WHAT IS VAGINISMUS?
The vagina contains muscles that can contract, making the vaginal opening smaller. These muscles contract during orgasm and can also be contracted under conscious control. However, some women experience repeated, ongoing involuntary contractions of the vagina. In some cases, the are not aware that this is occurring until sexual intercourse becomes painful. The repeated contractions make entry during intercourse difficult or impossible. The primary symptom of vaginismus is pain during intercourse, vaginal exams, and other forms of vaginal penetration.
Some people use the term more broadly to refer to any pain associated with intercourse or vaginal penetration; however, vaginismus is limited to pain due to muscle spasms.
WHAT CAUSES VAGINISMUS?
Most doctors believe that vaginismus is caused by psychological issues surrounding sex. Women with a history of trauma or abuse sometimes develop the condition. General anxiety about sex can also lead to vaginismus, and many women discover they have the condition when they first try to have vaginal sex.
HOW IS VAGINISMUS TREATED?
The first line of treatment for vaginismus is helping a woman become more psychologically and physically comfortable with sex and resolve any fear she may have about intercourse. This might include therapy for the woman or couples counseling for the woman and her partner.
Regular exercises can help a woman learn to control the muscles of the vagina and reduce the likelihood of spasms. Some doctors and sex therapists help women use vaginal dilators to gradually expose themselves to progressively more stimulation. This treatment can be highly effective. However, pressuring a woman into such methods of treatment before she is ready can make the condition markedly worse.