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They seem like the perfect couple and their love is glowing. This is what we see on their Instagram stories. However, she anonymously sends a problem to a Facebook community group. “I do love my hubby and we’re perfect together, but I feel unbearable pain during sexual intercourse and I don’t know why.”
I can feel the emotions of frustration and body shaming this woman is going through. Dear lady, you’re not alone! What you suffer from is a sexual disorder called “Vaginismus” and it’s very common.
I believe that in our community the main problem is not the disorder itself, but the lack of information we have about our bodies and sexual culture, the wrong information shared among friends, and women feeling embarrassed to talk about such problems as they feel it’s only them facing it.
That’s why we interviewed MFT couples and sex therapist, Dana Sarhan, to understand all about vaginismus and its cure.
How to detect vaginismus?
In the beginning, I felt it was important to understand how a woman can tell that the problem she is facing during intercourse is related to vaginismus and not to confuse it with any other physiological problem.
Sarhan explained that vaginismus is an involuntary contraction of pelvic floor muscles (muscles around the vagina). A woman with vaginal spam disorder will feel pain during sexual intercourse. A pain might feel like burning, stinging, or tearing. The most common feeling always mentioned is as if your partner is hitting a wall. According to the Vaginismus website, the disorder can prevent penetration totally, thus the intercourse as a whole. You can also feel a spasm in the legs or the lower back during intercourse.
Sarhan added that pain can also be felt during a gynecology checkup, inserting a tampon, or while taking a pap smear (cervical screening test).
Primary and secondary vaginismus
There are two types of vaginismus: Primary and secondary.
Primary vaginismus refers to the experience of vaginismus with first-time intercourse attempts. It’s when a woman has never at any time been able to have pain-free intercourse and her partner can’t penetrate the hymen.
Secondary vaginismus can affect women suddenly even if they have experienced years of pain-free intercourse. It might be caused by medical reasons as child labor or menopause. It can also be triggered by psychological reasons discussed below.
However, Sarhan highlighted that a woman who feels any of the above has to visit a gynecologist first and exclude any other organic biological causes like a vaginal infection, endometriosis, or a sexually transmitted disease before she assumes that it’s vaginismus.
A psychological or physical condition?
Sarhan stated that vaginismus happens mainly for psychological reasons, but it also has some associated physical causes. According to Cleveland Clinic, psychological reasons include fear of having sex, anxiety, past sexual abuse, or trauma. The physical reasons that might add to the spam are yeast and urinary tract infections.
Don’t feel guilt or shame
“I want to tell every woman feeling bad about herself because of vaginismus, it’s more common than you think and it’s okay to seek help from an informed sex therapist, there is no reason to feel ashamed,” Sarhan explained.
“It takes two to tango, so your partner’s role is essential. His support, love, and understanding are key factors in helping you feel safe to explore causes and solutions,” Sarhan stressed on the importance of being transparent with your husband.
Vaginismus is solvable
Sarhan explained that the first needed step in overcoming vaginismus is visiting a sex therapist or a psychotherapist. According to WebMD, Kegel workouts can also contribute to the treatment as they help in controlling and relaxing the muscles around the vagina.
You can do Kegel exercises as many times per day as you can (up to 20 times)
- Squeeze the muscles the same way you do to stop urine flow.
- Hold for 2 to 10 seconds.
- Relax the muscles.
After some days of practicing Kegels, insert one finger inside the vagina while doing the workout using a lubricant or in a bathtub, whichever is more comfortable for you.
Another approach that might help is using a vaginal dilator which are cone-shaped instruments that are placed inside the vagina. According to Hull University, a dilator stretches and dilates the vaginal walls so it becomes accustomed to penetration.
How to use a dilator
- Lubricate the tip of the dilator and vaginal opening using a lubrication gel.
- Find a comfortable relaxing position similar to inserting a tampon, for example, or lay on your back with your knees bent.
- Insert the dilator inside the vagina as far as you can tolerate. Do not force the dilator.
- Once comfortable, rotate the dilator in a circular motion for five minutes.
It’s also important to know that there is another medical condition that can be mistaken as vaginismus and it’s called “Vulvodynia”.
According to Mayo Clinic, vulvodynia is pain or discomfort around the opening of the vagina (vulva) for which there’s no identifiable cause and that can last for months to years. The tricky thing is that its symptoms are similar to vaginismus.
Ladies, Embrace your bodies and souls!