On today’s “Married Virgins” episode of The Tyra Banks Show, you can find me providing information about a condition called vaginismus that often prevents women from being able to have intercourse. Here are 6 key facts you should know about vaginismus:
1. Although vaginismus has long been described as being caused by involuntary muscle spasms that prevent a woman from being able to accept penetration of a finger, sex toy, tampon or a man’s penis, researchers have not always been able to identify these “muscle spasms”. It may be that some women who are diagnosed with vaginismus have been misdiagnosed, or it may be that muscle spasms are not actually the cause of vaginismus, or at least not the cause of all cases of vaginismus.
2. More recently, vaginismus has been described as “persistent or recurrent difficulties of the woman to allow vaginal entry of a penis, a finger, or any object, despite the woman’s expressed wish to do so” (see Graziottin, 2008). This is an important distinction because it reinforces the point that penetration should be consensual and wanted.
3. Women who believe they may have vaginismus should check in with a healthcare provider who has expertise in this area. Women can find referrals for healthcare providers who have expertise diagnosing and treating vulvovaginal pain conditions by contacting the National Vulvodynia Association (www.nva.org) or the International Association of Vulvovaginal Disease (www.issvd.org).
4. As I mention on The Tyra Banks Show, vaginal dilators can be a helpful part of treatment for some women with vaginismus or other vaginal pain conditions. They can be helpful in the sense that women can use graduated dilators – often beginning with the smallest size – to slowly become physically and emotionally comfortable accepting vaginal penetration. During the course of dilator therapy, women sometimes find it helpful to work with a trained sex therapist (find one at aasect.org) who can provide information, support aned guidance.
5. Regarding using Botox to treat vaginismus, it is important to know that it is not seen as a miracle cure for vaginismus. However, it may provide a relaxation of the pelvic floor muscles and this relaxation may make it easier for women to attempt intercourse or to attempt dilator use or other sexual activity or treatment. You can learn more about Botox for the treamtent of vaginismus here.
6. Although a cause cannot be found for all cases of vaginismus or vaginal pain, there are various treatments available. Sex therapy can be helpful to decrease the fear, anxiety, or stress associated with attempting intercourse. Therapy can also be helpful in terms of supporting a couple as they figure out how to best approach their sex life. A medical exam is recommended, too, as in many cases there is a physical cause of the pain that can be addressed. In some cases, anti-depressants or other medications are used to help reduce the anxiety associated with sex.
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