Vaginismus: 6 Facts You Should Know

tyra-banks-show-married-virgins-dr-debby-vaginismus-intercourse

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.

Follow me on Twitter – I am @mysexprofessor

Related MSP articles:
- Why Does Sex Hurt for My Girlfriend?
- Bleeding During Sex: Common Causes and Solutions
- Botox Treatment for Vaginismus

About Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick is a sex researcher at Indiana University, sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, columnist, and author of five books about sex and love. Learn more about her work at www.sexualhealth.indiana.edu.

  • Deborah

    I have been suffering with vaginal pain four years. My doctors have not diagnosed my condition. My pap smears are very,very painful. Last year I had a pap smear;but she could not complete it because I was too tensed. When my husband tries to penetrate me, it feels like something it cutting my vagina. I bleed sometimes. It has been about three years since we have had sex. He has been unfaithful.

  • http://google Deborah

    I have been suffering with vaginal pain four years. My doctors have not diagnosed my condition. My pap smears are very,very painful. Last year I had a pap smear;but she could not complete it because I was too tensed. When my husband tries to penetrate me, it feels like something it cutting my vagina. I bleed sometimes. It has been about three years since we have had sex. He has been unfaithful.

  • Tammy

    I have suffered from vaginal pain for over 12 years. Leave it to say it shook our mariage to the core. With sex as a non-existent part of marriage, we were on the brink of divorce. All of course until I made an appointment with an OB/GYN who actually listened and diagnosed me properly. It was refreshing to hear that this was not my fault but actually a medical condition. I left his office with a lot of hope and a lot less guilt. I went online and found a store in my community that was geared to women and got help and support from the owner. She pointed me to a set of dilators and told me to start using them in a warm bath where muscles would be more relaxed. After just 3 short weeks I was able to use my dilators with little to no pain. I won’t say that intercourse still doesn’t hurt a bit, but at least it’s a possibility. We now have a weekly “bath night” and follow up with intercourse. This has changed my life…..it might not be perfect but it shows my husband just how much I love him. Thanks for all the advice and letting women out there know that they are not alone.

  • Tammy

    I have suffered from vaginal pain for over 12 years. Leave it to say it shook our mariage to the core. With sex as a non-existent part of marriage, we were on the brink of divorce. All of course until I made an appointment with an OB/GYN who actually listened and diagnosed me properly. It was refreshing to hear that this was not my fault but actually a medical condition. I left his office with a lot of hope and a lot less guilt. I went online and found a store in my community that was geared to women and got help and support from the owner. She pointed me to a set of dilators and told me to start using them in a warm bath where muscles would be more relaxed. After just 3 short weeks I was able to use my dilators with little to no pain. I won’t say that intercourse still doesn’t hurt a bit, but at least it’s a possibility. We now have a weekly “bath night” and follow up with intercourse. This has changed my life…..it might not be perfect but it shows my husband just how much I love him. Thanks for all the advice and letting women out there know that they are not alone.

  • Debby

    I am so sorry to hear about your experiences. Vaginal pain can be very difficult to diagnose and often takes a healthcare provider with a great deal of expertise diagnosing and treating these types of conditions. You may be able to find a local referral through the NVA (nva.org) or the ISSVD (issvd.org). I am not sure where you live, but the University of Iowa and the University of Michigan both have excellent vulvovaginal clinics. Best, Debby

  • Debby

    I am so sorry to hear about your experiences. Vaginal pain can be very difficult to diagnose and often takes a healthcare provider with a great deal of expertise diagnosing and treating these types of conditions. You may be able to find a local referral through the NVA (nva.org) or the ISSVD (issvd.org). I am not sure where you live, but the University of Iowa and the University of Michigan both have excellent vulvovaginal clinics. Best, Debby

  • Debby

    Dear Tammy, thank you for sharing your very heartening story. Vaginismus can be very challenging for a woman and her partner to deal with. What a stroke of good fortune that you were able to find an ob/gyn who had the experience needed to properly diagnose your condition and who also listened carefully to you. It is hard not to take sexual problems to heart, and important that you were able to feel reassured – and not guilty – about your condition. How wonderful, too, that you were able to find a woman-oriented store in your community through which you were able to find dilators as well as helpful information about their use. Your weekly “bath night” sounds like it adds to your marriage in important ways. Best, Debby

  • Debby

    Dear Tammy, thank you for sharing your very heartening story. Vaginismus can be very challenging for a woman and her partner to deal with. What a stroke of good fortune that you were able to find an ob/gyn who had the experience needed to properly diagnose your condition and who also listened carefully to you. It is hard not to take sexual problems to heart, and important that you were able to feel reassured – and not guilty – about your condition. How wonderful, too, that you were able to find a woman-oriented store in your community through which you were able to find dilators as well as helpful information about their use. Your weekly “bath night” sounds like it adds to your marriage in important ways. Best, Debby

  • sangs

    Yes, UOM ob/gyn are excellent…..i'll be greatful to them as long as I live.