What if it's vaginismus?

By Sabrina Leblanc from SomeonexSomeday

Vaginismus. Although the name may sound sweet to our ears, it is a difficulty that can rather cause a lot of frustration for some women.

"Why can't I do it? Yet I want to do it so bad".

"After trying four, five, six times, I didn't feel normal. It's supposed to be simple."

"It doesn't fit. Not that I don't want to. It just doesn't work."

What's this? 

Small definition 101. Take a breath, the next sentence's pretty long. Vaginismus is characterized, by the Human Sexuality Research Laboratory at the University of Ottawa, as "a ​protective contraction of the vaginal entrance musculature that makes vaginal penetration during sex, with a tampon, and/or during gynaecological examinations, painful or impossible." All this jargon to finally say that a woman suffering from vaginismus may be unable to receive penetration of the vagina, be it with a finger, a sex toy, a penis, a tampon, etc...

To help us visualize vaginismus, let's take the examples used by the Obstetrics and Gynecological Surgery Center of Lyon which are, in my humble opinion, not bad at all.

Our body, to protect us from any intrusion, has a reflex system. If an insect or an object gets too close to your eyes, they will instinctively close, without you even having control over it. Same thing if you get hit in the belly (not that I wish it to you, the example is for the cause). Your abdominal muscles will contract spontaneously. When a woman suffers from vaginismus, we talk about a similar process, that is, involuntarily tightening the vaginal muscles, making penetration painful or impossible.

Vicious circle

Misunderstanding can cause a lot of stress for a woman in this situation and thus intensify the sexual disorder. Stress and sexual activity do not usually go hand in hand. People may feel ashamed, feel abnormal or feel that it is unfair. Also, it is important to understand that vaginismus can be caused by various things: feeling that the penis is too big for the limited space of the vagina (in a heterosexual relationship), fear of penetration, vaginal dryness, a history of sexual assault, fear of itss, fear of pregnancy, pain during penetration, etc.

Why talk about a vicious circle? Let's take the example of a woman who fears the pain associated with penetration because she is afraid that the space in her vagina is too small. Her pelvic, perineal and vaginal muscles could then contract (vaginismus). If penetration is still attempted, it can be as painful as hitting a wall . One can imagine the pain this causes for the woman/person with a vagina, but let's imagine the growing apprehension during the next sexual activity. The more the perception of pain is present, the more vaginismus increases.

Apprehension of penetration - involuntary contractions - attempt at penetration - physical pain - increased pain perception - r​epeat.​

Okay, but what now?

While we can talk about a vicious circle, rest assured that it can be broken. While many women believe that they are unable to penetrate because of their physiology, such as the fact that their vagina is too small, this is much more often a psychological cause. For this reason, psychological management may be beneficial and a gradual desensitization approach to vaginal penetration can be worked with a sex therapist. One can then learn to gradually relax one's muscles and thus regain some control over one's body. Exercises can be explained to you by a professional to help you relax your muscles.

Sources

Human Sexuality Research Laboratory at the University of Ottawa. Vaginism. Online:

https://sciencessociales.uottawa.ca/recherche-sexualite-humaine/troubles-douleur-sexuelle-genitale/vaginisme

Obstetrics and Gynaecological Surgery Centre of Lyon. Sexology - vaginismus. On line:

https://www.chirurgie-gynecologie-obstetrique.com/sexologie-vaginisme

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