What is Vaginismus?

If you clicked on this article, it is probably because you are concerned about a sexual dysfunction known as vaginismus. You may be suffering from vaginismus or have a partner who suffers from it, but regardless of why you are here, let’s talk a little about vaginismus, its causes and how it can be treated.

Vaginismus is a condition caused by the involuntary contraction of the vaginal muscles, especially while attempting vaginal penetration. In the most simple of terms, the muscles of the vagina become too tight for anything to be inserted. These contractions can be extremely painful making vaginal penetration impossible. For many women who have vaginismus this means that they cannot have penetrative vaginal sex, use tampons or have an internal gynecological examination.  This condition usually presents in young women that are in their teens or twenties.

There are two types of vaginismus, primary and secondary. Primary vaginismus means vaginal penetration has never been achieved. While secondary vaginismus means vaginal penetration has been achieved in the past but is no longer possible. 

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What Causes Vaginismus? 

Although the specific cause of vaginismus is unknown most researchers believe that a fear of pain is the most common cause. This situation appears to be most prevalent in cultures where young women and young men have limited access to sex education, knowledge of anatomy and strong cultural norms around virginity.  Researchers have found  Several social risk factors such the way sexuality is taught in families and schools, or the way it is viewed by religion.

Secondary vaginismus can be triggered emotionally or by external factors. Anxiety about penetrative sex or past trauma or abuse can lead to secondary vaginismus for some women. Radiation therapy has also been found to cause vaginismus for many women. 

Luckily there are treatments for vaginismus. 

If you are experiencing vaginismus, you should consult with your doctor, health care provider, sex therapist, or a pelvic floor physical therapist.  Your healthcare provider is likely to prescribe one of several courses of action. The treatment plans for vaginismus are mostly psychological, and cognitive behavioral therapy. It consists essentially of two techniques: sexual education and hierarchic exposure. To start, couples and family members closely involved should receive sex education, with information about anatomy, physiology, and the differences between men and women.

Obtaining the opinion of religious leaders or authorities can be very beneficial for therapy, as religious patients tend to trust these authorities and consider them more knowledgeable in the domain of religion than therapists.

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Vaginal Dilators

Your health care professional may also recommend you begin vaginal dilator therapy. This requires the use of a vaginal dilator, a cylindrical device often made of silicone that is inserted into the vagina. The purpose of a vaginal dilator is to train the muscles of the vagina to get used to expanding and stretching and relaxing. Vaginal dilators are graduated with the smallest often times being smaller than your pinky finger or a junior tampon. As you train more and more with your dilators you can move up to the next larger size, eventually reaching a size that is close to the size or your partner or desired partner. Vaginal dilators are reasonably priced and available without a prescription. 

Just remember, you’re not the only person out there who is experiencing vaginismus. This condition is fairly common and there are successful treatments available for you. 

Author bio- Jane Silverstein is the owner of Soul Source Therapeutic Devices located in Los Angeles. She is committed to women’s health issues and to helping women worldwide regain and/ or maintain their sexual health. She is passionate about helping others and has always been involved in a multitude of charitable causes.

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