Has the word ‘vaginismus’ recently been introduced to your vocabulary?
Vaginismus is a heavy word. For everything it brings and everything it takes away…
What Is Vaginismus?
Vaginismus is the involuntary spasm of the vagina (contraction of the pelvic floor muscles that tighten the vaginal entrance) that impairs your ability to engage in any form of vaginal penetration, or causes discomfort or pain during such attempts.
It’s when you want to have penetrative sex, or even just wear a tampon, but your vaginal muscles tense up making this practically impossible and very painful.
Some people refer to vaginismus as ‘a panic attack in your vagina’.
It’s like your body, in anticipation of penetration, automatically puts up a wall not letting anything or anyone inside.
Essentially, your pelvic floor muscles are unable to relax. They become like clam shells that can’t be propped open, unless this is done forcefully (which can come with excruciating pain).
It’s important to understand that the muscle tightness occurs without any conscious direction. In other words, you did not consciously make your body tighten and you cannot simply make it stop. Although your brain may be telling your vaginal muscles to relax and open up, the body might just not cooperate.
What Causes Vaginismus?
There’s no single cause of this condition.
Most often, vaginismus may happen to you if you have an uneasiness about sexual penetration. This can be developed by a traumatic experience such as sexual assault, or an upbringing which has framed intimacy in a negative light, perhaps religiously unacceptable.
These circumstances may have created the notion that your vagina is off limits, leading to little, if any, self-exploration or acceptance of your sex organs as natural parts of who you are.
You may also have vaginismus even if you deeply desire to enjoy penetrative sex and do not consciously associate the act with anxiety or fear. The subconscious plays a significant role in your body’s reaction and can often go largely unexplained.
Alternatively, you may have had a sexual act that was painful, caused by physical factors like insufficient foreplay or lubrication. This may have created an association of sexual penetration to the feeling of pain.
All of the above, whether consciously or unconsciously, create the anticipation of pain.
This is the fist step in the cycle of pain…
The Cycle of Pain Explained
Think of the cycle as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The anticipation of pain leads to the involuntary reaction, where the body automatically tightens the pelvic floor muscles.
You experience painful sex as a result, where entry may be more difficult or impossible depending upon the severity of this tightened state.
This then creates a reinforcement of pain, because the pain you experienced during the attempt of sex reinforces the reflex response which intensifies the pain even more.
Next, your body reacts by bracing on an on-going basis, where the muscles tighten at the thought of being intimate.
Finally, avoidance develops and a lack of desire to be intimate altogether may be created, which strengthens the anticipation of pain and the cycle continues even more strongly.
The anticipation of pain leads to its manifestation and then this reinforcement of pain manifests over and over again as you brace for yet another painful experience.
As the cycle keeps playing itself out, the experience of ongoing pain increases the duration and intensity of your involuntary muscle contractions.
Thus strengthening your pain.
That’s why when vaginismus isn’t dealt with, it often worsens.
Is Vaginismus Common?
This condition is more common than you think! Thousands of vulva owners are affected by it.
Since the topic of sexual satisfaction isn’t widely discussed, and many people don’t seek help, it is unknown what percentage of vulva owners actually suffer from vaginismus.
It is tough to talk about it, isn’t it? That’s because vaginismus can make you feel confused, embarrassed, guilty and like you’re sexually broken…
Like you’re not good enough.
Understandably, it is extremely frustrating to be unable to physically engage in pleasurable sexual intercourse. These feelings may discourage you from talking about vaginismus and precisely this avoidance of the topic strengthens your anticipation of pain which further reinforces the cycle of pain…
That’s why it’s best to face the issue head on and deal with it sooner rather than later.
Others have been able to beat vaginismus, creating for themselves a lifetime of unconstrained pleasure. You can too!
How Can You Overcome Vaginismus?
The key to overcoming vaginismus is to break the cycle of pain.
This ultimately means to retrain your vaginal muscles, so in anticipation of intercourse, they are able to relax. To do this, you must learn to take conscious control of these muscles to stop their tightening reflex.
The approach to gain conscious control includes pelvic floor control exercises and dilation training, as well as exercises designed to help you identify and resolve any contributing emotional components.
A holistic approach is often necessary – getting acquainted with your physical body as well as exploring your particular emotional triggers.
Who Can You Turn To?
Generally, vulva owners turn to a physician first and are often referred to a gynaecologist to rule out any other causes of female sexual pain.
Next, a physical therapist specializing in pelvic floor therapy can be consulted to help with pelvic muscle rehabilitation, control and relaxation. This therapist will often help administer a self-help program of exercises to be done at home.
This self-help program consists of regular pelvic floor control exercises and dilation training performed in private in the comfort of your home.
Also, psychologists, psychiatrists and sex therapists can be consulted to help deal with any anxiety, or deeply rooted emotional issues which may be contributing to your anticipation of pain.
Throughout the journey, being part of a safe community of vulva owners struggling with vaginismus is irreplaceable, so you can benefit from others’ experiences and tips.
You never have to feel alone again. Other people have overcome vaginismus and can learn from their successes!
Learning From Others’ Successes
To help you on your journey, I’d love to share with you a compilation of tips from vulva owners on how to overcome vaginismus. These can help you learn from their experiences, shortcuts to implement and mistakes to avoid, so you can become pain free and intimate too.
They are a part of my healing journey, “Putting Vaginismus In The Past”, which is my gift to you!
There’s no better time than now to establish some certainty in your own path to becoming pain free and intimate.
Why? Because you deserve to feel happy and complete again!
To putting vaginismus in the past!
– Katrin, with Love