"Vaginismus is a condition that affects a
woman's ability to have sexual intercourse," says Dr. Kulasiri
Buddhakorale, consultant venereologist. Understandably, the latter
can and does take a heavy toll on relationships.
Most women who suffer from vaginismus do not even
discover that they have it until they first have sex, says Dr. Buddhakorale.
They may find out earlier, while attempting to use a tampon.
"The muscles inside go into a spasm,"
explains Dr. Buddhakorale. The muscle that is the source of the
pain is the PC or pubococcygeus muscle. This hammock shaped muscle,
found in both sexes, stretches from the pubic bone to the coccyx
(tail bone). It forms the floor of the pelvic cavity and also supports
the pelvic organs. It is the PC muscle that controls the urine flow
and contracts during orgasm. When this muscle clamps shut, it makes
penetration either extremely painful or in many cases, impossible.
The severity of vaginismus varies from woman to woman. However,
vaginismus can take two forms:
What happens when a woman has never been able
to have sexual intercourse or allowed any other kind of penetration
This occurs when a woman who has previously been
able to accept penetration, acquires vaginismus for some reason.
This can be traced to physical causes such as a yeast infection
or trauma during childbirth or may be due to psychological causes.
Male partners of women with vaginismus
are often understandably frustrated by the situation, says
Dr. Buddhakorale. Not only do they feel entirely helpless,
he explains, but feelings of rejection, guilt, anger, confusion
and even fear are common, making matters worse. Some distance
themselves from their wives, opting to come home late or to
communicate less, thereby damaging their fragile relationships
What can men do? One can start with being patient and supportive.
It is important to understand that this is not something the
partner chooses for herself, instead it is an involuntary
reaction. Helping her work through areas of fear and confusion
can form crucial bonds of trust. Also by educating yourself
and talking to her knowledgeably and rationally, you can help
your partner work through emotional stress and her own feelings
of failure. When she does make progress, celebrate her successes
with her - knowing that you are also excited about her progress
could be a powerful motivation for your wife. Continue to
be intimate with your spouse, even if actual penetration is
Explore other options and you will find that in doing so,
neither of you feel the pressure so much.
While vaginismus can be the result of a combination
of physiological and psychological factors, the balance weighs heavily
in favour of the mental and emotional rather than the physical.
"It is a psychological phenomenon," explains Dr. Buddhakorale.
Some examples of causes of vaginismus, explains Dr. Buddhakorale
are sexual abuse, strict religious upbringing, mutilation of the
genitalia, being taught that sex is dirty or wrong or simply the
fear of pain associated with penetration, and in particular, losing
one's virginity along with the accompanying blood loss.
Many of these ideas come from one’s family
or peer groups, he adds. Aside from this, vaginismus can also be
caused by STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) such as genital herpes,
reveals Dr. Buddhakorale. It is important to remember that the woman
does not choose for this to happen, it is a learned reflex reaction.
It becomes easier to understand if one compares it to the way we
involuntarily close our eyes when an object suddenly comes close.
This, like vaginismus is a reflex reaction, which our bodies take
to protect us from pain. A woman with vaginismus cannot shake the
conviction that severe pain will accompany the penetration and so
her mind automatically sends a signal to her PC muscles to clamp
The process of curing vaginismus is usually a
long one and will require patience, will power and determination.
Vaginismus will not get worse if left untreated unless the woman
continues to have sex despite feeling pain on penetration. Dr. Buddhakorale
advises strongly against using oils and creams, saying that they
will only aggravate the situation.
If the cause of vaginismus is psychological then
it is usually important to treat those aspects of the problem as
well as the actual muscle spasm. This is why women with vaginismus
must seriously consider counselling, advises Dr. Buddhakorale. Physically,
a doctor will be able to show a woman how to use exercises and vaginal
dilators to help cope with the muscle spasm.
myths about vaginismus
=Women who have vaginismus are
Women with vaginismus are not sexually unresponsive; in fact
many deeply desire to make love. However, when sex always
hurts or is uncomfortable it is understandable that intimacy
becomes something to be avoided.
=If we just try harder (keep trying to have sex)
it will happen…it will go away.
Continuing to attempt penetrative intercourse despite the
woman's pain will only aggravate the situation, making the
vaginismus worse - not better. It is best to stop having intercourse
and to seek treatment if this is the case.
=Sex is supposed to hurt
Sex is not supposed to hurt. With first-time sex there may
be some discomfort but ongoing sexual pain is not normal and
needs to be treated.
=My husband/partner is just "too big"
Although it may seem a likely reason that intercourse is so
difficult because your husband/partner is well-endowed, penis
size usually has nothing to do with vaginismus. With vaginismus
the vaginal muscles are tightening up (without your conscious
control) so there is not enough room for the penis to enter.
No matter the size of an adult woman, the vagina is designed
to accommodate a fully erect penis.