Vaginismus: What Is It, Symptoms, Causes & Treatment
When I first tried a tampon, I could not understand why I experienced unusual amounts of pain. Women I knew never felt any such discomfort while using a tampon, menstrual cup, menstrual disc or any other sanitary product that requires insertion into the vaginal canal.
I stuck with my usual sanitary pads. Then I faced the same issue during intimate moments and while getting a pelvic exam for HPV vaccination or polycystic ovarian disorder (PCOD). I did not know until later that the phenomenon is being caused by a sexual dysfunction called vaginismus. I recently learnt about it during a pap smear test.
Most women do not know that they have this dysfunction and continue to suffer in silence. As I started reading up, I learned more about it and understood that there are more women like me.
I spoke to Dr Varini N., Senior Consultant, Obstetrician & Gynaecologist at Milann Fertility & Birthing Hospital, Bangalore, to understand more about the dysfunction and what causes it.
What Is Vaginismus?
Dr Varini shared that vaginismus is an involuntary tensing of muscles of the vagina. People tend to experience it around the first time they are having sex, while inserting a tampon, or while getting a pelvic exam done. It is a type of sexual dysfunction and can be a painful experience.
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Who Experiences Vaginismus?
The gynaecologist pointed out that it is difficult to estimate how many women have vaginismus because many do not understand it, much less talk about it. They feel that something is wrong with them or bear the pain until the muscles become habitual of, for example, penetrative sex.
Usually, women with the following conditions may be at risk of developing vaginismus.Anxiety disordersChildbirth injuries, such as vaginal tearPrior surgeryFear of sex or negative feelings about sex, perhaps due to past sexual abuse, rape or trauma
Can Vaginismus Be Treated
Yes, vaginismus can be treated with dilation training and psychological counselling. Psychological counselling can help a person open up about what inhibits them from feeling good about penetration or why they associate negative thoughts with penetration of anything inside the vaginal canal.
Dr Varini suggests, "Relaxation techniques like mindfulness, breathing and gentle touching exercises can help women learn to relax the vaginal muscles." It can significantly help them find relief from pain during sex, and can also help them even enjoy penetration a little more.
Women can also be benefited from a few pelvic floor exercises that can gradually help them get used to penetration. You can use vaginal trainers like tampon-shaped objects in different sizes to get used to having something inserted into the vagina. It can train your mind to not scurry through negative thoughts and to be positive about the experience.
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Is Vaginismus Harmful?
Vaginismus is not a life-threatening condition, but it can have a drastic effect on a woman's life. "It could jeopardise her sexual life and could make it difficult to become pregnant. It could be difficult to get treatment if she contracts any vaginal infection," Dr Varini added.
How Can Women Deal With Vaginismus?
The gynaecologist advises you to get medical help in case you are experiencing any difficulty or excessive pain during vaginal penetration. Vaginismus can take a toll on sexual life and relationship, therefore, awareness of the subject is a must these days. Women, as well as men, should be educated to understand that there is nothing to be ashamed of, and it can happen to anyone.