How to Say It: Vaj-i-niz-mus
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Vaginismus is an uncontrollable and painful spasm of the muscles that surround the vagina. It happens when something is about to be put into the vagina, like a tampon, penis, or medical device.
Vaginismus is often a response to past sexual trauma or other painful events. In some women, the cause is not clear.
Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:
The main problem is not being able to have sex without pain. Some women may also have pain during pelvic exams or when inserting a tampon.
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical and pelvic exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.
The cause will need to be treated. The goal is to ease spasms. Choices are:
There are no known guidelines to prevent this health problem.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Sex Information and Education Council of Canada
Sexuality and U—The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Crowley T, Goldmeier D, et al. Diagnosing and managing vaginismus. BMJ. 2009 Jun 18;338:b2284, commentary can be found in BMJ 2009 Aug 11;339:b3267.
Female sexual dysfunction. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/female-sexual-dysfunction. Accessed February 23, 2021.
Vaginismus. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15723-vaginismus. Accessed February 23, 2021.
Vaginismus. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gynecology-and-obstetrics/sexual-dysfunction-in-women/vaginismus?query=Vaginismus. Accessed February 23, 2021.
Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG
Last Updated: 2/23/2021
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