For most women you will have never heard the word “vaginismus”. That little fact alone makes me feel sad and a little angry. When it comes to male anatomy and sexual dysfunction it would seem there is no shortage of information, education and knowledge but for females it’s rather absent. When sexual education was part of my schooling I felt uneducated. As a teenager, I wasn’t going to voice my concerns or embarrass myself by saying that there were things I still didn’t understand about sex so I relied on magazines, the internet (which was VERY limited in knowledge 15+ years ago) and TV/Movies to fill in the blanks. Funnily enough, none of those resources talked about female sexual dysfunction, especially Vaginismus …. and they still don’t. You could very well have this condition and not even know it. I believe this HAS to change if we want to raise a generation of well-informed girls and women who don’t fear their own body.
This condition isn’t just about sex though, it can even restrict which the ability to use tampons and have a pelvic examination. I’ve called on sexologist and all-round sex-pert, Chantelle Otten, to educate us with the must-know facts about Vaginismus.
1. What is it?
Vaginismus is a form of sexual pain. It’s an involuntary contraction of the pelvic floor muscles surrounding the vagina making penetration or sex painful, if not impossible. In fact it’s the main cause of unconsummated marriages.
2. When does it happen?
There are two types of vaginismus: Primary and Secondary. Primary means someone has the involuntary muscle contractions their entire life and can never successfully penetrate the vagina. Secondary means that something has changed for the female so that, even though they used to be able to enter the vagina, now they are unable to.
3. Is it normal? Common?
Statistics of vaginismus are hard to pinpoint because us ladies are so hush hush about it! It ‘s approximated that 2 in 1000 women have will have vaginismus, however it’s estimated that this number is higher. According to the Jean Hailes foundation, Australian health professionals have also said that painful sex is the number one topic that Aussie women need more information about.
4. How do I develop it?
There are many causes that can be psychological or physical. Psychological wellbeing plays a huge part in our sex lives and is very much connected to the occurrence of vaginismus. Often a female not being ready for intercourse brings on the condition or she could have fear of pain on penetration, which can also lead to vaginismus. On the other hand, physical causes are endless and the condition can often appear after surgery or childbirth. If sex is distressing or painful for you, it’s necessary to seek professional help! Sex should be enjoyable and pain-free.
5. I have it. What do I do?
I bring good news … vaginismus is one of the most successfully treated sexual dysfunctions but treatment depends on the cause. If it’s psychologically caused, discussion of sexual history with a sex therapist is the best option. There are other medical factors that can cause the muscles to contract; if this is the case then referral to a specialized health professional for further investigation will be given.
About Chantelle Otten
Chantelle Otten is an internationally published and educated Sexologist, Scientist and Sex and Relationship Expert with European and Australian education and work experience. Her education includes BA/Psychological Science from Australian Catholic University and Masters of Science in Medicine, Sexual Health/Psychosexual Therapy from the University of Sydney.
She has previously worked in Amsterdam and now has a sex therapy clinic in Camberwell in Melbourne, Australia. Her main focus is empowering female sexuality and optimal sexual health and relationships.
She travels often to Europe to present at congresses on sexuality, recently in Amsterdam for the 24th World Congress on Controversies in Obstetrics, Gynecology & Infertility (COGI) on optimal aftercare for women who have had ovaries removed for breast and ovarian cancer. Next she will be in Nice, France to present at the European Society Of Sexual Medicine congress on the topic of sexuality for women with hormonal migraine. She is a public speaker and an ambassador for Smile Makers collection.
Image source: Feature photograph designed by Yanalya – Freepik.com