Vaginismus is a common condition that affects an estimated 5 to 17% of the population, yet it is still rarely spoken about. It is an automatic reaction where your vaginal muscles tighten up whenever vaginal penetration is attempted, and the sufferer has no control of the reaction. It could be any form of penetration such as a sex toy, a tampon, or even a health check-up. There are different types of vaginismus and symptoms vary hugely between individuals. Without treatment, vaginismus could lead to frustration and distress which has a greater effect on your mental health.
Symptoms of vaginismus
Women with vaginismus may experience symptoms such as:
- Painful sexual intercourse with tightness and pain that may be burning or stinging, can range from mild to severe and can cause different sensations
- Penetration being difficult or impossible
- Long term sexual pain
- Pain during any penetration including tampon insertion
Types of vaginismus
Primary vaginismus: A lifetime condition in which the pain has always been present, often it is not discovered until the first time they try to have penetrative sex. The experience is usually pain and generalized muscle spasms.
Secondary vaginismus: This can occur at any stage of life. People may have already had sex and this vaginismus usually stems from life events such as menopause, trauma, childbirth, or infection.
Global vaginismus: This type of vaginismus is always present and any object can trigger it.
Situational vaginismus: This type only occurs in certain situations - for example, it might happen when you try to have sex but not any other time.
Causes of vaginismus
The causes of vaginismus are usually not straightforward, however, they can be categorized into emotional and physical causes though these reasons are intertwined. For example, anxiety about sex may stem from menopausal symptoms - both of which are then affecting your vaginal muscles.
Emotional triggers such as fear, anxiety, trauma, or childhood experiences can also cause vaginismus. Emotional triggers are usually centered around traumatic or painful events such as previous painful sex. Your body can often be an indicator of what is going on mentally so if you are experiencing fluctuations in your mental health such as depression, stress, or anxiety you may experience vaginismus. Even the fear of your vagina being too small can cause your vagina muscles to contract involuntarily.
To undergo the correct treatment you first need to receive a vaginismus diagnosis. A doctor may take a medical history and carry out a pelvic examination, and once a diagnosis is achieved you can begin treatment. Usually, the most effective treatment is one that involves physical and emotional exercises.
Vaginal relaxation techniques
Actively relaxing your pelvic floor can take a bit of practice, patience, and time, but it is a skill that can help you relax your vaginal muscles for easier penetration. A tight pelvic floor can be relaxed with exercises and breathing techniques, which you can do in the comfort of your own home daily for the best results.
Kegel exercises are known for improving muscle strength and tone. These pelvic floor exercises boost blood flow to the vagina whilst also having the potential to increase arousal and desire. A strong pelvic floor could help you contract and relax your pelvic floor on demand.
Targeted vibrations can increase blood flow to the vagina, which improves lubrication helping you relax your vaginal muscles. A bendable vibrator like Crescendo that targets vibrations exactly where you need them can help relax the muscles in your vagina and make penetration more comfortable.
Therapy can help with understanding the pain and process your body is going through, unpacking trauma that can help you understand the psychological root of your vaginismus which can help resolve it. Your mind is quite often the root of these problems so by carefully treating yourself through therapy you may find your sexual wellness improving.
Vaginal dilation training
Gradually building up insertion with different sized dilators helps reduce the protective response and helps the muscles get used to the pressure. This technique of insertion is a gradual process that is recommended by doctors but ensures you talk to your GP or gynecologist first before attempting dilation training on your own.
Having Vaginismus doesn’t mean your sex life has to be obsolete try a doctor-endorsed vibrator such as Crescendo to help ease symptoms.