Our expert says:
Vaginismus is present when the muscles that surround the vagina tighten in a strong, involuntary way that restricts the entrance of the vaginal canal, making it feel like a "wall that blocks the way in". This powerful contraction is a component of the body's stress response mechanism, a basic reaction that protects against any unwanted approach.
Women may have different reasons for not wanting vaginal penetration, ranging from religious inhibitions to cultural restrictions, from not knowing the body to fear of the unknown to sexual misconceptions... Past traumatic experiences such as rape, sexual abuse or witnessing a violent act may be other causes for Vaginismus.
Regardless of the specific cause, there are two common denominators uniting all women who suffer from Vaginismus: the inability to have vaginal penetration and the associated emotional stress. The level and severity, however, of each may vary from one woman to another, which explains the differences in symptomology.
The inability to have penetration may be either or all of the following:
· Inability to use tampons;
· Inability to have a pelvic exam;
· Inability to self-insert a finger or an applicator with medication;
· Inability to have intercourse;
The associated emotional stress may range from minimal apprehension that is easily overcome with explanations and reassurance, to severe panic and/or anxiety attacks. The latter will often be manifested by physical reactions such as reluctance to be touched, legs tightening together, excessive sweating, rapid heart beats and physically pushing away the person who is attempting the approach.
Vaginismus may affect different women in different ways, for example:
1. Able to have a pelvic exam and use tampons, but unable to have intercourse. Any attempt for intercourse is met with some anxiety.
2. Able to have a pelvic exam despite a great deal of pain and anxiety, yet unable to insert a tampon or have intercourse.
3. Able to have intercourse despite severe pain and distress, especially upon penetration.
4. Unable to have penetration of any kind. Any attempt is met with severe panic.
5. Resistant to any touch in the area, including the inner thighs and the pubic hair.
In other words, recognizing that Vaginismus comes in different colours should help women who suffer from it to feel knowledgeable about their condition and to seek the appropriate intervention.
Call SA Sexual Health Association for a referral near you 0860 100 262
Dr Elna Mc Intosh
The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal
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