Vaginismus: how to overcome painful penetration

Only 2 out of the 100 women who have experienced extreme pain and difficulty during any form of penetration seek medical treatment. This condition is more common than we know about and those numbers are just the tip of the iceberg.

If you have ever experienced your vagina muscles clamp shut during any form of penetration, then you may be suffering from a condition known as Vaginismus.

What is Vaginismus?

Vaginismus is a condition involving muscle spasms in the pelvic floor muscles. Here, the Kegel muscles involuntarily close up when there is a threat of penetration. This condition can make it painful and impossible to have vaginal penetration. This condition prevents penetration of any kind including tampons, smear tests, finger as well as a penis.

While some persons with this condition may experience sexual pleasure and even have clitoral orgasms, those at the other end of the spectrum may not experience any sensual feelings in their bodies.  Women who suffer from this condition have no control over it.

Types of Vaginismus.

There are different types of Vaginismus and it can occur at different stages. Here are four main types;

  1. Primary vaginismus

This is a lifetime condition where the pain has always been present. Women with primary type of vaginismus will find it difficult using a tampon, undergoing pap smear exams and is worse during first attempt at intercourse. This sensation is described as hitting a wall at the vaginal opening.

2. Secondary vaginismus

In this case vaginismus has not always been present and develops after a woman has already experienced penetrative sex. This type is normally rooted from specific events such as a urinary tract infection, yeast infection, menopause, surgeries, childbirth, traumatic event and development of a medical condition.

3. Global vaginismus

This type is usually present and any object will trigger it.

4. Situational vaginismus

This type happens in certain situations. It can happen during vaginal penetrative sex but not during tampon insertions or gynaecological exams.

Key points

  • Women can experience vaginismus even when they have experienced penetrative sex before.
  • A woman may have vaginismus when it comes to penetrative sex but not when inserting tampons and during gynacelogical exams
  • Vaginismus doesn’t stop sexual arousal but can hinder the inability to have penetrative sex.
  • In most cases the brain is responsible for vaginismus.
  • It can happen to anyone. According to Vaginismus awareness, 53% of women with vaginismus are between 25 and 35 years old with 53% of the clinical patients married.
  • Some persons with vaginismus condition may experience sexual pleasure and even have clitoral orgasms.  

What are the causes of Vaginismus?

The causes of vaginismus range from physiological to physical. It is mostly a psychosexual condition where the clench is possible due to the brain telling it to. The brain has already processed penetration as a threat and clenches when it notices any form of penetration.

There are also other reasons why someone can develop the symptoms of vaginismus. A person who has had a traumatic sexual experience would see penetration as a threat and the kegel muscles may involuntarily clench to prevent it from happening.

Family and religious upbringing also plays a major role. Someone who sees sex as dirty and feels guilt when it comes to sex will have a harder time allowing sexual penetration to occur. Fear of sex and pregnancy will trigger the mind to prevent any form of insertion.

Relationship stress, low self-esteem, anxiety performance, inadequate foreplay can lead to a fear of sexual performance and cause vaginismus.

Other health related causes of vaginismus are menopause; childbirth, a yeast and UTI infection, and pelvic surgery are the major culprits of secondary vaginismus.

The common symptoms of vaginismus are but not limited to: Pain during any form of penetration either with a penis, sex toys, finger, tampons or medical examination.

Treatment of vaginismus

Despite how intense the symptoms of vaginismus can be, the symptoms are treatable and only very few cases require surgery.

Women are advised to see their gynaecologist or visit a sexual health clinic if they find it difficult inserting a tampon, struggle with vaginal penetration or experience a burning sensation during sex.

The treatment of vaginismus usually focuses on working with the mind and body to manage and ease the woman’s fears around penetration. Most therapists try to work through any blocks like trauma, fears, beliefs, body image and relationship issues.

The aim of the treatment is to establish a form of connection with the vagina, body and the mind.

The net doctor online explained vaginismus treatment using this example:

This analogy might help explain vaginismus treatments:

  • Imagine walking down an alley and someone approaches you.
  • You may have previously been mugged in an alley and your first response is to tap into your fight/flight response – so you freeze or run away.
  • But then you remember you were due to meet someone there who is friendly. Rather than being scary, it’s actually nice to see them.
  • You are able to tell the person that you were scared, but now you can relax with them and enjoy a hug.
    This is the sort of mind-jump that hopefully happens while working with vaginismus.

Culled from

Here are six ways you can handle the symptoms of vaginismus

  1. Psychosexual therapy

This is a talking therapy that is used to address the feelings around sex. This therapy focuses on how you feel about your body and understanding your perception of sex. Through this your therapist seeks to identify your end goals and driving force behind your vaginismus.

2. Sexual aids

Vaginal trainers such as dilators, dildos and vibrators can greatly improve the symptoms of vaginismus. Vibrators can heal the scar tissue by increasing blood supply to the area, help muscles relax, increase sensations and help organs relax.

These sexual aids do not stretch the vagina. They only help the person feel less fearful and more accommodating of consensual penetration. Vibrators help in increasing sensations making the experience feel pleasurable. Women who desire sexual intimacy normally opt for vibrators to make them feel the pleasures of sex again.

3. Practicing mindfulness

Just like we established for most persons the fear of vaginismus begins in the mind. The mind first makes an introspection before penetration. This will hurt, I am not good enough, Am I committing a sin? With all of these conversations going on in the mind, the vagina tightens up and prevents arousal cycle from relaxing the pelvic muscles.

Mindfulness and breathing exercises will help with focus and clearing the mind of all negative thoughts.  Breathing exercises improve focus and clear negative thoughts from the mind.


4. Relaxation and Sensation techniques

Take sex off the table and try other things while giving the woman the space to be more comfortable with her body. Especially if penetration has occurred before.

Gradually take time to know and touch your vagina. If you feel uncomfortable touching it naked, you can touch it over your clothes and just familiarize yourself with it casually. Try breathing exercises during touch to be mindfully aware of the feeling in your fingers and vagina. With a partner incorporate other non-touching exercises like a foot rub, back massage and other non-sexual touches that allow your body relax without thinking of sex.

5. Stimulate the mind

Do something fun that spikes your arousal. Work the mind, read erotica, watch porn, read fantasy books and picture yourself as one of the characters in the book. Stimulating your mind will increase arousal and help reduce sexual tension and penetrative issues. If you imagine it well enough, you can try it.


6. Try pelvic floor exercises

Perform pelvic floor muscles to help control your vaginal muscles better. Vaginismus is more about control. Check out our easy guide to performing pelvic exercises.

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