Vaginismus is an involuntary contraction of muscles around the opening of the vagina in women with no abnormalities in the genital organ. For a very real and honest look at this condition which affects 1 in 500 women in the UK, we’re sharing this real story. The author has asked to remain anonymous.
“About two months ago, I’d begun therapy sessions. I was trying to come to terms with a myriad of things – one of them being an attempted sexual assault by a friend when we were both 10 years old.
Before starting therapy, I’d been on a few trips to a nurse and a doctor at the sexual health clinic. I hadn’t gone to therapy about the assault. I’d gone for an STI check. While I was there, I mentioned that I found penetration too painful to be able to have sex. This is when the doctor diagnosed me with vaginismus. When I then told her about what had happened when I was 10, she referred me for counselling.
Living with vaginismus
By the time the doctor explained vaginismus to me, I’d already figured out that I had it. Vaginismus if the involuntary tightening of the vaginal muscles and is an automatic reaction when penetration is attempted. You have no control over it. There are several things that can result in vaginismus – not just sexual trauma.
There are several ways it affected me. Sometimes after attempting to have penetrative sex with my boyfriend (attempts at penetration are always initiated by me, not him), I’d cry in the bathroom afterwards. I thought not having penetrative sex made me less ‘cool’ and ‘mature’ than my peers and friends. Even now, during discussions about sex I still just tend to nod and join in and pretend I don’t have vaginismus. This is partially out of fear that they’ll look down on me, but also because I don’t want to share my trauma.
I also can’t use tampons or any other internal period products. The second time I tried to use a tampon it hurt me so much that I cried. Even if I did relax enough to get one in, it’s likely that as soon as I moved, my vagina muscles would tense up again. This would then cause severe pain. And a menstrual cup? No chance. I feel like in the fervour surrounding cups (which I totally understand, given that they’re more eco-friendly and cheaper than conventional products), people like me get forgotten. It adds to the pressure for me to not say anything. When advertisements or influencers say that everyone should be using cups, it makes me feel like I’m not normal. It also doesn’t take into consideration people who may not have the kind of mobility required to use cups. Or people who maybe just aren’t comfortable with penetration. When talking about reusables, I think that period pants and recyclable pads definitely deserve just as much hype as the cup.
Six months on from figuring out what was going on with my body, I’ve been coming to terms with it. I’m starting to recognise that my progress and experiences with penetration are between me, my counsellor and my doctor. If I want to keep it from others, that’s okay. Even if that involves lying to them. My relationship with penetrative sex does not determine my worth.
Seeking help for vaginismus
When speaking to Glamour Magazine our consultant Gynaecologist, Dr Anne Henderson, explains how vaginismus can be “physical or psychological. Physically, it could be due to scar tissue, a tear after childbirth, severe psoriasis or eczema on the vulva.
Psychologically, a bad event, such as a misplaced tampon or painful intercourse, can trigger vaginismus.”
Dr Anne Henderson also advises to see your GP, an experienced practice nurse or visiting a Family Planning Clinic if you have symptoms. A diagnosis can be made by assessing history and medical examination. You will then potentially be referred to a gynaecologist or a specialist in vaginismus.
If you would like more information on vaginismus drop us a message on socials and we can work with our consultant gynaecologist to provide more information on this condition. Follow @totmorganic on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.