I remember the first time I used a tampon…I was sixteen, it was beach day and I was DEFINITELY not going to miss out. All I wanted was to literally put a plug in it and enjoy some much anticipated fun in the sun. After what felt like hours of forcing a dry sponge in areas I did not realise existed, I eventually gave up. The thought of salt water interacting with my vadge forced me spend the rest of the day on solid ground.
Luckily for me, I became a pro at inserting a tampon, the pain and discomfort was a thing of the past and I went on to enjoy many more beach days.
So what is the moral of my story?
Not many women openly talk about this, but when one suffers from vaginismus, that ‘initial’ pain when trying something new never lets up until it eventually puts you off altogether.
What is Vaginismus?
Also known as Genito Pelvic Penetration Pain Syndrome (GPPP), vaginismus is the involuntary tightening (contraction) of muscles around the entrance of the vagina. What basically happens is that the pelvic floor muscles spasm, preventing anything, like a finger, a tampon, let alone a penis, from penetrating it.
It can happen at any age, whether you have had sex before or not.
Many times arousal is not the issue, but sufferers may experience mild anxiety before penetration in anticipation of the INTENSE pain. Making it a very complex disorder that requires both PHYSICAL and PSYCHOLOGICAL intervention…but it is definitely treatable.
How do I know if I have Vaginismus?
Normally you will experience difficulty putting anything into your vagina
- Pain or difficulty with sexual penetration
- Burning pain at entrance or inside the vagina after (or during) sex
- Severe spasms or inability to relax during pelvic exams
- Difficulty inserting tampons, fingers or toys
- Sexual pain and discomfort especially after trauma such as childbirth, pelvic surgery, rape, infections or cancer
Vaginismus is classified as a sexual dysfunction and can have negative ripple effects on marriages, relationships and even fertility.
Types of Vaginismus
Luckily there are only 2 types, but they can vary in intensity.
Primary – When you have never been able to to insert anything into the vagina
Secondary – When you initially were able to experience pain free penetration, but now you are unable to. Some men even say that it feels like they are ‘bumping into a wall’. This usually happens after some possible trauma like surgery, rape or even a break down in a relationship.
So what can be done?
Temporary discomfort is normal, however persistent symptoms requires a consult with a gynaecologist or a women’s health physiotherapist.
The treatment plan should address both the physical as well as the psychological symptoms
Treatment can include:
Sexual therapy or counselling to manage the anxiety and other possible deep rooted issues
Vaginal dilators to ‘stretch’ and desensitize the the pelvic floor muscles
The bottom line is that Vaginismus CAN be treated and if effective, could open up a whole new world of pain-free and pleasurable sex.
Vaginismus Treatment: Clinical Trials Follow Up 241 Patients. Pacik PT, Geletta S. Sex Med 2017;5:e114–e123