Sex is supposed to be fun, and it’s supposed to feel good. But sometimes it’s not, and it doesn’t. In fact, sometimes pain during sex can be downright excruciating, making enjoyment impossible. One such condition that can make sex unbearable for a woman is known as vaginismus – it is a painful condition that is about as fun as it sounds. No man ever wants to watch his partner go through something so painful, but knowledge is power, and being informed can make all the difference should it become an issue in the future. Learn more about the condition and how it affects women who deal with it every day – as well as tips for keeping both partners sexually healthy.
What is vaginismus?
There is no way to sugar-coat it; vaginismus is a painful condition that can make all forms of penetration unpleasant at best, and excruciating at worst. The condition is caused by an involuntary contraction of the pelvic floor muscles, essentially clamping a woman’s vagina tightly shut. This spasm keeps most anything from penetrating, including tampons, fingers, gynecological instruments – and yes – a penis too. It is important to stress that this is involuntary. The woman is certainly not willing this to happen; it is a reflexive action that often needs treatment to control.
What causes it?
Just like many health conditions, there is not necessarily a clear cause and effect when it comes to vaginismus. Of course, this makes it slightly more difficult to treat, as a doctor will have to explore numerous etiologies to determine the cause for each individual. Some of the more common reasons behind vaginismus are:
- Chronic yeast infections or chronic urinary tract infections
- Vulvar vestibulitis – severe inflammation that is only painful during penetration
- Personal history of sexual assault, abuse or rape
- Psychological stressors such as depression, anxiety or stress
- Negative feelings of shame, guilt or disgust regarding sexual behavior
- Fear of sexual behaviors
- Strict conservative upbringing or religious ideology regarding sex
- Trauma that occurred during labor and delivery
- Hormonal shifts such as menopause or excessive vaginal dryness
How is it treated?
Treatment for vaginismus can be particularly challenging, because there may be more than one contributing factor. For instance, a woman have both physical and psychological causes leading to the vaginismus. Whether the woman has primary vaginismus (having never experienced successful penetration) or secondary vaginismus (having had successful penetration previously) also makes a difference in the ease or difficulty of treatment. A woman’s treatment plan must be individualized to her specific history by her doctor or team of doctors; treatment may be given by an OB only or may include a therapist or psychiatrist as well. Medication, psychotherapy, physical therapy, or the use of a vaginal dilator to gradually stretch the vagina may all be used depending on the woman. It is important for a man supporting his partner through vaginismus to be kind and supportive, particularly if this occurred as a sudden shift in the joint sex life. Becoming angry with his partner, threatening to leave, trying to force sex, or causing feelings of guilt is only going to make the problem worse. Vaginismus may have a purely physical cause – such as a vaginal tear – but can very quickly turn psychological if a woman is pressured into sex or made to feel she is broken, useless, or bad for not engaging in sex.
Keeping Sex Alive
Partners who are struggling with vaginismus, whether it is a short-term or long-term problem in the relationship, need to stick together. The condition can become quite frustrating and derail intimacy in a relationship. On that note, both partners should remember that there are plenty of ways to connect sexually without penetration. Oral sex, anal sex as well as non-penetrative foreplay can all keep a sexual relationship alive in the absence of traditional sex. In the meantime, a man should keep his equipment in working order so things are ready to go when his partner’s condition is resolved. Using a daily penis health cream (health professionals recommend Man 1 Man Oil) can deliver the nutrients the penis needs to stay healthy and functioning. Essential penis nutrients can improve penile circulation, maintain the health of the tissue and improve the appearance of penis skin. Just apply daily so that when she is ready, Mr. Johnson is ready as well.