This is defined as involuntary spasm of the vaginal muscles at the entrance to the vagina. This can interfere with peno-vaginal sexual intercourse, insertion of tampons as well as conducting a pelvic examination.
There is a lack of consensus as to the diagnostic criteria as well as the examination findings, however the terminology of involuntary spasm has seemingly come to stay.
It is a type of sexual pain disorder, the other being Dyspareunia. It can be classified into two variants- Primary which implies it has always been a problem or Secondary, in which case it is a new or recent development and there was a time when the woman had no difficulties with any penetration of the vaginal orifice.
Certain factors have been associated with the diagnosis of vaginismus in affected women, however, the scientific evidence for these are weak at best.
These may be psychological (negative attitude to sexual intercourse, a history of sexual or physical abuse or biological factors (pelvic diseases e.g infections, trauma from surgery or radiation therapy, endometriosis etc).
Not unsurprisingly, treatment is anecdotal due to the paucity of scientific evidence supporting the various possible aetiologies.
In the presence of an infection, treatment to eradicate the infection is offered.
Pelvic floor physiotherapy, an example is the Kegel’s exercises has also been explored to help women be aware and in control of the vaginal muscles. Endometriosis can be managed by your gynaecologist to improve your symptoms and reduce discomfort.
Psychotherapy and more specifically sex/cognitive behavioural therapy are also recognized as interventions that can be offered to affected women.
If you or someone you know is suffering from Vaginismus, please speak to your health care professional, a diagnosis is the first step to improving the quality of your sexual and reproductive health.