Vaginismus is the recurrent or persistent involuntary spasm of the muscles of the outer third of the vagina, also known as the pelvic floor muscles . These contractions can happen during any form of penetration; sex, inserting a tampon and commonly during gynecological exams. Spasms may only occur in certain situations, but we find they mostly happen during partnered sex, or during all forms of penetration.
What is the source of vaginismus?
Vaginismus is a psychological condition primarily, though some physical conditions can exacerbate it . The condition can present itself during the teenage years or later in life, usually tied to mental health conditions like Anxiety, PTSD, or phobias. Counterintuitively, the pain associated with the condition can make mental health issues worse. For example, if a person has a fear of painful sex that results in them experiencing vaginismus, when they attempt partnered sex, they will feel the pain they fear. This only solidifies their fears and anxieties about painful sex, leading to a recurring cycle.
There are four different types of vaginismus; primary vaginismus, secondary vaginismus, situational and global vaginismus.
Primary vaginismus is a condition realized early in life, often when first attempting to have sex or inserting a tampon. In fact, insertion may be impossible and there will be a great deal of pain. In short, a person with primary vaginismus would have never experienced pain free sex; every attempt is usually painful.
Secondary vaginismus is when the individual has previously experienced pain free sex but is now experiencing frequent occurrences of painful sex. These new symptoms can occur at any stage in life and could be caused by infection, menopause, trauma, emotional distress, surgery or childbirth .
Situational vaginismus is situation-specific meaning that is may only happen during sex but not during self-exploration, gynecological exams or tampon insertion .
Referring to experiencing pain anytime a person or object enters the vagina, global vaginismus is “present at all times” .
What are the symptoms of vaginismus?
The main symptom of vaginismus is pain when experiencing penetration. This pain can range from mild to more severe, making penetration completely unbearable and impossible. As one woman put it, “having anything try to go inside me during sex was like hitting a wall, physically and often emotionally” .
Being a condition that makes vaginal intercourse nearly impossible, vaginismus can affect sex life and relationships . It’s important to have candid conversations with partners about vaginismus, and how this can be navigated. While penetration may mean pain, pleasure is possible in many other ways. In our “Prioritizing Pleasure for Sexual Health”, we cover the importance of being pleasure forward no matter the circumstance.
How is vaginismus diagnosed?
Statistics show that 5-17% of women have this condition, although due to the unspoken nature of it, it’s likely much higher . This condition does not discriminate and can affect anyone at any point in their life.
The first step in receiving a diagnosis is calling your doctor. A doctor will first conduct a gynecological exam to rule out any additional physical issues before recommending treatment. Communicate openly with your doctor to ensure you receive the right combination of treatment which may include a pelvic floor therapist, psychologist, sex therapist or a combination of the above. With the right aids, like a dilator set and CBD lube, treatment has seen high success rates.
Vaginismus can happen to everyone
While most information is framed in a cisgender women’s experience, everyone can experience a similar pain since everyone has this group of pelvic floor muscles. The same muscles can contract causing pain around the rectum, resulting in a condition called Levator Ani Syndrome. Transmasculine people have vocalized their discomfort with seeking treatment for vaginismus as this is not a gender specific condition .
Treatment of vaginismus
Without treatment, vaginismus can lead to distress and difficulty with relationships and intimacy. The condition can even trigger mental health problems such as depression, making women feel isolated and poorly understood. Luckily, there are incredible pelvic floor physical therapists who are dedicated to overcoming vaginismus.
Treatment targets the pelvic floor muscles, aiming to relax these muscles while simultaneously dealing with underlying stressors . People suffering from vaginismus have often found success with vaginal dilator therapy. Dilator therapy gives the person control of their experience, while getting comfortable with the feeling of the dilators inside their vagina.
The end goal of dilator therapy is to reduce sensitivity to insertion. It will begin by touching the area around the vaginal opening every day without causing pain, and working up slowly to insertion. Once the smallest dilator can be inserted, the next step would be to leave it there so the muscles get used to the feeling of pressure . Gradually, the size of the dilator would be increased, eventually leading to comfortable solo and partnered penetration.
CBD for vaginismus relief
Previously those suffering from vaginismus may have been provided anesthetic creams to assist with the use of these dilators, but now many have found CBD lube to provide even better results.
CBD is effective in reducing stress, anxiety, inflammation and pain, all of which someone with vaginismus experiences. Soothing vaginal discomfort while simultaneously calming the mind, products like our GoLove CBD Lube make an effective treatment aid for all types of vaginismus .
We recommend liberally massaging GoLove CBD Lube around the vulva and vagina before partnered sex, masturbation, pelvic exams, dilator therapy, etc. Wait 15 minutes for the CBD to fully enter the bloodstream, and provide desired effects.
Explore new options of pleasure with vaginismus
Vaginismus may encourage couples to explore new means of pleasure when penetration is off the table. Foreplay, clitoral stimulation, and adult products can further be enhanced by our GoLove CBD Lube, resulting in increased sexual satisfaction, intimacy, and climax for both partners. We recommend our sister company Tickle Kitty for unique adult toys that don’t involve penetration such as vibrators or clitoral air stimulators. More importantly, communicate, set boundaries, explore and use aids such as CBD lube for pain free sexual experiences.