Vaginismus: What is it?
Whenever I try to have intercourse, I have had my vagina
inexplicably tighten. My partner is unable to enter me. It has been
very frustrating for both of us. It is embarrassing and little
frightening. Have you heard of this?
What this sounds like is a condition called vaginismus.
A woman with this condition experiences spasms in her pelvic
muscles that may be strong enough to be quite painful. Since the
vagina is surrounded by these muscles, its opening is often
constricted so that insertion of a speculum in a pelvic exam or
penetration during sex is uncomfortable or even impossible.
Vaginismus can arise from a variety of factors, either physical or
psychological, or from a combination of both. Women who
experienced some sort of sexual trauma in their past are more
likely to suffer from the condition, since they may have trouble
separating the emotions and feelings associated with an old
incident of rape or abuse from an adult, healthy sexual relationship.
Often, women who have had an episode or two of vaginismus
become fearful that any sexual activity may bring on the pain again,
so they may unconsciously clench up - their mental expectations
can actually induce the condition in a vicious cycle that may be
tricky to break. It is also possible that a woman can experience
spasms without any sort of emotional burden from her past -
instead, she could easily just be afraid of sex, and may tense her
muscles without any conscious effort.
These muscle spasms may also arise from a host of physical
causes, including skin problems in the genital and anal region,
infections, or vaginal irritations. In a way, vaginismus serves the
same function as any other pain mechanism in the body - it is an
alarm that sounds to indicate something is damaged. And that sort
of pain is sure to get one's attention, isn't it?
Very often, treating the underlying causes of vaginismus is enough
to clear up the condition quickly. Depending on what those factors
are, a woman may want to seek counseling. It is also possible to
train the pubic muscles to stay relaxed by conditioning the vagina
to penetration. A woman may do this herself with her fingers, or
can use a series of dilators that come in a range of increasing
diameters so that she may progress through them and back to a