It is not clear how many people are affec­ted by vagi­nism. It is esti­ma­ted that around two to ten per­cent of all womxn suf­fer from vagi­nism. The pro­blem here is that it is (almost) not tal­ked about at all. There is a lack of edu­ca­tion and open­ness, which often leads to fee­lings of shame and fur­ther taboo­ing of the sub­ject. So let’s get star­ted to remove the taboos and talk about vagi­nism in detail!

What is vaginism?

Vagi­nism is a sexual dys­func­tion or pain dis­or­der, which can be both orga­nic and psy­cho­lo­gi­cal. It is a per­sis­tent or recur­rent invol­un­tary cram­ping or ten­sion of the pel­vic floor and the outer third of the vagi­nal mus­cles, which makes the ent­rance to the vagina appear very nar­row or clo­sed. The mus­cle con­trac­tions can­not be con­sciously con­trol­led or stop­ped at that moment. Due to the tight mus­cle con­trac­tion, vagi­nal inter­course, gynae­co­lo­gi­cal exami­na­ti­ons or the intro­duc­tion of period pro­ducts are very pain­ful or even impos­si­ble. It is important to stress that the per­son con­cer­ned can­not con­trol the ten­sion! Mus­cle cram­ping is unin­ten­tio­nally cau­sed by the body. The seve­rity of the ill­ness varies greatly from per­son to per­son and the expe­ri­ence is the­re­fore com­ple­tely personal.

Primary vs. secondary vaginism

A gene­ral dis­tinc­tion is made bet­ween two dif­fe­rent forms of vagi­nism. The dif­fe­ren­tia­tion is based on whe­ther vagi­nal pene­tra­tion has already been achie­ved or not. It is the­re­fore cri­ti­cal when the sym­ptoms first appeared.

  • Pri­mary vagi­nism: Vagi­nal pene­tra­tion has never been possible
  • Secon­dary vagi­nism: Vagi­nal pene­tra­tion has already taken place without pro­blems, but is cur­r­ently no lon­ger possible

You may won­der if the ten­sion in vagi­nism is per­ma­nently pre­sent? Again, it is dis­tin­guis­hed bet­ween two dif­fe­rent forms. Often the cram­ping and pain are trig­ge­red punc­tually in cer­tain situa­tions. For example, when you try to have vagi­nal inter­course, during your period when you insert a tam­pon or when you are exami­ned by a gynae­co­lo­gist. But there are also people who suf­fer from vagi­nis­mus at all times.

Reasons for vaginism 

There are not always exact rea­sons why a per­son is affec­ted by vagi­nism. It is not clear where the dise­ase comes from. Vagi­nism is the­re­fore uni­que. Because phy­si­cal abnor­ma­li­ties or mal­for­ma­ti­ons are not the cause. Rather, sexual abuse, trauma, pain­ful sexual inter­course or anxiety are asso­cia­ted with it. The rea­sons for vagi­nism are very per­so­nal and of dif­fe­rent kinds. Par­ti­cu­larly in the case of emo­tio­nal rea­sons and vagi­nism, experts are often not sure what cau­sed what. A bit like the hen-egg dilemma. If you are affec­ted by vagi­nism, we would like to point some­thing out: It’s not your fault that you suf­fer from it and it’s not­hing to be asha­med of!

How is vaginism treated?

You ask yourself: Can vagi­nism be trea­ted or “cured”? The good news first. Vagi­nism can be trea­ted suc­cess­fully and is one of the most trea­t­a­ble womxn’s dise­a­ses! To make the tre­at­ment par­ti­cu­larly effec­tive, dif­fe­rent approa­ches are usually com­bi­ned. Apart from gene­ral infor­ma­tion and coun­sel­ling, (sexual) the­rapy and (rela­xa­tion) exer­ci­ses can also be part of the tre­at­ment options. 

1. Edu­ca­tion is usually based on lear­ning the ana­tomy and mus­cle func­tions of the human being. This should help to under­stand what exactly hap­pens in one’s own body and how indi­vi­dual body parts react or func­tion. The area of how sexual arou­sal and sexual inter­course take place is also inclu­ded in the teaching.

2. (Sexual) The­rapy can eit­her take place alone or tog­e­ther with the part­ner. A spe­cia­liz­a­tion of the the­ra­pist on sexual dis­or­ders can be helpful. 

3. Rela­xa­tion tech­ni­ques and phy­si­cal exer­ci­ses can sup­port rela­xa­tion in gene­ral and help you feel more com­for­ta­ble during sex.

4. Vagi­nal dila­tors can stretch the vagi­nal mus­cle and make it more fle­xi­ble, if used cor­rectly and with pro­fes­sio­nal care. The dila­tors are intro­du­ced as part of the stret­ching exer­ci­ses. There are dif­fe­rent sizes of the coni­cal, smooth bars. 

The costs of the tre­at­ment in Ger­many are cove­red by the health insurance com­pa­nies. Howe­ver, a medi­cal con­sul­ta­tion is a pre­re­qui­site for star­ting a the­rapy. The tre­at­ment is par­ti­cu­larly suc­cess­ful when a com­bi­na­tion of emo­tio­nal and phy­si­cal exer­ci­ses is used. Howe­ver, how long it takes until vagi­nism is suc­cess­fully trea­ted is   com­ple­tely indi­vi­dual. Howe­ver, with time and a lot of per­sis­tence, new doors will be ope­ning for you very soon and your vagina will also open up more.

Can tampons or menstrual cups still be inserted?

Since vagi­nism can occur in dif­fe­rent forms, some­ti­mes even the intro­duc­tion of dif­fe­rent period pro­ducts is pain­ful or impos­si­ble. Others can easily use tam­pons or even mens­trual cups. For­tu­n­a­tely, there are now a num­ber of mens­trual pro­ducts that do not need to be inser­ted into the body. Non-inva­sive pro­ducts collect the mens­trual blood out­side the body. Espe­cially newer inno­va­tions, such as mens­trual under­wear, can pro­vide great relief from vagi­nism. Other­wise, tra­di­tio­nal pads or panty liners are also sui­ta­ble. Both are avail­able in the (unfor­tu­n­a­tely) widespread dis­po­sable ver­sion or also as reus­able ones. Also free blee­ding is of course pos­si­ble as well. 

Libido and sex?

Vagi­nism has no (direct) influ­ence on the libido of a per­son. Howe­ver, it can make pene­tra­tion and the asso­cia­ted vagi­nal inter­course impos­si­ble due to the pain. Because when tried to pene­trate the vagina, the (vagi­nal) mus­cles con­tract and pre­vent (fur­ther) pene­tra­tion. Limi­ta­ti­ons in the sex life are the­re­fore unfor­tu­n­a­tely normal.

Do you have any more questions?

Does your vagina cramp unin­ten­tio­nally? Then you should quickly make an appoint­ment with your trus­ted gynae­co­lo­gist. It is important to talk to an expert about your com­p­laints and get pro­fes­sio­nal help. If you are sim­ply inte­res­ted in the sub­ject, you can learn more about vagi­nism here

Britta Wiebe, period education, Vulvani
Britta 
Co-Foun­der Vulvani | britta@vulvani.com | Web­site | + posts

Britta Wiebe is the co-foun­der of Vul­vani. She loves rese­ar­ching, wri­ting and designing new arti­cles or inno­va­tive edu­ca­tio­nal con­cepts about mens­trua­tion all day long. When she is not tra­vel­ling the world, she enjoys spen­ding time with her loved ones in the beau­ti­ful city of Ham­burg in Germany.