Do you have any of the following problems?
- Pain during sex
- An inability to have sex due to a ‘brick wall feeling’ making penetration impossible
- Significant pain during a smear test (that may even make you unable to undergo the test)
- Pain when putting in a tampon, or simply being unable to put in a tampon
- Feeling as though there is insufficient room in your vagina to have intercourse or insert a tampon
So why is having sex and using tampons painful? It is rarely talked about but pain upon penetration of the vagina is something that countless women suffer with – sadly often in silence. They often have to avoid sex altogether, or simply hope the problem will go away on its own, telling themselves ‘just relax’ while it only gets worse.
But this problem has a name – vaginismus – and thankfully a solution.
What is vaginismus?
Vaginismus (also sometimes called Genito-Pelvic Pain/Penetration Disorder or Dyspareunia) is a disorder in which a woman’s vaginal muscles involuntarily clench when insertion is attempted, making penetration painful or even impossible. Women often complain of burning pain, a tight sensation or of ‘hitting a brick wall’.
What causes vaginismus?
Vaginismus is rooted in messages sent from the brain to the muscles of the vagina, causing them to contract. These signals are your brain’s attempt to prevent pain. When your brain expects that penetration will cause you pain, it tightens your muscles to prevent it.
While it is often rooted in a psychosexual process, vaginismus is an involuntary, physical issue. In some cases too, there is an underlying physical vaginal abnormality like a rigid, thick or septate hymen (an extra section of skin making two vaginal openings). A physical abnormality like that can create pain during sexual intercourse and set off the cycle of vaginismus. In any case, mind and body affect each other.
The good news is, vaginismus can be treated. Here at The Gynae Centre, our experience shows that when we combine the tackling of any underlying issues with physical treatment, vaginismus can be overcome very effectively.
How can vaginismus be treated?
In cases where there is a hymen abnormality, such a physical barrier will need to be removed before treatment for the cycle of vaginismus can begin.
In the past, psychotherapy and the introduction of vaginal dilators were used to treat vaginismus, but these methods alone were often insufficient. One cannot force a relaxation response, and it can be difficult to induce relaxation using talking therapy alone. Fortunately things have moved on, and it is now possible to treat vaginismus effectively with Botox.
How does Botox for vaginismus treatment work?
Here at The Gynae Centre, we have found Botox to be a highly effective treatment for vaginismus. Dr Eskander, renowned gynaecologist and director of The Gynae Centre, is a specialist in this disorder. He has been successfully treating vaginismus with Botox for well over a decade.
After the administration of local anaesthetic, small amounts of the muscle relaxant Botox are used to partially paralyse the muscles around the vaginal entrance that have been contracting, helping them to temporarily relax. At this point, training with small dilators can begin a process that eventually leads to the capacity for penetrative sex. In addition, some women do find talking therapies very helpful in addressing any underlying psychosexual
The mind and body are inextricably interconnected and with a condition such as vaginismus it makes no sense to try to work with one or the other in isolation – effective treatment incorporates both. Botox injections coupled with dilator training helps to turn the ‘vicious cycle’ of vaginismus into a ‘virtuous cycle’. As your vaginal muscles relax, the pain stops, which tells the brain it does not need to contract your vaginal muscles to prevent pain, which helps you to relax more, and so on, until eventually you can learn to associate penetration with pleasure.
Dr Alex Eskander, Consultant Gynaecologist at The Gynae Centre says: “So many women suffer in silence with vaginismus, believing they simply have to abstain from sex forever, or even that penetrative sex is supposed to be painful. But you really don’t have to live like that.
Here at The Gynae Centre we have been extremely successful in treating vaginismus. In fact 90% of our patients achieve penetrative sex, enjoying normal, happy intimate lives. It really has been life-changing for them.”
If you want freedom from vaginismus, we can help. For impartial, non-judgmental advice from a highly experienced gynaecologist, book an appointment online with The Gynae Centre today or call our friendly admin team on 020 7580 8090.