Learn About Vaginismus

What is the definition of Vaginismus?

Vaginismus is a spasm of the muscles surrounding the vagina that occurs against your will. The spasms makes the vagina very narrow and can prevent sexual activity and medical exams.

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What are the alternative names for Vaginismus?

Sexual dysfunction - vaginismus

What are the causes of Vaginismus?

Vaginismus is a sexual problem. It has several possible causes, including:

  • Past sexual trauma or abuse
  • Mental health factors
  • A response that develops due to physical pain
  • Intercourse

Sometimes no cause can be found.

Vaginismus is an uncommon condition.

What are the symptoms of Vaginismus?

The main symptoms are:

  • Difficult or painful vaginal penetration during sex. Vaginal penetration may not be possible.
  • Vaginal pain during sexual intercourse or a pelvic exam.

Women with vaginismus often become anxious about sexual intercourse. This does not mean they cannot become sexually aroused. Many women with this problem can have orgasms when the clitoris is stimulated.

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What are the current treatments for Vaginismus?

A health care team made up of a gynecologist, physical therapist, and sexual counselor can help with treatment.

Treatment involves a combination of physical therapy, education, counseling, and exercises such as pelvic floor muscle contraction and relaxation (Kegel exercises).

Your provider may recommend injection of medicines to help relax the vaginal muscles.

Vaginal dilation exercises using plastic dilators are recommended. This method helps to make the person less sensitive to vaginal penetration. These exercises should be done under the direction of a sex therapist, physical therapist, or other health care provider. Therapy should involve the partner and can slowly lead to more intimate contact. Intercourse may ultimately be possible.

You will get information from your provider. Topics may include:

  • Sexual anatomy
  • Sexual response cycle
  • Common myths about sex
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What is the outlook (prognosis) for Vaginismus?

Women who are treated by a sex therapy specialist can very often overcome this problem.

Female reproductive anatomy
Causes of painful intercourse
Female reproductive anatomy (mid-sagittal)
What are the latest Vaginismus Clinical Trials?
Is Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) Effective for Reducing Pain Experienced by Women With Provoked Vestibulodynia?
Summary: Provoked vestibulodynia (PVD) is one major subtype of vulvar pain, affecting close to one in ten women and resulting in pain during attempts at vaginal intercourse and/or attempts to insert a digit, device or tampon into the vagina. Management involves a multidisciplinary approach, through physicians, psychologists, sex therapists and physiotherapists. Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) is a therapeut...
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Early Intervention After Rape to Prevent Post-traumatic Stress Disorder - a Multicenter Randomized Control Trial
Summary: Rape is a common cause of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among women, as around 30-50% will develop PTSD in the aftermath of rape. A modified protocol based on Prolonged Exposure Therapy (mPE), has been developed, consisting of three to five once or twice weekly 60 minutes sessions, and studies indicate that if implemented early after rape, mPE may prevent the development of PTSD. The aim o...
What are the Latest Advances for Vaginismus?
Vaginismus, Dyspareunia and Abuse History: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.
Summary: Vaginismus, Dyspareunia and Abuse History: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.
Factors influencing sexual functions in Turkish female patients with migraine.
Summary: Factors influencing sexual functions in Turkish female patients with migraine.
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Is "Dilator Use" More Effective Than "Finger Use" in Exposure Therapy in Vaginismus Treatment?
Summary: Is "Dilator Use" More Effective Than "Finger Use" in Exposure Therapy in Vaginismus Treatment?
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: June 03, 2020
Published By: LaQuita Martinez, MD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Emory Johns Creek Hospital, Alpharetta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Cowley DS, Lentz GM. Emotional aspects of gynecology: depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, substance use disorders, "difficult" patients, sexual function, rape, intimate partner violence, and grief. In: Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Lentz GM, Valea FA, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 9.

Kocjancic E, Iacovelli V, Acar O. Sexual function and dysfunction in the female. Partin AW, Dmochowski RR, Kavoussi LR, Peters CA, eds. Campbell-Walsh-Wein Urology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 74.

Swerdloff RS, Wang C. Sexual dysfunction. In: Jameson JL, De Groot LJ, de Kretser DM, et al, eds. Endocrinology: Adult and Pediatric. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 123.