What Is Vaginismus?
Chances are you’re hearing about this for the first time, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. What’s more, you could have it too! This International Women’s Day we help you understand what Vaginismus is.Vaginismus is the involuntary spasm of vaginal muscles during penetration, be it during sex, a medical examination, or whilst inserting a tampon or menstrual cup, that causes extreme discomfort and pain. Some women describe the feeling as if a wall is being hit inside, because the muscles constrict and shut the passage. Vaginismus makes sex impossible for certain women, also because these muscle movements are out of the woman's control. I would compare it to the eyelids shutting in response to an object coming at your face.
First-time sex is bound to sting a little, maybe a little again the next time, and the time after that, if you're not lubricated enough, or if you're with an overly endowed man. But if sex is hurting you every single time, with every single man, in every single position, leaving you in tears – you could be experiencing vaginismus at its best.
It sure sounds threatening, like HIV, or herpes, or lymphoma, but it isn't life threatening – even at its worst. It could be compared to irritable bowel syndrome, a condition one could live with normally, after making a few lifestyle changes. There is a lack of evidence to prove exactly what muscle is responsible for this condition. However, the most promising guess points at the pubococcygeus muscle (the muscle that stretches from the pubic bone to the tail bone, forming the pelvic floor and supporting pelvic organs).
Image source: https://ccli.org/
There are several factors that could cause vaginismus:
- Sheer anxiety while anticipating penetration is the number 1 cause.
- Psychological issues from previous experiences of rape or abuse, domestic violence, fear of pain, stress, or even an unnecessarily strict moral education that elicits negative emotions can be other factors.
- Urinary tract infections, yeast infections, and vaginitis are also probable causes.
The treatment for vaginismus involves:
- Progressive desensitisation.
- A series of Kegel exercises to slowly develop control over the muscles around the vagina.
So what can you do?
- Start with Kegel exercises, by squeezing the same muscles you use to stop the flow of urine when urinating.
- Squeeze the muscles while exhaling.
- Hold the position for 2 seconds.
- Relax the muscles.
- Do about 20 Kegels at a time. You can do them as many times a day as you want to.
- After a few days, you should try inserting 1 finger inside the vagina while doing the exercises.
- It's a good idea to clip your fingernails first, and use a lubricating jelly. You don't want more pain than there anyway is.
- Progress to 2-3 fingers, and you're set. You'll feel the vaginal muscles contracting around your finger, and you can withdraw your finger immediately if any discomfort persists.
- Treating underlying causes, in cases with medical issues, should provide relief. And in cases of psychological trauma in the past, like abuse, counselling can be of great help.