What Are the Symptoms of Vaginismus?

woman standing against fence

One of the conditions I successfully treat in couples living in the Charlotte area is vaginismus: painful intercourse for women. Luckily, when the woman or couple is willing to look at all the causes of this common issue and address each one, we are almost always able to give the woman the gift of enjoying intercourse again.

There is no need to be embarrassed about pain during intercourse. At least 12 to 21% of women in the U.S. suffer from it. This data might be low, as the surveys on this topic are limited.

In addition to painful intercourse, symptoms of vaginismus include:

  • discomfort when trying to insert a tampon
  • pain when a doctor tries to perform a pelvic exam
  • fear of sexual intercourse
  • the loss of desire for sex

Infections and dryness can also make intercourse hurt. It’s good to see a doctor to make sure there is no physical reason for your vaginismus before you consult a sex therapist.

Primary Vaginismus

Primary vaginismus is when a woman has had pain whenever anything entered her vagina, or when she has never been able to put anything into her vagina. This also called lifelong vaginismus.

Secondary Vaginismus

Secondary vaginismus is when a woman has had sex without pain before, but then it becomes difficult or impossible. This is also called acquired vaginismus.

The severity can be mildly uncomfortable to extremely painful. Some of my clients have described the pain as “a wall inside the vaginal canal” with muscle spasms to follow.

Intercourse should be part of joyful intimacy, and never be painful. I have adapted a number of methods to help couples get back to fun again.

How I Treat Vaginismus

Research has shown that anxiety and fear of having sexual relations are linked to the muscles tensing up inside a vagina. In my Charlotte area practice, we address these problems with talk therapy, Sensate Focus techniques (partners practice at home to ease sexual fears) and exercises a woman can do to reduce vaginal contractions.

One exercise is called Progressive Desensitization. The idea is to get comfortable with having things inserted into your vagina.

First, do Kegel exercises by squeezing the muscles you use to stop the flow of urine:

  • Squeeze the muscles.
  • Hold for 2 to 10 seconds.
  • Relax the muscles.

Do about 20 “Kegels” at a time. Do them as often a day as you want.

After several days of performing Kegels, put a finger up to the bend of the first knuckle inside your vagina while squeezing the muscles. It is a good idea to clip your fingernails first and/or use a lubricant. You can also do the exercises in a bathtub, where the water is a natural lubricant.

Start with one finger and work up to three. You’ll feel your vagina’s muscles clenching around your finger(s).

After a while, you’ll be able to insert cone-shaped medicinal dilators into your vagina for 10 or 15 minutes. Over time, by inserting larger and larger dilators, you’ll become comfortable with a cone the size of a penis.

These exercises help your muscles adapt to pressure.

With patience, counseling and loving support from her partner, these methods have given dozens of female Kim Ronk clients a whole new attitude toward intimacy—one that results in satisfaction for both parties.