Vaginismus: A Quiet Storm

Many women quietly suffer from a problem that affects their intimate relationships and overall quality of life. The purpose of this article is to further discuss a medical condition called vaginismus. Nurses Announcements Archive Article

Vaginismus: A Quiet Storm

Vaginismus is a medical term that refers to involuntary lady partsl tightness when any type of penetration is attempted. The condition may render all forms of penetration impossible or extremely painful, including the insertion of tampons, sexual intercourse, or routine gynecological examinations.

The pubococcygeus muscle, better known as the pelvic floor muscle that surrounds the lady parts, involuntarily tenses and spasms without notice. This involuntary muscular response results in excessive tightness that may prevent penetration in the most extreme cases. The woman afflicted with vaginismus has no voluntary control over the spasm of her pelvic floor muscles.

Two distinctly different types of vaginismus exist. Primary vaginismus refers to lady partsl tightness that is so intense that a woman has never experienced pain-free sexual intercourse in her lifetime. Many females with primary vaginismus have never been able to undergo routine pelvic examinations, wear tampons, or insert menstrual cups or lady partsl suppositories.

Other women experience emotional torment because they have been physically unable to have intercourse or consummate their relationships with their significant others. Secondary vaginismus refers to extreme lady partsl tightness that suddenly occurs in females who were regularly able to achieve problem-free penetration in the past. Secondary vaginismus sometimes occurs during menopause, after traumatic childbirth, after a surgical procedure, or as a psychological response to a sexual assault.

Fortunately, several treatment modalities are available to treat vaginismus. The exact treatment option for vaginismus is heavily dependent upon the specific reason that the patient developed the condition.

According to the Vaginismus website (2012), effective treatment approaches combine pelvic floor control exercises, insertion or dilation training, pain elimination techniques, transition steps, and exercises designed to help women identify, express and resolve any contributing emotional components.

The woman afflicted with vaginismus may choose to initiate treatment within the privacy of her own home, or she may consult with a health care provider who is knowledgeable about the condition. In addition, psychological issues may arise when a woman suffers from vaginismus, so seeking the help of a sex therapist or other mental health professional may greatly benefit these types of patients.

Although the worldwide incidence of vaginismus is thought to be between 1 percent and 17 percent, the true prevalence is not yet known due to the lack of available data. In addition, it is believed that many women who have the condition never seek treatment due to shame, mortification, lack of knowledge, or embarrassment. However, with treatment options available, women around the world no longer need to suffer in silence.


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TheCommuter, BSN, RN, CRRN is a longtime physical rehabilitation nurse who has varied experiences upon which to draw for her articles. She was an LPN/LVN for more than four years prior to becoming a Registered Nurse.

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Specializes in pediatrics, public health.

I had never heard of this -- thanks for a very interesting article!

Specializes in Psych/AOD.

If a woman has this condition and becomes pregnant, would she automatically have a c-section at the time of birth?

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych.
If a woman has this condition and becomes pregnant, would she automatically have a c-section at the time of birth?
No, not necessarily.

With vaginismus, things can exit the lady partsl canal (such as newborn offspring, menstrual blood, etc.), but the woman struggles with penetration (a.k.a. entry) into the lady parts.

Specializes in Geriatrics, retirement, home care..

Interesting article... I had never heard of this before.

Specializes in LTC and School Health.

Interesting read!

There was an episode of "Strange Sex" (non-fiction show) about a newlywed gal with this condition. Had never heard of it before then. She got therapy and eventually was able to 'consummate' her marriage. Episode:

Specializes in Mental & Behavioral Health/Geriatrics.

The first time I heard of this was actually on the Tyra show a few years ago. About two or three couples on the show were discussing their experience with it, and many were never able to consummate their marriages. Only one had successfully gotten pregnant after one attempt at intercourse with her husband, and she described the experience as immensely painful--her husband commented that he felt like he was raping his own wife...very sad. I can see why so many of these women suffer silently..

I think I'll have to take an anti anxiety med. .. and therefore have someone drive me to work. :(

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych.
I think I'll have to take an anti anxiety med. .. and therefore have someone drive me to work. :(
Why? Can you elaborate?
Why? Can you elaborate?

Sorry, my other post was deleted for some reason...

I have to get a pap smear and I know I have vaginismus. I'm thinking about taking anti-anxiety medicine to calm down and maybe my muscles won't tighten so much... and I'll need someone to drive me to the appointment because you're not supposed to drive on anti-anxiety medicine since it can cause drowsiness. I've NEVER taken anything for anxiety in my life either. I took half a pill today to see how I'd react. I was getting so much anxiety just thinking about getting a pap smear and was crying. It's so embarrassing. I feel like I can't talk to anyone about this.