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.