Vaginismus

VaginismusVaginismus is a condition where there is involuntary tightness of the vagina during attempted intercourse. The tightness is actually caused by involuntary contractions of the pelvic floor muscles surrounding the vagina. The woman does not directly control or ‘will’ the tightness to occur; it is an involuntary pelvic response. She may not even have any awareness that the muscle response is causing the tightness or penetration problem.

In some cases vaginismus tightness may begin to cause burning, pain, or stinging during intercourse. In other cases, penetration may be difficult or completely impossible. Vaginismus is the main cause of unconsummated relationships. The tightness can be so restrictive that the opening to the vagina is ‘closed off’ altogether and the man is unable to insert his penis. The pain of vaginismus ends when the sexual attempt stops, and usually intercourse must be halted due to pain or discomfort.

Types of vaginismus

When a woman has never at any time been able to have pain-free intercourse due to this muscle spasm her condition is known as primary vaginismus. Some women with primary vaginismus are unable to wear tampons and/or complete pelvic exams. Many couples are unable to consummate their relationship due to primary vaginismus.

Vaginismus can also develop later in life, even after many years of pleasurable intercourse. This type of condition, known as secondary vaginismus, is usually precipitated by a medical condition, traumatic event, childbirth, surgery, or life-change (menopause).

Vaginismus is treatable

Vaginismus is highly treatable and a full recovery from vaginismus is the normal outcome of treatment. Successful vaginismus treatment does not require drugs, surgery, hypnosis, nor any other complex invasive technique. Following a straight-forward program, pain-free and pleasurable intercourse is attainable for most couples.

What is the difference between primary vaginismus and secondary vaginismus?

Vaginismus has two major classifications.
Vaginismus can be experienced by women at any age or time in life. It has two major classifications; primary vaginismus and secondary vaginismus. The medical community typically uses these terms to indicate the time of onset. The labels assist the medical community and researchers in diagnosis and classification. For the individual woman, the distinction between the two types tends to be of less importance. Whether primary or secondary, both are highly treatable.

Primary Vaginismus

Primary vaginismus usually refers to the experience of vaginismus with ‘first-time’ intercourse attempts. Typically, primary vaginismus will be discovered when a woman attempts to have sex for the very first time. The spouse/partner is unable to achieve penetration and it is like he ‘bumps into a wall’ where there should be the opening to the vagina and entry is impossible or extremely difficult. Primary vaginismus is the common cause of sexless, unconsummated marriages. Some women with primary vaginismus will also experience problems with tampon insertion or gynecological exams.

Secondary Vaginismus

Secondary vaginismus usually refers to the experience of vaginismus a little later in life, after a period of pain-free intercourse, and typically following temporary pelvic problems. A woman may have had a number of years of being able to have normal, pain-free intercourse and then experience a temporary pain-causing problem such as a yeast infection (or any of a wide range of physical problems – see Causes for more examples). The initial pain problem may have been addressed medically, healed, or been managed, and yet the woman continues to experience ongoing troubles with sexual pain. In some cases, the severity of secondary vaginismus could escalate to the level that penetration becomes difficult, painful, or impossible. It can also impede a woman’s ability to experience orgasms, as a sudden pain spasm may abruptly terminate the arousal buildup toward orgasm. Some women with secondary vaginismus will also experience difficulty with gynecological exams or tampon insertion due to involuntary tightness.

Variations in the classifications

Note that these definitions can be a bit restrictive in some cases. For example, some women are able to tolerate years of uncomfortable intercourse with gradually increasing pain and discomfort that eventually interrupts sex. Women may also experience years of intermittent difficulty with entry or movement and have to constantly be on their guard to try to control and relax their pelvic area when it suddenly ‘acts up’. Vaginismus has a wide range of manifestations, from impossible penetration, to intercourse with discomfort, pain or burning, all resulting from involuntary pelvic tightness (see Symptoms). Depending upon the classification, there may also be some minor differences in the way in which vaginismus is treated.

Other Classifications

Beyond the above basic classifications, physicians and specialists may use other medical terms referring to vaginismus such as:

Apareunia
Apareunia is a general term that refers to a condition where one is unable to have sexual intercourse. Vaginismus is one type of apareunia (if it is completely preventing penetrative intercourse).

Dyspareunia
Dyspareunia is a general term that refers to a condition where there is pain during sexual intercourse. Vaginismus is considered to be one type of dyspareunia, but is closely associated with all types of sexual pain

How do I know if I have vaginismus?

Women often suspect they have vaginismus simply from their symptoms.
Strong indicators of vaginismus include any of the following symptoms:
Difficult or impossible penetration, entry pain, uncomfortable insertion of penis
Unconsummated marriage
Burning or stinging with tightness during sex
Ongoing sexual discomfort or pain following childbirth, yeast/urinary infections, STDs, IC, hysterectomy, cancer and surgeries, rape, menopause, or other problems
Sexual pain of unknown origin or with no apparent cause
Difficulty inserting tampons or undergoing a pelvic/gynecological exam
Spasms in other body muscle groups (legs, lower back, etc.) or halted breathing during attempts at intercourse
Avoidance of sex due to pain and/or failure

Medical Diagnosis

Vaginismus Treatment India
No definitive medical test exists for the diagnosis of vaginismus so it often takes a number of visits to several physicians or specialists before a medical diagnosis is obtained. Medical diagnosis is typically determined through patient history and description of problem/pain, gynecological examination and the process of ruling out the possibility of other conditions.

In some cases and locations, a solid medical diagnosis is not always available or possible. Sexual pain disorders like vaginismus are commonly misdiagnosed or left unaddressed, especially in nations with fewer health care options. Often women need to strongly advocate for themselves and be very courageous in persevering until their concerns are given due attention and a reliable medical diagnosis is reached.

Our mission is to help as many women as possible with this condition. This website details important information about vaginismus and we invite all those suspecting a possible diagnosis to read through the sections on symptoms, stories, causes, diagnosis,treatment and FAQs, to learn as much as they can about the condition.