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When Sex Becomes Painful – What You Need To Know About Vaginismus

Posted: November 28, 2014

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Vaginismus is the reflexive tightening of vaginal muscles that generally occurs while attempting penetrative sex. Here’s what you need to know about it!

It is not often talked about, but vaginismus is a very common problem among women in India. An involuntary and painful tightening of the vaginal muscles, vaginismus makes any sort of penetration impossible.

Many women feel guilty about their inability to have intercourse. Some even think that it is because they do not love their husbands enough. The problem is so insidious that there are instances of marriages breaking down because of the stress caused by the lack of physical intimacy. The New Indian Express reported that a significant number of couples even opt for divorce because of vaginismus.

Dr. A. Chakravarthy, Consultant in Reproductive and Sexual Medicine based in Trivandrum, receives a number of vaginismus cases in his clinic. “Almost 60% of female sexual dysfunction problems are possibly due to vaginismus,” says Dr. Chakravarthy.

Since intercourse becomes impossible, the husband gets frustrated and may even lose his erection. “When the husband presents with erectile dysfunction, an underlying cause could be the wife’s vaginismus,” adds Dr. Chakravarthy. (Of course, there are other reasons for male erectile dysfunction, and this only one scenario).

The condition can prevent a woman from undergoing gynaecological examinations or even inserting tampons. The reason for vaginismus is a condition that triggers muscle reflex in the lower pelvic area. The pubococcygeus (PC) muscles clamp shut reflexively when any object approaches it. “It is pretty much like how the eye reflexively closes when something comes towards it. It’s a reflex reaction that is designed to protect the body from pain,” explains Dr. Chakravarthy.

A woman with vaginismus associates penetration with pain and her PC muscles automatically clamp shut to protect her.

Common causes of vaginismus

These following are some of the common reasons for vaginismus. This is an intensely personal condition, so there may be many other reasons and each case must be assessed individually.

Physical causes of vaginismus include injury, infections or other diseases, continuing pain from difficult childbirth, hormonal changes, and discomfort from insufficient foreplay.

Women who suffer from this condition become aware of the problem only when they try to have sex for the first time or insert a tampon. It is commonly found in teenagers or those in their early 20s, but can affect women of any age. Discovering that you have vaginismus can be a little disorienting and confusing because we all believe that sex is something that has to come naturally to us.

How do you treat vaginismus?

“The good thing is that it is a completely curable condition. With a little bit of counselling for both the husband and wife and some physical exercises, normal sexual functionality will return,” says Dr. Chakravarthy.

According to Dr. Chakravarthy, patients don’t even need medication to treat this condition. Anxiety-relieving medicine may be prescribed for some, but only if required. Treatment involves a combination of counselling, sex education, and pelvic floor relaxation exercises. Sex therapy must involve the partner for maximum effectiveness. Being treated by a specialist in sex therapy increases the chances of success.

…patients don’t even need medication to treat this condition. Anxiety-relieving medicine may be prescribed for some, but only if required.

The primary treatment methods involve understanding the vagina and exploring it, and slowly desensitising it using vaginal dilators. Dilators are typically shaped like a penis, and are used to gently insert into the vagina. You don’t even need to spend money on expensive medical dilators because you can very well use your finger. A local anaesthetic jelly or lubricant makes the insertion easier and less painful.

During the consultation, the doctor will suggest a few exercises and based on the feedback from the couple, other exercises are suggested. Within 4 to 5 sessions you can expect to begin enjoying sexual intercourse without fearing the pain.

Experiencing pain during intercourse can cause emotional problems such as low self-esteem, and even depression. Therefore, it is important that you seek professional help if you suspect that you might have vaginismus.

Be gentle on yourself and understand that it is not your fault.There is no need to suffer in silence because vaginismus is just like any other disease, and there is no shame in seeking professional help for it.

Pic credit: Image of a shocked girl via Shutterstock.

Nisha Salim is a self-employed writer and a social media junkie.

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