What is it?

Vaginismus is a condition where the muscles lining the entrance to the vagina tighten and make penetration virtually impossible. It is mainly due to psychological issues, often occurring after previous relationship distress, with some women finding it a problem affecting them all their life. It is predominant amongst those in their later teenage years and early thirties. The condition can vary according to the individual and can be a real strain on the relationship. It can also make it difficult for a doctor to perform a pelvic examination, sometimes requiring an anaesthetic.

What causes it?

This is chiefly a psychological condition, which can be caused by any previous negative experiences, such as sexual abuse or a problematic child birth. The tightening of the vagina entrance can often become an involuntary action. Women who experience pain when they first have sex may also find this condition affects them. Negative messages that circulate about female pain during sex are also causes of this condition. If there are any worries in your relationship then this may be having an adverse affect.

Can it be treated?

Sex therapy can help treat this condition, as you can be taught to identify and overcome any underlying psychological issues causing vaginismus. Cognitive behavioural therapy is also beneficial, and would involve your therapist correcting any negative or mistaken beliefs you may hold about sex. The sex therapist will also advise you on self-help techniques, as described below:

  • Vaginal trainers – This is a technique to help relax the muscles at the entrance to the vagina. Four objects, each shaped like a penis and each of varying size and length, are used to steadily widen the vagina opening. Starting with the smallest you can work your way up at your own pace, and only once you are relaxed enough. The use of lubricant may be of assistance. Once you have worked your way up to the largest trainer you can try sexual intercourse with your partner, but only when you are ready.
  • Relaxation and touching – In a relaxing setting try touching the lining around the vagina. If your vagina involuntarily tightens then stop, before trying again. The next stage is to try inserting your finger into your vagina, pushing it further inside and moving it around the more comfortable you are. Then you can try inserting a tampon into your vagina with the aid of a lubricant. The final stage is to partake in sexual intercourse. But you must take each step at your own pace and make sure you are sufficiently relaxed. Your partner can play a part at each stage, but must not pressure you into having sexual intercourse before you are ready

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