DEFINITION--Spasms of the muscles around the opening to the vagina; if severe,
may prevent intercourse.
BODY PARTS INVOLVED--Muscles surrounding the vagina and muscles of the lower
SEX OR AGE MOST AFFECTED--Females of all ages.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS--Involuntary contraction of the muscles around the vagina
and rectum. The vagina closes so tightly that the penis cannot penetrate for sexual
intercourse. Also prevents the insertion of any object into the vagina, such as a tampon,
diaphragm or speculum (used for medical examination).
- An unconscious desire to prevent penile penetration because of emotional or
psychological factors. These may include fear, anxiety, hostility, anger or a distaste for
- An insensitive sexual partner, insufficient or unskillful foreplay or inadequate vaginal
lubrication prior to attempted penetration.
- Physical disorders (rare), such as infections, allergic reactions or a rigid,
- Vaginal infection.
RISK INCREASES WITH
- First sexual experiences.
- Previous sexual trauma (incest, rape, sexual abuse).
HOW TO PREVENT--Pelvic examination by a doctor and counseling prior to beginning
What To Expect
- Your own observation of symptoms.
- Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
- Diagnostic tests may include pelvic examination to rule out physical disorders (sedation
may be necessary for a thorough examination). A sexual history is important and will
include early childhood experiences, family attitudes towards sex, previous and current
sexual responses, contraceptive practices, reproductive goals, feelings about sexual
partner and specifics about the pain you experience.
APPROPRIATE HEALTH CARE
- Self-care after diagnosis.
- Treatment will first take care of any medical problems, followed by therapy to eliminate
the muscular spasms and psychological problems.
- For muscular spasms, one type of therapy involves dilating the vaginal opening gently
and gradually with rubber or glass dilators. Office treatments will probably be necessary
3 times a week and you should practice at home at least twice a day.
- Psychotherapy or counseling is recommended, in addition to, or if dilating treatment is
unsuccessful. This may include sensate focus and improving communication with your
partner, plus therapy to resolve any conflicts in your life.
POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS--Psychological trauma caused by guilt, anxiety, loss of
self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy, or interpersonal problems resulting from the
PROBABLE OUTCOME--Curable if the underlying cause can be cured or a coping
method can be developed through medical treatment and psychological counseling.
How To Treat
- Prior to dilation or attempted intercourse, sit in a tub of hot water for 10 to 15
minutes. Baths often relax muscles and relieve discomfort. Repeat baths as often as is
- Before attempting intercourse, you and your partner should use a lubricant, such as K-Y
Lubricating Jelly or baby oil.
MEDICATION--Medicine is usually not necessary for vaginismus, but your doctor
may prescribe mild sedatives or tranquilizers for short periods of time.
DIET--No special diet.
Call Your Doctor If
- You have symptoms of vaginismus.
- Symptoms don't improve after 3 weeks, despite treatment
- Symptoms recur after treatment.