What is vaginismus?


Vaginismus is pretty simple when it comes down to it: it's the involuntary tensing of the vaginal muscles which prevents women from having painless sexual intercourse. It has significant overlap with the term 'vulvodynia', which simply defines feeling pain in the vulvar area.

These vaginal spasms can be prompted by attempted penetration, pressure on the vaginal wall, thinking about sex, or even random chance. The muscle on the pelvic floor of the vagina, the pubococcygeus muscle (also known as the PC muscle), contracts at this time, which typically doesn't hurt unless something is inside of the vagina - like a tampon or a man's genitals.

The amount of pain this causes varies from woman to woman. For some women, it closes off the vagina entirely, disallowing penetration at all. For many, it causes a strong stinging or burning pain upon penetration. In milder cases, it can cause slight stinging or uncomfortable tightness.

More severe cases of vaginismus can prevent a woman from even inserting a tampon, and the concept of painless sexual intercourse can be nearly foreign to her. Even these extreme cases are treatable if a woman is dedicated to a treatment plan, but it can be a long journey.


Vaginismus is often split into two categories: primary and secondary vaginismus.

Primary vaginismus is when a woman has never been able to experience sexual penetration without pain. This type is often caused by a combination of physical and psychological factors. Psychological factors can include being raised to think of sex as scary, gross, or immoral, as well as childhood trauma such as sexual abuse.

Secondary vaginismus is late-onset vaginismus, when a woman was once able to have pain-free intercourse, but has developed vaginismus. This is usually caused by a dramatic change, such as menopause, childbirth, surgery, or rape.

Both types of vaginismus are equally treatable, though women with secondary vaginismus often find it a shorter and easier journey to treatment.

To learn more about the ins and outs of vaginismus from the professionals, look into buying a book about vaginismus.