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    What is Vaginismus?

    Vaginismus means that the muscles surrounding the lower part of your vagina have gone into spasm making penetrative intercourse uncomfortable, painful or impossible depending on the degree of spasm.

    Vaginismus can either be present on the first ever attempt at vaginal penetration, or it can develop later, after some emotional or physical traumatic event, even when there has been successful intercourse in the past.

    What are the causes of Vaginismus?

    Psychological upset

    most commonly vaginismus is a bodily reaction to a psycho-emotional upset. A first attempt at penetration proves painful, and fear that this will happen again leads to an automatic protective reflex. The vaginal muscles tighten to prevent a recurrence of the pain

    Any condition causing pain in the vulva or vagina

    these include vulval infections, chemical irritation or allergy, a painful scar such as an episiotomy after childbirth, vaginal atrophy (thinning and dryness) after radiation or the menopause, pelvic inflammatory disease, adhesions from pelvic surgery or endometriosis.

    What possible treatments are available?

    As with so many sexual problems, vaginismus is a condition concerning the mind and the body, and so a mind-body approach is needed in its management.

    Treatment approaches available

    Sexual therapy is often the most important element of treatment. This combines elements of physical and medical therapies.

    If there are any underlying medical conditions which have triggered vaginismus then medical treatment may be relevant. These may include antibiotics, emollients, creams or even local anaeasthetic gels. Very occasionally Botox® has been used.

    Physical therapy can involve pelvic floor muscle training, biofeedback or desensitization, which may include the use of vaginal trainers.

    Sometimes a woman has an anxiety or fear that her vagina is too small, too fragile or too rigid to be able to accept a penis. Sometimes a friend or a relative has said that sex will be painful the first time and this leads to anticipation of pain. Discussing such fears or anxieties with a trained doctor or nurse can often help. Sometimes women are not aware on a conscious level that they have such fears or anxieties until they talk about it at therapy. Holistic treatment such as stress management or relaxation therapy may also help.

    Sexual therapy: getting help

    Should you wish further psychosexual support we would be more than happy to refer you to our specialised services within Sandyford.

    A list of accredited and registered sexual and relationship therapists is available from the following organisations:


    COSRT (College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists)

    PO Box 13686, London SW20 9ZH

    Tel. 020 8543 2707


    IPM (Institute of Psychosexual Medicine) 

    Building 3, Chiswick Park, 566 Chiswick High Road, London W4 5YA

    Tel. 020 7580 0631


    Useful Contacts

    Sexual Advice Association

    Suite 301, Emblem House, London Bride Hospital, 27 Tooley Street, London SE1 2PR

    Tel. 020 7486 7262

    This group is for women as well as men and helps deal with anumber of sexual issues including reduced libido, orgasm problems and vaginismus. 


    Vulval Pain Society


    If you wish advice on the menopause, please initially discuss with your practice nurse or GP 

    Helpful advice can also be found at