It is thought that globally, around 15% of women have painful sex. This is a surprisingly high number. Here, we take a look at everything you need to know about painful sex, what causes it, and what treatment is available for painful sex.
Painful intercourse treatment is probably one of the first things on your mind if you are experiencing pain during sex (also known as dyspareunia). However, the best type of treatment depends on the underlying cause. Dyspareunia can be caused by a variety of conditions including ovarian cysts and endometriosis, vulvodynia, vaginitis, and vaginismus.
Vaginismus is a relatively little-known condition that has been gaining increasing visibility over the last few years. More and more women are being diagnosed with and becoming aware of this problematic and limiting condition.
What is vaginismus?
Vaginismus is a medical condition that affects people with vaginas and vulvas. It can cause much distress, affecting self-esteem, relationships, and even the ability to start a family.
Sufferers usually experience a burning or sharp stabbing pain in the vagina and/or surrounding area during attempted penetration. But it doesn’t just affect sex – it can be triggered by penetration of anything and any size – this includes fingers, tampons, sex toys, and even speculums, making gynaecological examinations very difficult.
What causes vaginismus?
The cause of vaginismus is unknown but the root is thought to be psychosomatic. The pain experienced with vaginismus is caused by an involuntary tightening of the muscles around the vagina in reaction to fear of penetration.
It is a myth that women with vaginismus do not want to have sex, and often, women with vaginismus have had pleasurable sexual experiences in their past. That being said, those with a history of sexual assault, endometriosis, vaginitis, and childbirth may be more at risk.
How do you know if you have vaginismus?
Symptoms of vaginismus include:
- Loss of desire
- Fear of penetration
- Involuntary clenching or tightening of muscles in and around the vagina
- Pain if penetration is attempted with tampon, finger or penis
If you experience any of the above symptoms, you should speak to your GP or healthcare professional for advice.
Can painful intercourse be cured? Painful intercourse treatment
It’s time to prioritise your sexual health. Sex isn’t supposed to hurt and in the vast majority of cases, there is help available.
Typically, treatment for vaginismus from a GP would include a combination of counselling and dilators. Whilst some people have had favourable outcomes with this approach, its success is quite limited.
Leading gynaecologists in the UK are now providing a new approach to painful intercourse treatment that has a very high success rate – Botox treatment for vaginismus. Yes, we hear you, this sounds strange, but this approach is actually very clever – let us explain.
Botox is most commonly known for relaxing the muscles of the face to reduce the signs of wrinkles and ageing. But this muscle relaxant can be used almost anywhere in the body. Gynaecologists can carefully inject Botox into the muscles surrounding the vagina (under local anaesthesia), to relax them. This prevents the spasming of the muscles that causes pain, allowing for slow introduction of dilators which can be increased in size over time. This treatment helps to replace the negative cycle with a more positive one, gradually allowing relaxation and penetrative sex.
Botox for vaginismus has a high success rate and is usually combined with appropriate counselling to address the root cause of the condition.
As with any medical procedure, there is a small risk of side effects; these include blurred vision, skin reaction, and edema. For this reason, it is advisable to always seek help from an established clinic with trusted medical professionals.
Think you or your partner may have vaginismus? It’s time to seek the help of a GP or gynaecologist, who can help make sex pleasurable again.