum.
As you exercise your vagina via Kegels, try to insert a clean finger as your muscles contract. This can slowly be increased to a two-finger insertion, and gradually, you may be able to start using tampons during your monthly bleed.
Tip #3: Personal Lube
Sometimes, the culprit behind vaginismus is nothing more than a lack of lubrication down under. Yep, it’s true — vaginal dryness can come as a result of a number of things, such as fluctuating hormones due to menopause and vaginal infection.
To keep vaginismus at bay and your vagina sufficiently lubricated, we suggest using Sex Stuff — a super slippery and hydrating personal lubricant.
This gentle female-friendly lube is formulated with clean ingredients to support the vaginal environment and is completely free of chemicals and irritants that are known to disrupt the delicate vaginal environment.*
Simply apply a few drops of Sex Stuff wherever you please. It’s compatible with natural rubber latex as well as polyisoprene condoms — and is toy friendly, too!
So, what is vaginismus, you ask?
Simply put, vaginismus is a condition that occurs when someone has persistent or recurrent difficulties in allowing vaginal entry of a penis, finger, toy, or any object — despite their wish to do so.
Frustrating at best, vaginismus can be mild; however, it can be extremely painful in some cases, making sex unbearable.
To treat vaginismus, therapy is a sound option — especially when the condition is due to stress or anxiety. You can also try kegel exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles or lube — like Sex Stuff — to make things a bit more slippery.
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Kegel exercises: A how-to guide for women | Mayo Clinic
Frigidity : an intellectual history (Book, 2011) | WorldCat
Vaginismus and pregnancy: epidemiological profile and management difficulties | NCBI
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) | Mayo Clinic