06 Jan Vaginismus.
Vaginismus is a complex problem which many women suffer through. It presents itself as an involuntary contraction of the pelvic floor muscles which makes penetration difficult, painful, and sometimes impossible. For many women this means difficulty during intimate relationships, inability to use tampons or menstruation cups, and difficulty during pap smears or other internal exams. It can develop at any time and the cause can sometimes be difficult to determine. Both physical and non-physical triggers can cause vaginismus and it’s often a combination that produces the involuntary muscle spasm.
This involuntary spasm cannot simply be resolved with conscious control, just as we react to touching a hot stove by pulling away, it becomes a reflex. It can often stem from a bad experience, surgery, or trauma, which causes pain and anxiety, which in turn causes fear of penetration.
The muscles of the pelvic floor which encircle the vagina have learned an unconscious and automatic response, to spasm if penetration is attempted. The brain unconsciously believes that penetration will be painful and therefore will not allow it, this is the body trying to protect itself.
Sometimes vaginismus can develop in a woman who has previously been sexually active, or had other penetration without the spasm. This is normally due to a medical condition or trauma which makes penetration painful. Some of the possible conditions which may trigger vaginismus can include; a urinary tract infection, sexually transmitted infections, childbirth trauma, vaginal dryness, ovarian cysts, vulvodynia, pelvic tumours, and other skin conditions and infections. If penetration is painful for you, your brain may start to believe that penetration is bad for the body and may develop the vaginismus reflex to protect itself.
If you suspect that you may suffer from vaginismus, it is important to go for a medical check-up to rule out any other medical conditions which may cause painful or difficult penetration. If vaginismus is confirmed, then there are a few steps you can take to retrain the pelvic floor muscles to act differently towards the anticipation of intercourse.
Unfortunately, you cannot simply tell your muscles not to spasm at the thought of penetration, while we have control over most of our muscles, a reflex cannot simply be ignored. Education and sexual therapy is often helpful to help reduce anxiety, promote relaxation and to work through fears associated with past trauma. Therapy can also help with relationship issues that may contribute to your vaginismus or can develop in a couple suffering vaginismus.
Another important first step treatment technique is physiotherapy. Which might surprise you, but even though they are internal, this is still a condition dealing with muscles. Women’s health physio’s have a vast bank of knowledge when it comes to vaginismus. They can offer assessment of the pelvic floor muscles, instruction on proper pelvic floor training (to gain higher control over these muscles), and other manual therapy, massage and musculoskeletal techniques which have been found to be beneficial.
The most important thing is not to suffer in silence, sometimes the anxiety that may develop with vaginismus will make visiting your doctor or even talking about it very difficult. Know that treatment is available and often highly successful. Contact us for more information.