Are you one of the millions of women who can’t have sex because it hurts?  Painful sex can be one of the most frustrating and mysterious conditions a woman can face.  When sex hurts, you may have a condition called vaginismus.  Vaginismus is diagnosed when your pelvic floor muscles are so tight that there can be no intercourse.  The entrance to the vagina is closed, and the penis cannot enter.

Most women reading this post are embarrassed by vaginismus.  A woman and her partner sometimes learn about vaginismus on their wedding night, spoiling a special moment.  Other women may try having sex outside of marriage, but simply cannot.  They may feel ashamed that they cannot do something that seems so normal.  They may also feel sad, or that they disappointed their partner.

Can a Relationship Be Fulfilling If Sex Hurts?

Of course, penis-vagina intercourse is not the only way to have sex. Some couples adapt and are okay not having intercourse.  They find lots of other ways to have pleasure and to connect.  But for many couples being unable to have intercourse makes them feel they are missing out.  They also even wonder if their relationship would be better if they could enjoy more physical intimacy.

In some cases, the couple just avoids sex altogether.  It is just too frustrating and the woman is too afraid that any type of touch might lead to something painful.  Couples may go 3, 5, or even a decade without having any type of sex.  With this type of couple, the motivation for treatment is wanting to have a baby.  Yes, they could use artificial reproductive technology like IVF, but most couples want to try getting pregnant the natural way when possible.

Treatment for Vaginismus Requires a Team

As I talk about in my book What Every Mental Health Professional Needs to Know about Sex, treatment for vaginismus often takes a team.  A pelvic floor physical therapist, like those at Hoag Pelvic Health Clinic where I have my practice, can help a woman learn to voluntarily relax tight pelvic floor muscles.  An acupuncturist can help with muscle relaxation, too.  Exercise like yoga and Pilates, when done right, can be a big help.

The role of a sex therapist is to help you and your partner understand why this happened and give you some things to do to make having sex better.  The idea is not that vaginismus is “all in your head”.  But like any physical condition, vaginismus can create psychological distress, and psychological distress can make vaginismus worse.  If you are uncomfortable with your sexuality, talking to a sex therapist can help you sort things out.  If you are your partner don’t seem to be connecting sexually, a sex therapist can give you activities to do at home to learn how.  If you are afraid sex will hurt, a sex therapist can help you learn how to relax and enjoy yourself.  Some women have unique problems, like being afraid of becoming pregnant and going through delivery.  As a sex therapist, I can help with fears like that, too.

Cope with Vaginismus by Getting Help

Calling someone to get help is a healthy way to cope with a problem; hiding from a problem is not.  I hope you will find the courage to contact a sex therapist today if you have been suffering from vaginismus.  Sex is not supposed to hurt and there is no reason to suffer when help is available for this frustrating and baffling condition.