Home › Forums › Sexual Health › Vaginismus (painful sex)
Tagged: Painful Sex, Pelvic Floor, Vaginismus, WomensHealth
I was recently diagnosed with Vaginismus, which is defined as involuntary
spasm/contraction/reflex of the muscles surrounding the entrance to the
vagina, making penetration impossible and/or painful. So in other words it means inserting tampons is painful and unfortunately so is sex. The sensation is like carpet burn and the severity can differ depending on a variety of things.
For years I thought I just wasn’t relaxed enough. Even doctors told me to just drink a glass of wine before sex. However, I had an instinct that something wasn’t right. I actually stumbled on an article about Vaginismus which led to my diagnoses. Although I wish I was diagnosed earlier, I am relieved that I can start treatment and that I wasn’t being over dramatic all those times.
The treatment for Vaginismus is pelvic floor therapy (I didn’t know it even existed!). I am in my early days of treatment so at the moment it consists of breathing exercises but will move up to using dilators.
I was wondering if anyone has this or even heard of this?
@Nurse_Nettie have you heard of this? Do you know if the treatment is successful?
It is actually not uncommon. And since being diagnosed I have come across a fair few friends who have it too!
Happy to answer any questions people are curious about.
@TinyTeddy Yes, vaginismus is not uncommon, but unfortunately a lot goes undiagnosed & untreated.The good news is physio therapy & vaginal dilators can be really effective 🙂 It’s not an instant fix though. It takes time & practice. For some people, the condition can be triggered by trauma or anxiety & in those cases counselling is another important strategy.
It’s important to note that pain with sex is not “normal.” Women are conditioned to downplay discomfort when it comes to sex. Many get the message that sex is always pleasurable for men, but there’s not the same expectation for women. Health care providers can have these biases as well & may underestimate the severity of the issue. It’s great that you kept advocating for yourself & eventually found the answer!
Thanks @Nurse_Nettie! You are on the money regarding how women are conditioned to downplay discomfort when it comes to sex. I am surprised that despite their good intentions, friends, partners and professionals did not seriously consider my ‘invisible’ symptoms as a medical condition and dismissed it as a phase.
It is comforting to know that the treatment can be really effective and that I have a good chance of pain free sex in the future. It does make me wonder though, that even in a major city and having access to numerous medical resources, women’s sexual health issues still sit in the shadows.
Such an important topic! Thank you @TinyTeddy for posting it and for sharing your personal story.
We seem to always hear about sex being pleasurable for men but rarely question when it’s not good for women. It’s almost as if that’s the norm – that women don’t enjoy sex as much as men and that’s it doesn’t feel as good for them. And when sex is painful for women, health professionals don’t take it as seriously.
And as you point out @TinyTeddy, vaginismus is more common than we realise! I’ve come across literature on vaginismus and there is evidence to support the effectiveness of treatment for it. Good on you for seeing someone about it! Wishing you all the best!
It is unfortunate that media perpetuates this idea that sexual pleasure is guaranteed for men, but a bonus for women! A positive outcome of dealing with vaginismus is that you are forced to learn a great deal about and build your sexual confidence.
@veryelle I am curious about the literature you have come across. Do you mind sharing it?
So I ended up creating a podcast episode about my experience with vaginismus. It was daunting sharing such a personal part of my life, however it was worth it just from meeting and interviewing other women who are part of this club no one wants to be in. Hope I did vaginismus girls proud! Love to hear your thoughts.
My story starts at 5:28 x
Just had a listen! I learnt heaps from that, thanks for sharing your story 🙂 I can imagine so many people being able to relate and it would be so hard when medical professionals are so wrong sometimes. Loved the podcast! Keep us informed if you do more 😀
Thanks @HoneyPot! Means a lot. 🙂 Hopefully the medical industry is learning more about women’s health too!
@TinyTeddy thank you so much for sharing the podcast! it’s got great info & has the potential to really help other people suffering from unexplained vaginal pain or diagnosed vaginismus. There is hope! <3 @ekoorb9 have you heard this?
As someone who had been feeling completely alone in this for over a decade and totally unable to get any kind of help here, without even understanding why can’t I do something so basic that everyone does, I feel like I owe it to woman all over the world to share my success story, too, and hope it will encourage them to work on their issues and not loose hope.
I’ve been unable to have sex for 11 years. I’ve got my first boyfriend when I was 15. I was 16 when we tried penetrative sex for the first time, and it felt like he just hit the wall. That was just the first out of many many unsuccessful tries that followed over a 9 year period of time. Naturally, over the time we kinda found the way around it and stopped trying to have penetrative sex. I never knew what was wrong. I assumed that my hymen was just too stiff or that I am just not tollerant enough to pain. It did bother me, because I felt like I was born with a defect, but it did not affect my relationship too much, as our sex life didn’t really suffer.
After we broke up, I thought that was it. I will never ever have another boyfriend, as the thought of having to explain that I can’t have penetrative sex with them for the reasons that even I don’t quite understand was even more terrifying for me, then actually trying to have sex.
Of course, you don’t control how you feel about someone, so in December 2017. I started dating my current (hopefully last) partner, and pretty soon I had to start explaing some things. I don’t even know what I told him exactly and of course he didn’t quite understand either, but he understood that I have a problem and that penetrative sex is currently off the table and he respected that. But new relationship was a motivation for me to seek help.
And I did. In 2018, I went to gynecologist, explained the issue, and had myself checked. That was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. I remember him showing me the tool and explaining that it is the smallest one that exists, and it’s used to examine children, but still, inserting it was not easy. I was so scared and any attempt to relax was a fail. The nurse was actually holding my hand and conforting me, staying that it’s ok, that I can do it. Feeling of shame was the only thing that kept me from running away from that office with my panties in my hands. And I am glad it did, because that day was a breakthrough. After the examination was finished, I felt so proud of myself. And despite it being very unpleasant, I remember thinking that I could actually do it again if needed.
The doctor said that my hymen was indeed a bit too stiff and recommaned removing it surgically, but other then that, anatomically, everything was fine.
I had my hymen removed after 2 weeks. 10 days after that, we had another atempt at penetrative sex, and guess what? Nothing changed. Still couldn’t do it, and I was desperate. My boyfriend was supportive about it, telling me to give it time, that it’ll happen when it happens, but at that point I was ready to give up on it.
And I did. Until in April this year, we decided that we want to start a family. We were going to try for splash pregnancy and have IUI as a back up option. But the more I was reading about pregnancy and examinations, I more I was realizing that I can not avoid having vaginal examinations while pregnant.
So I started Googling. “Painful sex”. “Can’t use tampons”. “Sex feels like hitting the wall”. All search resaults led to vaginismus. I couldn’t understand why would I have it, and why the hell my doctor didn’t realize that I have it, but it was obvious that Vaginismus was a name for my problem. And just giving it a name took away a huge stone from my chest.
This is the point when these kind of forums were a life changer for me. I could not find almost anything about vaginismus in my own language. No studies about it. No experiences shared. Noone talks about it here. I was able to find ONE gynecologist that actually knows what it is and how to treat it, and she was accross the country, so seeing her on regular bases was hard for me to afford. But I kept reading about it in these forum. Successful stories gave me hope. I read about dilators, I read tips on how to insert them, how to relax my pelvic floor muscles in order to insert anything at all. I could not find dilators here, so we improvised. I explained to my boyfriend what is it that I have. He read about it too, and really made an effort to understand what it is and how to help me. And he really did. He helped me practise. I was so terrified fo trying to insert a finger or anything at all that I actually had him do it the first time. This is when trust and support and being able to not feel ashamed in front of your partner mean everything. He was very gentle, stopped every time he noticed I was struggling to breathe, and he listened to my instrucrions very carefully.
Noone was more surprised then me when we got from inserting one finger to him actually successfully inserting his penis within just 10 days. I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t great for me in the beginning, but each next time was a little less uncomfortable and a little more pleasant.
I can safely say that today, six months later, we can have succesfull penetrative sex that is pleasant for both of us. It still takes a lot of foreplay and lube is often a must – othervise it can stil hurt, especially at the entrance, and then pain makes it hard to orgasm, but these are really seldom occassiones.
When I look back at my journey now, I think there were a few things that were key points for me.
First was actually learning that I am not a freak, but that I have an actual medical condition that is not that rare, and can be treated.
Then thinking about that first vaginal exam that showed me that something indeed can fit inside my vagina without “breaking” anything.
And finally, learning how vaginismus works helped me understand my body and be able to relax my pelvic floor muscles enough to allow anything in.
Everything after that was just practise.
So to all the women out there who are struggling with this, please know – as hopeless as you might feel – know that this is a treatable condition. Our country does not provode any help nor information for women with vaginismus, we have no pelvic floor terapists here, I couldn’t even buy vaginal dilators here – and yet I made it, with the support of my partner and information I could collect on the internet. So if I was able to do it, you can too. Don’t wait a decade to ask for help, don’t be ashamed of it and please please don’t let anyone make you feel guilty ’cause you can’ t do it. Ask for help, because of YOU. Because YOU deserve to enjoy your sex life and you are not alone ❤️
Thanks for sharing your story @tina993. I’ve replied on the other thread where you shared it too, but I’ll copy my answer here as well.
I’m so glad to hear you finally found the help and support you needed. Many people suffer through vaginismus without having access to treatment. Good information about the condition and how it’s treated can be found here. There are also other reasons people may experience pain during sex, so it’s always important to visit a doctor with your concerns.
thanks for sharing this information
I have a friend who has experienced Vaginismus and it’s a scary and concerning thing to go through. I just wanted to say to everyone in this thread though, I know she did find the right support with a physio who gave her exercises for her vagina. After some time of regularly working with them and strengthening that area, she did overcome the problem. So it’s definitely fixable – you just need to find the right support.
@tinyhunter thank you for sharing this. I’m about to start my journey of getting help for my own pelvic floor/vaginismus issues and it’s really reassuring to know that people have overcome it over time.
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