Vaginismus Is A Taboo Sexual Health Problem South African Women Don’t Want To Talk About
How is it possible that it can be impossible to have sex? Ask the thousands of women around the world who suffer from vaginismus. They are normal women like you and me who love their partners and who would love to have sex with them but are living in unconsummated relationships due to vaginismus.
People who suffer from vaginismus have a few things in common:
1. Involuntary Pelvic Floor Muscle Contraction
This is often described as ‘hitting a wall’. Depending in the degree of the contraction, the women often have an inability to do the following: insert a tampon, undergo a gynaecological examination or have penetrative sex.
2. Intense Fear Of Penetration
In some cases it can be so severe that the woman gets a panic attack when an examination is attempted or if her partner goes anywhere near her genitals.
The reason for this fear differs from patient to patient, but some patterns that we do see are: women who had a very strict religious upbringing that involved misconceptions about sex; women who have experienced childhood sexual abuse; and women with general anxiety disorders. In many cases, no specific cause for this fear can be established.
3. Pain Associated With Penetration
Because of the severe muscle spasm, penetration is painful, which reinforces the fear and sets off the vicious cycle over and over again.
The good the news?
There is a treatment for vaginismus. During the treatment we break the vicious cycle by teaching the women to relax and control their pelvic floor muscles through physiotherapy and biofeedback. This makes penetration possible and not painful. In this process, we also help them to deal with the fear through cognitive behavioural therapy and sex therapy. In some severe cases, Botox is used to relax the pelvic floor muscles.