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Tightly wound: Living with Vaginismus

August 16,2017 By: Mansi poddar

In my practice, both as a fertility counsellor and psychotherapist, I come across many couples whose marriages and self-esteem is shattered due to an inability to have sex. Many women experience an unrelenting fear of penetration, pain during intercourse or a morbid dread of any sexual activity. This is a problem that affects millions of women worldwide and is generally misunderstood by many gynaecologists and doctors. Women’s sexual problems are rarely discussed publicly. Because if they were, we’d all be aware of a problem that affects women in the same way that erectile dysfunction affects men. It’s called Vaginismus.
This article attempts to give you a brief idea about the problem and hopefully, help you understand that it is nothing to be ashamed about or feel guilty over and motivate you to seek help.

 

What is Vaginismus?

Vaginismus is an involuntary spasm or tightening of the muscles surrounding the vagina. The spasms close the vagina preventing penetration. The reasons for this are various, e.g.: previous sexual trauma, recent invasive surgery, relationship complications, medical complications or a previously painful sexual experience.
c489eb62d3eab8d4fa030961057650f9--the-muscle-vaginaThink of it this way: someone comes to poke you in the eye, automatically your reflex action to blink. Similarly, when penetration is about to happen, the woman’s body tightens muscles. It’s the body’s response to something it thinks will be painful. So even if a woman is aroused, if she’s feeling anxious towards intercourse because she’s worried because of her strict upbringing, getting pregnant, or just feeling pain, her muscles will react this way. It’s not only painful, it feels as if their vagina has closed up completely. It takes more than just a pill to solve this problem.

What are the symptoms?

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• Burning or stinging with tightness during sex
• Difficult or impossible penetration, entry pain, uncomfortable insertion of penis
• Unconsummated marriage
• Ongoing sexual discomfort or pain following childbirth, yeast/urinary infections, STDs, IC, hysterectomy, cancer and surgeries, rape, menopause, or other issues
• Ongoing sexual pain of unknown origin, with no apparent cause
• Difficulty inserting tampons or undergoing a pelvic/gynaecological exam
• Spasms in other body muscle groups (legs, lower back, etc.) and/or halted breathing during attempts at intercourse
• Avoidance of sex due to pain and/or fear of failure

Consequences of Vaginismus

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• Low self-esteem
• Self-loathing and anger towards one’s body
• Fear of intimacy ( or having any kind of physical contact with one’s partner)
• Marital difficulties
• Unconsummated marriage
• Being unable to have a baby

Some myths surrounding Vaginismus are:

  • The woman is frigid and has no sexual desire/is a lesbian
  • The man is unattractive and she is not excited by him
  • She is being a bitch and refusing sex to her man
  • Vaginismus will go away on its own
  • Sex is supposed to hurt
  • The more I try to have sex, the more I will be successful
  • If my partner forced me I would be cured
  • There is no cure for Vaginismus
  • My partner’s penis is too big and supposed to hurt
  • Surgery will fix my problem
  • All women with Vaginismus have gone through sexual abuse.
  • All Indian women are supposed to be shy and sex wary thus Vaginismus is normal.

Treatment for this condition needs to be holistic since it’s more than just physical or just psychological. Vaginismus is curable and manageable with proper treatment. It is important to first contact a good Ob/Gyn, rule out the medical issues, then further education about the condition and how to manage it along with counselling would aid recovery.We offer you a secure, judgment-free and confidential environment in which to help you heal, grow and thrive.

If you feel you or your partner may be having any sexual or emotional difficulties, feel free to contact a mental health professional. we, at Mansitherapy, offer you a secure, judgment-free and confidential environment in which to help you heal, grow and thrive.

Love,

Mansi