Vaginismus: What Is It?

Vaginismus treatable sexual dysfunction that occurs in women. It is through no fault of your own and nothing that you should be ashamed about. This type of sexual dysfunction can affect your quality of life and relationships with others.

Some women find that their vaginal muscles contract involuntarily, usually just before sexual intercourse but they can happen at other times, like when touching the vaginal area or inserting tampons. These contractions can make sexual intercourse extremely painful or prevent it from happening all together.

The sexual arousal is not affected by vaginismus, just the penetration. After a pelvic exam, which will be gentle, there are usually no signs of why the contractions happen and no physical abnormalities.

It is unknown why some women suffer from this sexual dysfunction and, according to the National Institutes of Health, is an uncommon disorder.

Vaginismus Types

There are two classifications of this disorder:

  1. Primary vaginismus, which is when penetration has never been possible
  2. Secondary vaginismus, which is when penetration can no longer happen. This can happen because of many factors including radiation and gynecologic surgery.

Some women after menopause can develop this condition due to a drop in the estrogen levels, according to the Women’s Therapy Center. The drop in estrogen means that there is no elasticity or lubrication in the vagina, making penetration stressful, painful and sometimes impossible.


This is the term used when describing intercourse that is painful and can be confused with vaginismus. Dyspareunia actually covers all types of pain from a variety of sexual sources, such as pelvic inflammatory disease, cysts or even vaginal atrophy. All dysoareunia will not always be vaginismu but vaginismus is one condition that causes dyspareunia.

Vaginismus Causes

The reasons for this condition to happen are not always known. There are many factors linked to it, including painful intercourse in the past, emotional factors and even trauma or sexual abuse. However, most of the time there is no specific reason. Your doctor will need to look at your sexual and medical history to be able to make a diagnoses and will carry out a physical exam. This also helps to look into any other causes.

Vaginismus Treatments

This is treatable and will usually need various options, including education, exercises and counseling.

Sexual Education:

This usually goes through the anatomy and the processes of arousal and sexual intercourse. It will cover the muscles that are involved when vaginismus happens and will help you understand more about your body and cover some of the parts that have always been in the unknown.


This can be solo counseling or with your partner. The counselor will specialize in disorders that are linked to the sexual organs and can help with developing techniques to relax. Hypnosis may also be used to help you feel more comfortable when it comes to sexual intercourse.

Vaginal Dilators:

Vaginal dilators may be recommended by your counselor or doctor but you should only use them when supervised professionally. Cone-shaped dilators are used and placed directly into the vagina and get bigger progressively. It helps to stretch the muscles inside so that they are more flexible. Your partner can be there to help with inserting the dilators and help increase the intimacy between the two of you. Intercourse is recommended after completing this treatment.

Kegel Exercises:

These exercises involve strengthening the pelvic floor muscles by tightening them and relaxing them on a repetitive basis. This helps to control the bladder and rectum as well as the vagina.

You will use this muscles during urinating – you can stop the stream part way through by using the pelvic floor muscles. When you tighten them, you may feel that they move up, usually as a group since they all work at the same time.

These steps will help you gain more control over your pelvic floor muscles so that you can relax:

  • Have an empty bladder
  • Contract the muscles and hold for 10 counts
  • Relax the muscles and hold for 10 counts
  • Repeat this three times a day for 10 times each

You will need to avoid engaging any muscles in your thighs, buttocks or abdomen to gain the full benefit of strengthening the pelvic floor muscles.

The Future for Patients with Vaginismus

Any type of sexual dysfunction is often difficult for relationships but this is not something that you should be ashamed of. The best thing you can do is talk to your partner to discuss the fears and feelings that you have. This will help with relaxing your body. A sex therapist is an option for treatment and there are many options to overcome this condition by talking to therapists and doctors.

Certain positions and lubrication are great for making intercourse more comfortable. Take some time together to experiment and find something that works for the two of you. Every couple is different and there is no set thing or position.