Vaginismus: What You Need to Know

As a Vulva Doctor will explain: vaginismus is classed as a genito-pelvic pain/penetration disorder (GPPPD). The latter describes a cluster of vulvovaginal issues, such as vaginismus.

GPPPD is an intricate condition that can make it impossible, difficult, or painful, to have sexual intercourse, put in a tampon, or undergo a gynaecological examination. Moreover, if someone tries to put an object into their vagina, the pelvic floor muscles, or the muscles that surround the opening of the vagina, can go into an involuntarily spasm [1]

Fast Facts on Vaginismus

Vaginismus is just one potential reason for painful intercourse (a condition which is also known as dyspareunia). Furthermore, at some time in their lives, 3 out of 4 women experience pain whilst having sex [1].

Vaginismus “is under-researched, but it reportedly impacts around 1–7% of women worldwide. However, this estimate could be low. Due to existing stigmas around female sexuality, female health, and the female genitals, women may be under-reporting sexual dysfunction. Without treatment, vaginismus can lead to frustration and distress, and it may get worse. However, treatment is possible” [1]. – And this is why it is so important to arrange a consultation with a Vulva Pain Doctor as soon as possible. They are highly experienced in this field, and have a very sensitive approach. Moreover, patients can opt to see a female Vulva Pain Specialist

Did You Know?

“There are different types of genital or pelvic pain, and they can affect people of various ages” [1]

Of note, vaginismus is classified into four different categories: primary, secondary, global, and situational. So lets take a deep dive into what each group covers.

Primary Vaginismus

This refers to a lifelong issue in which someone’s muscle spasms become prevalent from the first time they attempt to put an object (e.g. a tampon), into their vagina; or try to have their first sexual intercourse. Moreover, if a sufferer visits a Vulva Doctor, it may be very uncomfortable for them to undergo a gynaecological examination. -And this is why Pain Specialists are trained to approach this element by not doing anything that would cause anxiety or pain during a consultation [1].

“During sex, a partner is unable to insert anything into the vagina. They may describe a sensation like ‘hitting a wall’ at the vaginal opening. The sufferer may experience pain, burning, or generalised muscle spasms. The symptoms stop when the attempt at vaginal entry stops” [1]

Secondary Vaginismus

This category develops after a sufferer has already been subject to anticipated sexual function. Notably, in this case, vaginismus has not always been prevalent: it may not have occurred before, and can appear at any life stage.

Generally speaking, it is due to a particular event, for example: childbirth, surgery, a medical issue, menopause, or an infection. Moreover, as your Pain Doctor will explain, vaginismus can be linked to psychological roots, for example: emotional or physical trauma, or a combination of both [1].

Global vs. Situational Vaginismus

Both of these categories can be either primary or secondary. Global vaginismus pertains to cases in which the symptoms come about by reacting to penetration (of any form). Conversely, situational vaginismus involves symptoms which arise in reaction to certain types of penetration (but not others) [1].

Get Your Life Back on Track By Seeking Support From a Vulva Doctor

When you have a consultation with a Vulva Doctor, be it in-person or on-line, the specialist will ensure that you have an accurate diagnosis. All too often, women with vaginismus have been let down by their GPs. This is simply because the latter have not undergone the necessary years of extensive training and practical experience that is so essential to bring about the best possible treatment and results (which usually involves multiple modalities).


[1]. Smith. L. (2023). “What you need to know about vaginismus.”