Vaginismus is a condition which involves the uncontrollable tightening of the vaginal muscles when there is an attempt to insert something. This can lead to pain and is the unconscious reaction to any type of penetration.
This can affect people’s relationships and lead to difficulty during menstruation as it may affect things like wearing a tampon.
There is research to suggest that 1 in 500 people suffer from vaginismus, but this condition is severely undiagnosed. Many women are too afraid to seek help or are dismissed by doctors. So, in reality the numbers are probably much higher. One survey found that 1 in 10 UK women suffer from painful sex, some of these cases may be vaginismus but could include vaginal atrophy (dryness), dyspareunia (general pain during sex) or another condition.
Some women have never been able to insert anything due to their condition, or some women have previously been able to experience pain free penetrative sex then suffer with vaginismus.
Both ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ vaginismus types are treatable, usually through therapy and pelvic floor therapy. There is also an option for Botox treatment, which relaxes the muscles in order for the patient to be relieved of pain.
However, this option comes with difficulties as most people’s vaginismus stems from anxiety, sexual trauma, or a difficult childbirth, so therapy is usual needed alongside the physical treatments.
Part of the reason so many women don’t get diagnosed is due to stigma around the condition or dismissal from doctors, friends, or partners.
Many women who suffer from vaginismus have been told by medical professionals to drink alcohol before partaking in penetrative sex in order to ‘relax’ or it’s because they aren’t actually attracted to their partner or their partner is too big, so they will just have to ‘deal with it’.
The topic of painful sex is already taboo, when there is a lack of conversation around the topic and how to properly treat vaginismus, it will lead to acceptance of the comments above. Meaning more and more people are suffering in silence.
The Instagram account @thevagnetwork was created by women who suffered from vaginismus and were fed up with the lack of conversation around painful sex. They set up a blog and a community where sufferers of vaginismus can get paired up across the world to help support each other through their vaginismus journey, making them feel less alone. They also share empowering and factual information and other women’s stories through Tik-Toks, podcasts, and blogs.