The Invisible Sexual Pain
Unfortunately there is still so much taboo when it comes to discussing any issues related to our sexual health, particularly anything regarding our genitals. This continuing silence further perpetuates the shame and stigma many people feel, causing unnecessary stress and anxiety. One topic that is not regularly spoken about, but one that can be incredibly challenging for those living with it, is vaginismus.
Vaginismus is defined as a person experiencing an involuntary contraction of the pelvic floor muscles, specifically around the vaginal area. This contraction makes activities like sexual penetration, tampon insertion, routine gynaecological examinations painful, very difficult, or in some instances, impossible. Partners of those experiencing vaginismus will often say upon attempting vaginal penetration “it feels like hitting a wall”. When a person experiences this it often creates a negative association with vaginal penetration, and for many people the mere thought of it becomes a source of fear and distress.
Root Causes of Vaginismus
There are varied reasons one might experience vaginismus; it has been attributed to a range of physical factors such as vaginal infections and/or sexual trauma, but it’s also regularly linked to psychological factors like values and beliefs about sex, anxiety or fear of pain, sexual intimacy, and vaginal penetration.
You Are Not Alone
If you’re reading this and recognising some or all of the symptoms, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. For many people the first step is overcoming any fear or embarrassment and finding the courage to tell someone, whether that be a trusted friend, partner, or a medical professional. Be reassured that support is out there.
Treatment Approaches for Vaginismus
The treatment for vaginismus typically involves a multi-pronged approach. Health professionals can provide you with the appropriate diagnosis and outline a suitable, personalised treatment plan. This can include physical therapy with a specialist pelvic physiotherapist to understand and learn how to relax and control the pelvic muscles, some psychosexual education and counselling with a sexologist to to better understand genital anatomy, identify any triggers, and sometimes people use medication to manage any associated pain or anxiety.
Journey to Overcoming Vaginismus
Overcoming vaginismus is a journey that requires patience and persistence. With the right support many folks have successfully overcome vaginismus, and gone on to enjoy non painful penetration. It is important to acknowledge that not everyone wants (or is aroused by) vaginal penetration and that’s ok too. If vaginal penetration is your goal however, one of the physical therapies recommended involves the use of vaginal dilators. These dilators have a range of sizes (the first one about the size of a small finger) are used to gradually accustom the body to penetration. This process is done at your own pace, with the aim of ensuring it is a comfortable and non-threatening experience.
If you have read this and believe that you (or your partner) may be experiencing vaginismus and would like to speak me, you can make an appointment here – Let’s chat.