Vaginismus: What You Need to Know

Vaginismus is the involuntary contraction of the vaginal muscles. It makes sexual intercourse, and gynecological examinations very difficult or impossible.

Vaginismus: What You Need to Know   

Vaginismus is the involuntary contraction of the vaginal muscles. It makes sexual intercourse, and gynecological examinations very difficult or impossible.


Types of Vaginismus

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), vaginismus is categories under Genito-Pelvic Pain/Penetration Disorder. It refers to a condition in which women experience difficulty having intercourse and feel significant pain upon penetration. It is one of the most common female sexual problems.

There are different types of vaginismus:

Primary vaginismus occurs when the woman has never been able to have penetrative sex because of the involuntary contraction of her vaginal muscles.

Secondary vaginismus occurs when a woman has previously been able to have penetrative sex but is no longer able to.

Global vaginismus means it is always happening, not only in penetrative sex but any object will trigger it.

Situational vaginismus only occurs under certain conditions. For example, it may only happen during sex but not during other penetration like gynecological exam or tampon insertion.

How do I know if I have it?

Symptoms for vaginismus may vary between individuals.

But the most common sign would be the difficulty in achieving vaginal penetration or insertion. This happens due to the uncontrolled tightness and involuntary contractions of the vaginal muscles.

Women will also feel pain during this penetration or insertion because the muscles around the vagina are basically guarding and blocking the penetration.

Vaginismus is like a defense mechanism that our brain signals to our vagina which causes the surrounding muscles to contract upon penetration.

Why do I have it?

So far, researchers could not identify a specific reason as to why women are experiencing this. It is however usually linked with anxiety and fear of having sex.

For example, social stigma about sex and pain could affect our anxiety levels as we do not know what to expect from sex.

Medical reasons such as urinary tract infection (UTI) or yeast infection, pelvic surgery or other medical side effects could also be the possible causes of vaginismus.


What can I do? 

Sexual relationship is usually affected by vaginismus because it becomes extremely hard for a woman to have penetrative sex. The good news is, it is highly treatable.

Seek Treatment for Vaginismus

Combined treatment is recommended to treat vaginismus. This is because we need to deal with its physical and psychological aspects.

One of the main methods is called desensitization. This is where we deal with the fear and anxiety while training the vaginal muscles to experience the feeling of penetration. Muscle relaxations and Kegel’s exercises will also be done to help relax the surrounding muscles.

Sex education is also an important part of the treatment for you to gain a better understanding of your body and sex. You will know what to expect and how to deal with them in a more positive manner.

However, combined treatment takes time and effort for both the professionals and the patient. Both parties need to work together in order to see and feel improvements. Communication is particularly important to ensure that both parties understand the treatment process. The patient’s commitment to practice it at home is key to treatment success as well.

Practice means permanent. With more practice (especially when you involve your partner), you can absolutely get cured faster.

If you think you may have vaginismus or other sexual related issues, do come for a consultation with our Sexologist and our Women’s Health Physiotherapist.

We will work together to give you the most suitable treatment for your condition.


Written by:

Andrea Koh

Sexologist at Vibrance Pelvic Care Centre



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Pacik, P. T., & Geletta, S. (2017). Vaginismus treatment: Clinical trials follow up 241 patients. Sexual Medicine, 5(2), e114-e123. doi:10.1016/j.esxm.2017.02.002
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