A 30-year-old woman named Riya (name changed) presented with complaints of being unable to achieve vaginal penetration. She had been unable to have a gynaecological pelvic exam as she was extremely fearful of the pain related to penetration. While her medical examination revealed no physical abnormalities and she had previously enjoyed manual stimulation with her husband, as their relationship progressed, penetration became impossible. In addition, she became averse to any sexual activity and withdrew from any kind of contact. This is a case study of a woman battling Vaginismus, a condition caused by the fear of vaginal penetration.
The report read, "The couple were married young and the wife was uneducated in sexual practices and didn’t have much exposure and she didn’t have the right person to share her problem with. Through her friends, she believed that sexual intercourse will be painful and there will be a chance of bleeding."
Speaking with the OnlyMyHealth team, Diana Crasta, Chief Psychologist, Nova IVF Fertility, Bengaluru, talks about the factors that lead to this condition and how it needs to be managed.
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Understanding Vaginismus And Its Cause
“Vaginismus is a complex condition that may arise from various factors, encompassing both physical and emotional stressors,” says Crasta, explaining that the precise cause of vaginismus remains uncertain, but sexual health specialists and psychologists have identified certain potential contributors. These factors include:
- Anxiety disorders
- High levels of stress
- Injuries resulting from childbirth
- Previous surgeries
- Negative perceptions about sex, which could be linked to past experiences of sexual abuse or trauma
In certain instances, a direct cause cannot be pinpointed, further highlighting the intricate nature of this condition. The psychologist shares that vaginismus is a condition where the mind and body are closely connected, which is why the most common symptom of vaginismus is intense fear and anxiety in the presence of any attempt at penetration, which leads to sexual avoidance.
Physically, a person may experience the muscles around the vagina to involuntarily tighten, causing pain and discomfort during attempted penetration. It can result in difficulty or impossibility of vaginal intercourse, pelvic pain, and sometimes general pain in the genital region, and cause emotional distress and affect sexual relationships.
Can Vaginismus Be Treated?
According to a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, vaginismus is a commonly experienced medical issue, affecting about 1-7% of the female population worldwide.
“Female pain is often viewed not as a medical fact, but as a misimpression or misinterpretation of bodily events,” the research paper added.
Counselling, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and physical therapy, as well as partner support, are essential in the treatment of vaginismus in order to overcome mental barriers and restore sexual health and intimacy, says Crasta.
“By receiving the proper care, vaginismus-related issues can be prevented. Women can live normal lives like their peers by seeking treatment and counselling from doctors and counsellors,” adds Crasta.
Recognising vaginismus as a real medical condition that affects some women is important. It is essential to seek help and support from healthcare professionals, such as gynaecologists, therapists, or sex therapists, who can provide proper diagnosis, guidance, and treatment options. Vaginismus can be managed and treated successfully through various approaches, some of them mentioned above. With care and understanding, individuals with vaginismus can improve their quality of life and, in many cases, overcome the condition to have more comfortable and fulfilling sexual experiences.