Vaginismus: What You Need to Know
In her book The Vagina Bible, according to Dr Jen Gunter MD, 30% of women experiences pain with vaginal intercourse. The pain can occur due to involuntary vaginal spasms also known as Vaginismus.
Vaginismus is a condition in which your vagina muscle contract, tightens or spasms suddenly with the attempt of penetration. This can happen with sexual intercourse or insertion of a foreign object such the speculum used by a gynecologist to do a vaginal exam or even tampons.
This can be very painful for some women causing them to avoid sex or avoid getting a vaginal exam. If you are in a relationship this can be frustrating to you and your partner.
You might have vaginismus and not know it. There is no need to suffer. Sex is supposed to be fun and not painful. The condition is treatable with the help of your healthcare provider. They can help you with techniques that can will loosen up your vagina so you can enjoy sex.
To get a better understanding of what vaginismus is, read on.
What Causes Vaginismus
In most cases, there’s no obvious explanation or reason for vaginismus. Experts, however, consider it as a result of emotional and physical stressors.
Women who experienced traumatic life events, relationship problems and history of abuse are more likely to experience it. Those who feel anxiety, guilt or pain during sexual activity are at risk, too.
History of childbirth, infections, inadequate lubrication and foreplay, and menopause can trigger vaginismus in some women.
Symptoms of Vaginismus
Women may experience vaginismus differently. However, in general, its symptoms include:
● Pain when inserting tampons or undergoing a gynecological exam
● Difficult or impossible penetration
● Painful intercourse
● Breathing cessation while intercourse is attempted
● Generalizes spasm of the muscles
Diagnosing vaginismus usually starts with the description of your symptoms. Your physician will ask you when the symptoms started, how often they happen, and what likely triggers them. He may also ask about your sexual history, such as a history of sexual abuse or trauma.
In some cases, a pelvic exam will be needed to diagnose vaginismus. To make the procedure a lot more tolerable, you may choose not to use the stirrups or do a different physical position for the assessment. If you want, you can use a mirror to check what your doctor is doing.
During the examination, the doctor will look for other possible reasons for your condition, such as signs of infection and scarring. If he suspects vaginismus, he shouldn’t be able to find other causes for the symptoms you are experiencing.
4 Types of Vaginismus
1. Primary Vaginismus
Considered as a lifetime condition, primary vaginismus has always been present in a woman. This is often detected by women during the first time they attempt to have sexual intercourse.
They’ll find their male partners unable to insert the penis into the vagina. They are also likely to experience muscle spasms and pain. Some women may temporarily stop breathing.
As soon as the attempt to penetrate the vagina is stopped, most of the symptoms are reversed.
2. Secondary Vaginismus
Women who previously experienced normal sexual function can develop secondary vaginismus at any stage of their lives. It usually happens after an infection, traumatic event, menopause, surgery or relationship issues.
3. Situational Vaginismus
As the name implies, situational vaginismus only happens in certain situations. For example, a woman may experience pain and spasm during sex but not while she’s inserting a tampon or undergoing a gynecological exam.
4. Global Vaginismus
Global vaginismus can be triggered by any object. It’s a condition that’s always present.
Options for Treating Vaginismus
Vaginismus is generally treatable. Below are some of the most common treatment options for the condition but how you get treated depends on the cause of your Vaginismus.
A good treatment will include your psychological, relationship and medical needs.
Dilators are often recommended to use for vaginismus under the supervision of a healthcare professional.
A cone-shaped dilator is placed inside the vagina to stretch the muscles in the area and make them more flexible. Your partner may help insert the dilators to encourage intimacy, too.
As treatment goes on, the size of the dilators become progressively bigger as well. After you’re done with a set of dilators, you can try having intercourse with your partner again.
Counseling and Sex Therapy
This usually involves teaching you about your anatomy as well as the things that happen when you’re aroused and engaged in sexual intercourse. You’ll know more about the muscles in the vaginal area so you can get a better understanding of your body and how it works and responds.
During counseling, you may also learn different relaxation techniques that can help make intercourse more comfortable and relaxed/
Pelvic Floor Exercises
Pelvic or Kegel exercises involve the repeated contraction and relaxation of your pelvic floor muscles. They are supposed to help you regain control of those muscles.
To start with these exercises, you have to locate your pelvic floor muscles first. One way to do that is to start urinating and stop midstream. The muscles you use to stop your urine are the ones you have to target for the exercise.
Contract your pelvic muscles for about 10 counts. Then, relax the muscles and count to 10. You should repeat the cycle about 10 times, thrice a day.
Pelvic exercises won’t just help you manage vaginismus. They are also helpful in managing incontinence, preventing prolapse, and regaining muscle tone after childbirth.
The key to experiencing the full benefits of these exercises is commitment. You have to make sure that you do them every day and that you are doing the exercises properly. You need to target the right muscle groups in order to get the results you’re after.
With this approach, you’ll be encouraged to touch certain areas of your vaginal area every day without causing discomfort. Each day, you will need to move closer. When you’re able to finally touch the actual vaginal area, you’ll be encouraged to touch and open the labia. Next, you’ll be encouraged to insert a finger and see how it will affect you.
Pelvic floor therapy is a similar to physical therapy. How pelvic floor therapy targets the muscles in the pelvic floor including the vagina. The therapist is trained to diagnose and treat problems relating to pelvic floor dysfunction. She can tissue specific exercises that are right for condition and also the correct way to use dilators. You will be retrained on how to use your pelvic floor muscles.
Vaginismus can take a toll on your relationships. If you fail to be proactive and get proper treatment, it might end up causing separation from your partner.
The condition is highly treatable therefore there is no need to suffer.
Be open to your partner about your fears and feelings as that can help you feel more relaxed. See your doctor and therapist so you can be properly guided as to what treatment options you can take to overcome vaginismus.