Empowering Insights: Understanding and Overcoming Vaginismus

Vaginismus, a condition that might not be widely known, can impact up to 20% of women at some point in their lives. It is characterized by the involuntary spasm of the vaginal muscles, hindering the penetration of the vaginal opening to varying degrees. Understanding and overcoming vaginismus is crucial for those affected.

If you experience vaginismus, it may manifest as a sensation of being ‘too tight’ for comfortable penetration or as if there is an insurmountable barrier preventing any entry, regardless of size. Some women with this condition can use tampons but find penetrative sex too painful or impossible, while others may struggle even with routine procedures like a pap smear.

Understanding and Overcoming Vaginismus

Scientists have categorised the condition into two main experiences – primary and secondary vaginismus:

  • Primary vaginismus is when a woman has never been able to experience penetration, and often she discovers this when she first tries to use tampons, or enjoy manual penetration or sexual intercourse.
  • Secondary vaginismus occurs when a woman has previously been able to experience penetration but is now experiencing difficulty or is completely unable to.

For most women, the cause seems to be at least partly psychological in nature, or at least there is a correlation and psychological therapy has been very helpful for many women, but don’t let that lead you to believe that it is therefore her choice, or something ‘wrong’ with her thinking. Much like men’s sexual dysfunction, there are many factors both internal and external which can contribute, and believe me no one suffers by choice.

Regrettably, vaginismus, like many women’s health issues, has a history of being misunderstood, dismissed, and mistreated. Some gynecologists, especially males, may lack understanding and compassion. If your doctor disregards your concerns, labels it psychological, or denies the existence of vaginismus, seek multiple opinions. A supportive doctor-patient relationship is crucial; find a healthcare professional who values your experiences and addresses women’s sexual health with the importance it deserves.

What should we know about Vaginismus

There is still much we don’t know about vaginismus, such as which muscle in particular is responsible for the spasms which do not allow penetration, but the most common hypothesis is that it’s the PC muscle. Now all this sounds like pretty bad news, doesn’t it? But don’t despair, because what we do know is that for most women this condition can and does improve over time, and there are treatments available which have shown success.

I am not a doctor and nothing I say here is professional medical advice. I personally have suffered from secondary vaginismus at one point in my life and I just wish to share what I have found out and found to be helpful for me.

The most important thing, in my opinion, is firstly to know that you are not alone and you are not broken, or letting anyone down. It is not your fault, and if you so desire, you can still enjoy a rich sexual and sensual life. Although treatment is aimed towards the goal of eventually being able to enjoy penetration. It’s essential to recognize that penetration is not the be-all and end-all of sex.

Indeed, the realms of foreplay, clitoral stimulation, and the captivating dance of mental connection often constitute the most gratifying dimensions of sexual experience for the majority of women. While the focus on penetration is prevalent, it’s crucial not to overlook the profound pleasures found in these overlooked realms on the quest for a ‘cure.’ Let’s delve into the intricacies of this intricate tapestry momentarily.

What if you are unable to have sex?

If you and your partner/s all share the experience of having vaginas (apologies for the cis-centric language for simplicity), it’s crucial to recognize that trans guys and non-binary individuals can also grapple with vaginismus. While penetration might be of lesser significance in your intimate connections, concerns may arise if your partner has a penis. The worry of leaving them unfulfilled in the absence of penetrative sex might weigh on your mind.

Please remember, there are many, many other ways to get your guy off and for your guy to get off. Blow jobs are the most obvious option, and there is a wealth of ideas and instruction out there if you are a little unsure about your oral abilities or wish to expand your repertoir.

Most guys LOVE head, in fact many prefer it to penetration, and you don’t have to be a deep-throat expert or contortionist to be able to share a mind blowing experience. There are also a wealth of guy’s sex toys that can help to keep your sex life interesting and satisfying without ever needing to have vaginal (or anal) penetration. Not to mention the absolute gold mine of women’s external toys out there too which can ensure you both have a satisfying experience!

 

Understanding and Overcoming Vaginismus
Happy Couple

What is the Ace community?

Before I continue, I want to emphasize that working in an adult store and embracing a love for sex doesn’t invalidate the experiences of those who identify as asexual (or ace). It’s essential to recognize and respect diverse orientations, and being asexual is entirely valid. If you have no interest in sex, whether penetrative or otherwise, know that you are not alone, and you are not broken. You don’t have to make enjoying sex a life goal if it’s not aligned with your preferences.

For those who suspect they may identify as asexual, exploring the ace community can be a valuable step. Asexuality exists in various degrees, and understanding where you fall on the spectrum can provide a sense of connection and support. Whether you have a small interest in sex, experience sexual attraction in specific circumstances, or currently feel a lack of sexual desire. Knowing that others share similar experiences can alleviate feelings of being out of place or pressured to conform to societal expectations.

OK, now I have made those points, I will also say that there are times when you may not only wish to experience penetration. It may be advantageous to your health to do so – eg pap smears. Don’t panic. Probably the best place to begin, after finding a doctor who listens and is on your wavelength, is to have a good chat to them about the condition.

What are your treatment options.

Firstly, counseling, as mentioned above, has been very helpful for many women suffering from vaginismus. Sometimes societal and moral views about women and sex can contribute and if you have been raised in an environment that views sex negatively.

This may contribute to your body having an involuntary negative reaction to penetration. In fact any concerns or negative experiences around sex can contribute. And the very fact of suffering from vaginismus can compound any negative associations and only make things more difficult.

Begin by being gentle with yourself.

Talking honestly with your partner can help too. They may have no idea about the existence of vaginismus, may be blaming themselves, or just not understanding where you are coming from. If you are in a relationship, the more comfortable you both are, the better for both of you. Talking may help alleviate any stresses or fears you both have. Having your partner come along for a visit to your doctor may be helpful too so they can ask any questions they may have and have their mind put at ease by a professional.

Kegel exercises can also help to relax those muscles. This may seem counter-intuitive, as most people know kegel, or pelvic floor, exercises as something people do to keep their vaginas tight, not help them to loosen up! But the nature of kegel exercises – squeezing as though you were trying to ‘stop the flow’ in the middle of peeing, then releasing the squeeze . This can help you to become more conscious of those muscles altogether, and you can learn to consciously relax them like you do when you release from the squeeze. Identify the feelings of being tense and relaxed in that area and you may be able to employ these skills in your sex life.

How do you take control of sexual pleasure

Taking control of your sexual pleasure is a great way to ease yourself along. Try something you know you enjoy, or try something new and interesting. Try reading some erotica, find out if there are fantasies that tickle your desire, try pleasuring yourself, either with the aid of toys or without.

Masturbation is a wonderful thing. If you have never tried it, begin by ensuring you won’t be disturbed. Create a relaxing atmosphere – dim the lights, put on some nice music, have a relaxing bath. If you enjoy a glass of wine this can also help. Don’t get blotto. The idea is just to be a little more relaxed, and have that warm glow kind of feeling. Even if you already masturbate or enjoy foreplay with a partner, there is still a world of desires to explore, and finding things you didn’t know you liked can be a big turn on.

Focus on pleasurable sensations and stay in the moment, rather than focusing on an end goal of enjoying penetration. You don’t need to attempt penetration unless you wish to and it may be a good idea not to try to begin with. Over time you may be able to insert a finger or two, or a small toy. Don’t rush things, take your time.

How do you take care of yourself?

Take care of your body and mind. If you are tired, run down, sick, experiencing trying times or troubles in your relationships, these things can contribute to the issue.

For those experiencing long term vaginismus and for whom milder interventions have not proved helpful, some doctors treat vaginismus with Botox injections (yes, like the anti-wrinkle treatment.) Botox works by physically relaxing the muscles involved, and a dilator may be used to dilate the opening of your vagina. This is a progressive process and a mild anesthetic is involved.

What are the risks involved with botox

Now as you probably know, there are always some risks involved with Botox, so many people recommend you do not use this idea as a ‘first resort’. However if you are not having any improvement with other treatment methods this may be presented as an option and may be a solution for you.

Your doctor should be able to keep you informed with the most up-to-date information on treatments, so do try to find that doctor that is great for you and keep in contact.

I hope this has been informative and perhaps helpful. Most importantly please remember there is hope and your condition will likely improve. Be kind to yourselves, my loves, and thanks for reading!

 

About the Author: By Jade a consultant from Oh Zone Adult Lifestyle Centres

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