People love to talk about sex… when it’s going great for them. But what about when sex is painful and no matter what you do, it’s just not working out? Turns out there is a medical condition that makes it difficult for women to have sex called vaginismus. This condition causes the pelvic floor muscles to involuntary contract when you attempt penetration. And it’s not just limited to sex – women living with vaginismus may feel pain from any form of penetration, such as cervical exams or tampon use.
Having trouble with tampon insertion can be an early sign of vaginismus. If you live with vaginismus, you may have noticed that using tampons is a no-go. Every time you try to insert one, it’s painful and you ask yourself, “How in the world does someone survive with a super-sized tampon up their vagina all day?” The light ones are terrifying enough!
Talking to others about these experiences can be discouraging at times. You’ve probably heard people say, “Just relax, it’s so easy!” It’s not. Being able to use tampons while living with vaginismus is worthy of a celebration – just visit the subreddit and you’ll find plenty of success posts after treatment. Yes, there is treatment – keep reading to learn more.
Vaginismus can have a huge impact on a person’s quality of life. If you aren’t able to swim with friends every day in the summer because of your period, we see you. Tampons can make a huge difference in your life, especially if you have heavier flows. No one likes walking around with super plus pads all the time.
Tampons aside, vaginismus can also put a lot of stress on sexual intimacy with a partner. It can cause a lot of frustration in the relationship. Your partner may think you’re overreacting or not attracted to them. There is also a misconception that people living with vaginismus are too nervous or “prudish” for sex. However, you can have years of pain-free sex with a partner and later develop vaginismus. The cause? Unfortunately, doctors don’t always know. However, the condition is linked to previous painful experiences with sex or tampon use, sexual abuse or trauma, radiation, surgery, muscular injury, negative perception of sex and sexuality, and sometimes even mental health conditions.
Just remember that vaginismus isn’t “all in your head.” It’s not overreacting or fake, but a real medical condition. It’s common for women to have anxiety and fear of sex when living with vaginismus – it’s normal to develop some aversion to an action that reliably gives you pain. However, that doesn’t mean you always have to live with it. Luckily, there are treatments available.
Vaginismus is often treated by a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor therapy, or the muscles that surround the opening of your vagina. Physical therapy sessions for this condition might seem a bit unconventional. At first, the therapist will likely teach you a lot of anatomy – what muscles are contracting on their own – and show you some exercises called Kegels that can help you take back control. Then, they may introduce you to a set of dilators, which are plastic or silicone pieces you can insert into your vagina, slowly increasing in size over time. Yes, they look like a cross between a tampon and a vibrator. You will likely work on these with your therapist for the first time and then practice at home on your own. You may also be referred to a licensed therapist to talk through some of the anxiety and fear associated with the condition.
If you live with vaginismus, that last paragraph probably freaked you out a little bit. Remember that there are professionals who are here to help you, and having a partner you can trust is always a plus. Recovery can be challenging, but vaginismus is treatable. You deserve to have pain-free sex and the intimacy you want in a relationship. As a bonus to celebrate your successes, you may even plan a trip to the beach during your period.