A recent BBC documentary about vaginismus brings out eye-opening revelations about the quite misunderstood sexual condition. Vaginismus is often brushed away as a painful experience during sex however it is more than that. Some women go through a lifetime without having sex because of the condition. Vaginismus causes an involuntary spasm in the pelvic floor muscles that makes it almost impossible to have sex. Not only sex but, in fact, simple things such as inserting a tampon or undergoing a gynaecological exam becomes difficult. The condition makes sexual experiences extremely painful and also causes psychological distress.
What is Vaginismus?
In simple words, whenever you try to insert an object or a penis into the vagina, the pelvic muscle floor tightens up and causes an involuntary contraction. This may make it extremely difficult for anything to penetrate into the vagina, let alone have sex. This contraction may cause extreme pain and psychological distress as well. People with vaginismus find it difficult to have tampons, speculums or menstrual cup inserted into their vaginas. The condition may lead to generalised muscle spasm and even temporary cessation of breathing. The pubococcygeus (PC) muscle group, the ones that responsible for urination, intercourse, orgasm, bowel movements and childbirth are affected the most.
Vaginismus may have both physical and psychological symptoms. The signs may also vary from person. Here are some of the most common vaginismus symptoms:
- Painful intercourse (dyspareunia).
- Penetration being difficult or impossible.
- Difficulty in tampon insertion and pain during a gynaecological examination.
- Generalised muscle spasm or breathing cessation during attempted intercourse.
You must know that vaginismus can have both physical and psychological causes. While the psychological causes include, fear, performance anxiety, guilt, relationship problems or feelings of vulnerability. Sometimes PTSD, and traumatic life events such as rape or abuse can also be the reason behind it. Physical causes may include UTI, yeast infection childbirth, menopause, inadequate foreplay, medication side effects, etc. Sometimes cancer or lichen sclerosis may also cause vaginismus, although on very rare occasions.
There are numerous treatments available for women experiencing vaginismus. Right from insertion or dilation training to counselling, there are various treatment options available. However, you must remember that vaginismus does not prevent people from becoming sexually aroused. They may not want to have sex because of the fear of pain but and try to avoid sex or vaginal penetration. However, people with vaginismus do get sexually aroused.