Vaginismus is a sexual phenomenon that affects people with a vagina. In recent years, it entered the spotlight thanks to the Netflix series Sex Education. On the show a character named Lily finds out that she is suffering from vaginismus. Although more people are aware of it now than in the past, it's still relatively unknown which is a shame because it affects a lot of people.
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What is vaginismus?
According to the NHS, vaginismus is 'when the vagina suddenly tightens up when you try to insert something into it.' The NHS specifies that it is 'the body's automatic reaction to the fear of some or all types of vaginal penetration.' Unfortunately, that means that vaginismus is very hard to control as it is involuntary and an unconscious contraction of the perineum muscles (the muscles surrounding the vagina).
As a result, people suffering from it feel a lot of pain during penetration. Here, it is crucial to specify that vaginismus doesn't just occur during intercourse. People who suffer from it feel pain when they use a tampon, go to the gynecologist or even masturbate.
Vaginismus comes with a lot of pain and self-consciousness leading to a lot of anxiety and stress at the thought of penetration. These feelings intensify the pain. However, suffering from vaginismus doesn't mean that you can't get aroused or enjoy other forms of sexual acts.
2 types of vaginismus
There are 2 types of vaginismus: primary vaginismus and secondary vaginismus:
- Primary vaginismus iswhen, right from the start of your sexual life, penetration has been impossible or very painful.
- Secondary vaginismus, on the other hand, can develop after you've already had sex. It's a phenomenon that can develop even though your previous experiences have gone well.
What causes vaginismus?
The NHS explains that vaginismus has several causes. These can be physical or psychological.
- 'fearing that your vagina is too small
- a bad first sexual experience
- an unpleasant medical examination
- believing sex is shameful or wrong
- a painful medical condition, like thrush'
How can you treat vaginismus?
Fortunately, vaginismus is not something you will have to live with forever, and solutions do exist. If you think you suffer from the phenomenon, the first step is to book an appointment with your GP who will ask about your symptoms and possibly examine your vagina. The NHS does specify that the examination is usually very quick and that it is more than ok for you to bring someone you trust with you.
After that initial examination you may be referred to a specialist, usually a sex therapist. The NHS explains that 'treatment usually focuses on: managing your feelings around penetration and exercises to gradually get you used to penetration.'
This article has been adapted from Oh!MyMag France
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