What is vaginismus?
is a psychological condition that manifests itself in a powerful
physical response. Whenever there's an attempt to penetrate the
vagina the muscles surrounding the entrance go into involuntary
women may be easily aroused and enjoy regular orgasms - but for
some reason, intercourse isn't possible. Others, however, may
have little sexual interest and a lot of fears and anxieties about
women will have had the condition all their adult lives, for others
it may have occurred after a trauma or in a particular relationship.
Either way, vaginismus can have a devastating effect on a woman's
quality of life. Not only do they find it more difficult to enjoy
love-making, but the inability to be penetrated makes the decision
to start a family very difficult.
What causes vaginismus?
There are many, many causes. Though none are physical, if
you've suffered painful intercourse in the past then vaginismus
may be an unconscious response to avoid more pain.
speaking, the common psychological causes can be split into three
1. unhelpful messages about sex
2. a previous traumatic experience
3. relationship problems
messages about sex
Throughout our childhood we all hear mixed messages about
* Some women are brought up believing sex is a
bad and dangerous thing.
* You may have been told not to let anyone touch that area of
your body, or warned that you'll get pregnant if anyone does.
* There may have been very powerful cultural or religious taboos
that left you with feelings of guilt or shame whenever you felt
any sexual desire.
* Puberty may have been associated with feeling dirty or embarrassed.
* If there was inadequate sex education, women can grow up feeling
that it's physically impossible to be penetrated.
* You may remember being told that sex is painful.
If, at any stage in your life, you've experienced a traumatic
incident associated with your sexuality or your genital area,
you may have developed vaginismus as a protective response to
That experience may have been a particularly clumsy and painful
encounter with a previous partner. It may even have been a clumsy
and painful encounter with a GP or nurse attempting a routine
For some, vaginismus comes in the aftermath of a rape or sexual
There may be unresolved anxieties between you and your partner
that may be causing or at least contributing to your vaginismus.
If you're unhappy about something in your relationship, talk it
through and try to resolve the issue.
The good news is that vaginismus is a treatable condition
once appropriate help has been found.
Start by talking to your GP. You may find that the support and
guidance of a psychosexual therapist could help you understand
what's causing the problem and how best to tackle it.
are also a number of ways you could try to help yourself.
For ways to put these tips into action, see the section on
practical exercises .
* Relax. This is the most important thing you can
do. Have a relaxing bath, using deep-breathing techniques or buy
a relaxation tape from your local health shop.
* Get to know your own body better.
* Exercise your vaginal muscles. This will help you to feel in
better control of your response.
* Enjoy being sensual before you're sexual. Take your time focusing
on the pleasurable
sensations of touch and make sure you're fully sexually aroused
before attempting penetration.
* Desensitise. When you're feeling fully relaxed, take some time
to explore penetrating your vagina on your own. You could begin
with something like a cotton bud or the tip of your finger. As
you grow in confidence, move up to your whole finger and then
try with your partner's finger.
* Get a set of vaginal trainers. These are four smooth penis-shaped
cones, graduated in size and length. They come with a handle and
lubricating jelly to help insertion. Working through the sizes
in the privacy of your own home enables you to grow in ability
and confidence. Ask your GP or psychosexual therapist for more