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
Co-Founder Vul­vani | | 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.