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