What You Should Know About Vaginismus

Characterised by persistent or recurrent spasm of the outer third of the vagina any time penetration is attempted, vaginismus can make sexual activity and medical exams difficult to impossible. 

Symptoms of vaginismus can vary in severity. Some women are able to have sex, but it is painful, while others are able to use tampons, but cannot have penetrative sex. For some, it is impossible to insert anything into their vagina. It is a physical issue, not an arousal issue, as many women with vaginismus can still have orgasms through clitoral stimulation.

It is not fully understood why vaginismus occurs, but there are many physical and emotional factors that can play into vaginismus. They include:

  • Thinking that sex will be painful
  • Painful experiences the first-time having sex
  • Previous sexual abuse
  • Thinking your vagina is too small for sex
  • Relationship problems
  • Fear of pregnancy
  • Damage to the vagina, such as from childbirth
  • Painful conditions of the vagina and surrounding area

Women with vaginismus often experience disrupted sex lives, which can lead to distress, loss of confidence and problems in their relationship. For some women, it may prevent them from starting a family, which can amplify those problems.

Gynecological and pelvic exams are also difficult or impossible, which can leave them at risk for undiagnosed sexual health issues.


Personal and relationship therapy can help individuals and couples understand any psychological causes for vaginismus, and work toward creating a solution so the woman is more comfortable having sex.

While treatment can help, it is important to note that some women with vaginismus have very intimate, loving relationships without having sex.