A lot of women who have vaginismus experience the symptoms long before finding out there is a special term for this condition, or as Katrin encourages us to call it, this body response. You might have heard the term in your 20s for the first time.
You may have had anywhere from zero to multiple sexual relationships by that time, and your solo or partnered sexual experiences may have been nice up until penetration.
There may have been a burning sensation that’s incredibly uncomfortable, or perhaps a strong stabbing sensation that is downright painful.
You may have thought this is normal or that it’s your fault somehow.
One or more of your partners may have said it somehow feels ‘tight’ and uncomfortable inside. Or that they feel like they’re hitting a wall if penetration is not possible at all. Or maybe they never said anything.
If your partners weren’t very experienced, they wouldn’t know what to make of it either. And this can get pretty complicated, especially in hook-up culture.
The Warning Signs
These often appear long before a woman becomes sexually active. It might start in your early teens when you tried to use a tampon. It didn’t go in and it might have even made you feel quite sick.
Girls in this situation sometimes don’t give it too much thought. A lot of people can’t get the tampon in the first time around, after all…
The First Trip To The Gyno
Years of failed sexual encounters and tampon attempts later, maybe you finally go to see a doctor. You hope before the appointment is that it’s nothing. Maybe that it’s ‘normal’ for sex to always hurts a bit, or maybe your vagina is just naturally small!
It’s also common that you’re still in denial about the entire situation and you JUST hope that your muscles will naturally relax with time.
Few women’s first time at a gynecologist have fond memories of this visit, especially if it was decades ago. To this day, the tables are not very comfortable, and the doctor can be less than accommodating to your comfort.
Perhaps you take your panties off and open your legs for the examination. And panic starts to set in:
- The table is cold.
- The lube – is even colder, and the smell is too clinical.
- The lights are too bright.
- You hold your breath..
- Your body tenses.
- Your vagina just won’t allow for anything to enter!
The doctor tries to penetrate your vagina with the speculum, but it just won’t open. It’s like it’s blocked at the entrance.
You can experience vaginismus in one of many ways. I developed it later in life, which is known as secondary vaginismus. Other women have had it since birth (primary). It’s mild in some and very severe in others. What’s more, its degree of severity may vary over time.
No matter how you experience it, seeing a doctor is well worth your time. With the right help and effort, you can forget you ever had it.
Causes of Vaginismus
To deal with the effects, we must know the causes, and they’re not always clear. They can include:
- Lack of arousal
- Fearing that your vagina is too small
- Negative prior sexual experience
- Thinking sex is wrong or shameful
- An unpleasant medical examination
- An overly eager partner
- Another physiological challenge that impacts your pelvic floor
- Relationship problems
- Fear of pregnancy
Dating With The Condition
Interacting with a potential new partner is hard enough. Talking about sex with them? Even harder. Bringing up the subject of vaginismus? You’re thinking you don’t even want to go there.
First things first: penetration is not the only option.
There are many other forms of sexual contact or intimacy to be enjoyed, and it’s recommended you start with those. Oral sex or hand jobs are a great place to start.
Once you orgasm, the additional blood flow and sometimes the natural lubrication will help prevent the involuntary tightening of the vagina. Lubrication of any kind is also greatly encouraged to help with decreasing any unnecessary friction.
At any rate, physical intimacy is all about comfort, connection, touch, and support. If you apply these principles, dating will become a far more positive experience.
Having The Conversation
It’s about timing, as with any difficult conversation. It’s a question of the right time. Before you start the talk, think about what you really want to say and formulate it in advance. If you’d prefer not to share verbally, you could write it down in advance.
Such talks are hard to have, but the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Know that you’ll very likely feel better afterward. You must be willing to take this positive and constructive step.
While there’s no fixed ‘right time’ to speak to a potential partner about your vaginismus, don’t wait until you’re in bed together.
On that note, don’t rush into sex. If it happens too soon for you, the bracing response of vaginismus can kick in even more strongly.
The best time to talk is after you’ve gotten to know each other but haven’t slept together yet. You must feel comfortable and prepared. Talking to them could even make you feel closer, which will improve your connection and the potential of a satisfying sexual experience.
You may decide that you prefer not to use the term ‘vaginismus’ when you have the conversation.
Your partner may not have heard of it and explaining the body response rather than focusing on the term may help them understand it rather than assuming it is a scary disease that can be sexually transmitted.
Treatment For Vaginismus
Yes, vaginismus is treatable!
Doctors recommend dilators: tampon-shaped tools of different sizes, which you insert slowly and gently to get used to the sensation. And you avoid pain at all costs.
Sometimes, working with a more realistic shape is best to acquaint your body and mind with the penis shape. Thus, a realistic-shaped dildo can be a useful item to add to your tool kit. You can pick a small realistic dildo for example, like one that I like from this small and slim dildos collection at HotCherry.
Other than that, treatment normally revolves around exercises to get women used to penetration and managing the emotions around it.
Other potential options include therapy, relaxation techniques, sensate focus, and pelvic exercises. Psychosexual therapy is a type of talking therapy that’s aimed at helping people grasp and change their attitude to sex and their bodies.
Effective relaxation techniques including breathing exercises, mindfulness, and gentle touching. With intentional practice and time, your vaginal muscles will start to relax more easily.
Pelvic floor relaxation exercises can involve the process of “squeeze and release” (though focusing on the release piece) to be able to control these muscles better. Special sensate focus exercises, aimed at finding safety with touch and bringing back sexual desire can also help.
A specialized therapist can help during treatment with careful guidance. They will instruct you to do specific exercises at home. You can involve your partner in these. Treatment is usually effective and I trust that you’ll experience improvement soon.
The sooner you become proactive, the better. It will save you from many disappointing sexual experiences.
I’m sure glad I took action and invite you to do the same!