Women who suffer from vaginismus find that attempts at sexual intercourse are unsuccessful or very painful. The thought of intercourse can be so frightening that a woman may not allow her partner to attempt intercourse at all.

Vaginismus is an involuntary contraction of the muscles surrounding the entrance to the vagina, making penetration impossible or painful. This involuntary vaginal reflex can be triggered by attempted intercourse or the entry or approach of a penis or other objects such as a doctor’s finger, a tampon or even your own fingers. The spasm constricts the vaginal opening, making it virtually impossible to have intercourse or to insert anything as the process is very painful. Vaginismus is not due to a physical abnormality, some women wonder if their vagina is too small or they have no vaginal hole at all and that is the reason why sex is so difficult.

The extensiveness of vaginismus varies from woman to woman. Some women are able to insert a tampon and undergo a complete gynaecological exam but are unable to insert a penis. Others are able to partially insert a penis but the process can be very painful. Vaginismus is the main cause of unconsummated relationships.

Both sexually experienced and inexperienced women can develop vaginismus.

Primary Vaginismus occurs when a woman has never, at any time, been able to have pain-free intercourse. Secondary Vaginismus occurs when a woman who had previously enjoyed intercourse without pain, develops the condition later; possible after some trauma or surgery.

The treatment of vaginismus involves unlearning the fear-contraction reflex and learning to keep the pelvic floor muscles relaxed during intercourse with the help of a pelvic floor physiotherapist who specialises in vaginismus. The women are taught that the vagina is a robust muscular organ capable of comfortably containing a penis, finger, tampon, speculum and allowing the birth of a baby. The walls of the vagina are not fragile, they are robust and there is plenty of room within the vagina for a penis. Understanding the true nature of the vagina can reduce women’s anxiety about penetration.

Vaginismus is a common sexual problem that is treated by counselling, education, anxiety reduction, pelvic floor exercises and retraining of the pelvic floor muscles.