Vaginismus – a painful problem
- Do you suffer from discomfort, burning, stinging, tightness or pain when you attempt intercourse?
- When you try to have intercourse have you found it difficult or impossible for your partner’s penis to enter your vagina?
- Can you get the penis only part of the way in?
- Does it feel like your partner’s penis is hitting a brick wall when penetration is attempted?
- Do you abandon attempts at intercourse because of pain?
- Do you find Pap smears painful or impossible?
- Have you had difficulty inserting a tampon into your vagina?
- Or are you too scared to even try to have intercourse?
If you answered ‘Yes’ to any of these questions you may have a common sexual problem called vaginismus. Vaginismus is defined as “difficulty allowing vaginal entry despite the woman’s express wish to do so”.
Women who suffer from vaginismus find attempts at sexual intercourse painful or unsuccessful due to involuntary tightening of the pelvic floor muscles surrounding the vagina. When a woman has vaginismus the muscles of the pelvic floor tighten when penetration is attempted. This involuntary (not under her control) contraction or spasm makes the pelvic floor muscles contract tightly around the vagina, clamping down on the vaginal passage from the outside causing painful intercourse or preventing penile penetration into the vagina. Spasm of the pelvic floor muscles can be provoked by attempts to insert a penis, a tampon, a finger, and a vaginal speculum (the instrument used by doctors to examine the vagina to do a Pap smear) into the vagina. The causes for vaginismus can be physical, psychological or a mixture of both. If you think you have vaginismus it is important that you consult with a medical doctor who is trained in sex therapy to rule out physical causes for this problem which may need to be treated before vaginismus can be fully resolved.
Dr Rosie King is both a medical practitioner and a sex therapist and has had many years of experience treating women with vaginismus.