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Wellness > Health

Vaginismus: What Is It?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Western chapter.

This article contains content that may be triggering to some readers, mentioning sexual trauma and abuse. Please read at your own discretion.

WTF is vaginismus? 

Maybe you’ve heard of it, know somebody who has it, or even struggle with it yourself. If you’ve never heard of the disorder, vaginismus is when the muscles of the vagina involuntarily spasm or squeeze upon penetration. This can happen when something like a penis, sex toy, finger, or even a tampon enters the vagina. Although it doesn’t affect sexual arousal, it can prevent penetration.

The first sign of vaginismus is usually painful sex. Most women often describe feeling a burning or stinging sensation when anything is inserted into the vagina.  Experts aren’t entirely sure what causes vaginismus, but research has shown that potential factors that can contribute to the disorder include:

  • Injuries during childbirth, like vaginal tears
  • Fear or negative feelings about sex, sometimes due to past sexual trauma or abuse
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Emotional factors

Despite the possible causes, it’s important to note that if you think you may have vaginismus, it’s not your fault. It’s an automatic response that you have no control over. Some women have always experienced pain when something enters their vagina. This is known as primary vaginismus. Secondary vaginismus, on the other hand, is when a woman has had sex in the past without experiencing any pain, but it later becomes painful or impossible.

If you think you might be experiencing vaginismus, it’s important to talk to your doctor. Diagnosis and treatment generally require a pelvic exam. This might seem scary, but you can discuss with your doctor potential ways to make the exam a comfortable experience for you. Remember: your comfort matters!

A good thing to know is that vaginismus is treatable. Physicians will sometimes recommend options such as:

  • Vaginal dilator therapy:
    • Dilators are often plastic tube-shaped rods that help stretch the muscles within the vagina. They come in multiple sizes that help vaginal penetration become less painful over time.
  • Pelvic floor therapy:
    • Pelvic floor therapy involves a physical therapist examining your pelvic floor and offering methods to relax the vaginal muscles.
    • Such methods include stretches and breathing techniques to help relax the mind and pelvic floor.
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT):
    • CBT is a form of talk therapy where a therapist will ask questions and provide guidance, allowing you to allow you to uncover the root of certain personal issues and how to manage them.
    •  Since vaginismus can be linked to emotional factors, CBT can help you understand your thoughts and how they might influence your behaviours and emotions.

Overall, don’t be discouraged. If you struggle with vaginismus, it’s important to know that it is not embarrassing to talk to your doctor. There are plenty of methods to help. Remember, your health always comes first.

Renee Giles

Western '23

Renee is currently completing her Psychology degree at Western University. When she's not writing or studying, you can find her scrolling through Pinterest or crocheting a new project.