Vaginismus: understand, heal, thrive
It folds its leaves at the slightest touch: it's a funny plant called Mimosa Pudica. The woman who suffers from vaginismus - this sexual disorder which deprives her and her partner of penetration - is a bit like her. A reflex, like panic fear, comes to contract the muscles surrounding her vagina each time a penis wants to visit her. Shame, frustration, pain. Vaginismus is complicated to live with, but it can be treated.
Vaginismus, what is it?
An involuntary muscular reflex, vaginismus prevents the penetration of a foreign body into the vagina (penis, finger, tampon, speculum, etc.). In question the pelvic muscles, which instead of relaxing to promote penetration, do the opposite. Penetration then becomes difficult and painful, if not impossible.
There are two kinds of vaginismus:
- Primary vaginismus, present at the very beginning of a woman's sexual life, who has never tolerated any type of vaginal penetration.
- Secondary vaginismus, which generally appears after the age of 40 during pre-menopause, or following childbirth, infection or trauma.
We also distinguish global and situational vaginismus, the first designating that preventing the penetration of any foreign body into the vagina, the second designating for example the contraction of the muscles when approaching a male sex but not during a gynecological examination (or vice versa, and depending on the time).
How is it triggered?
The exact cause of vaginismus is unfortunately not known to date, and could come from different factors depending on the woman. Psychological factors, such as anxiety, or unaddressed sexual trauma. And physiological factors, such as a response to vulvar pain (the same reflex when we have a bruise somewhere and we are afraid that we will be touched there: it solicits our pain sensors), stitches following childbirth, a long infection… Finally, menopause, making the vagina less flexible or which can cause vaginal dryness , is also a frequent factor.
How to heal (and get out of the vicious circle of vaginismus)?
The biggest problem in this sexual disorder is the installation of a fear by anticipation, which can lead the pelvic muscles to contract even before the start of penetration, just at the mention of it.
It is therefore important to remain positive, keeping in mind that this disorder is not irreversible, that there is nothing to be ashamed of, and that you can talk about it with your partner to move forward together towards a fulfilling sexuality. . Few men have heard of this phenomenon which unfortunately remains as taboo and obscure as the menstrual cycle for some... Let's educate them ;)
To cure vaginismus:
You must start by excluding possible infectious causes with your gynecologist or doctor. Then, we use two approaches, one purely bodily, the other mental:
- In the bodily approach, you rediscover your anatomy with a physiotherapist specialized in pelvi-perineology. Intimate boards, mirror, exploration of one's sex, relaxation or pelvic floor strengthening exercises... Little by little we touch each other without fear and then we can move on to the next step: vaginal dilators of different sizes, which are medical devices resembling a sanitary tampon. It is especially in this exercise to reassure on the fact of being able to accommodate a penis without pain. Sometimes antidepressants or relaxants are used, but only for the short term.
- In the mental approach, hypnosis can be effective, but also a cognitive-behavioral therapy. These two methods make it possible to modify the automatic thoughts and reflexes of fear of women with vaginismus, replacing them with positive images about their sex and the sexual act. These forms of rehabilitation have proven their worth: many women have regained fulfilling sexuality after less than 10 sessions, and are now mothers.
No, vaginismus is not inevitable!