Leandie Buys Realtionship Therapist & Clinical Sexologist

It hurts when I have sex – Is there something wrong with me?

If you’re a woman who experiences pain during intercourse, and you think there is ‘something wrong with you’, please read on! There is hope, and you are not ‘abnormal’.

Women who experience pain during intercourse often come to see me as their last resort.

They have been from doctor to doctor, gynae to gynae, and they have all been told there is nothing physically wrong with them.

And yet, as soon as they try to have penetrative sex, they experience excruciating pain. By the time they come to see me, these women are desperate. They believe that there is something terribly wrong with them, and they are scared that their partners will leave them.

They often say “I feel so abnormal”, “I feel like a freak”, “I don’t even feel like a woman”, and “what if he goes somewhere else to get it?!”

What is vaginismus, and what causes it?

Vaginismus is the scientific term for ‘pain during intercourse’. The pain is caused when the outer third of the vagina goes into spasm as soon as something tries to penetrate the vagina.

Women with this condition often can’t use tampons, or have regular gynae check-ups as they aren’t able to insert the speculum into the vagina. Sex is nearly impossible, and very painful.

Most often, vaginismus is caused by a ‘traumatic’ experience, and is the body’s way of protecting the vagina from being hurt. It is a physical response to a mental trauma.

There are two types of vaginismus:

Primary vaginismus is when the woman has never been able to have intercourse. This could be due to a traumatic sexual event in the woman’s past – molestation, rape, or even accidental vaginal trauma. One of my clients developed this condition after she played ‘doctor-doctor’ with a friend at a very young age, and a crayon was inserted into her vagina.

Secondary vaginismus is when the woman has previously been able to have successful intercourse, but now experiences severe pain. This could be due to a number of things including vaginal infections, the birth of a child, and menopause. One of my clients developed secondary vaginismus after she had to be surgically cut while giving natural birth.

Women who are menopausal could develop secondary vaginismus due to a lack of oestrogen in their bodies. Oestrogen is responsible for the lubrication of the vagina during intercourse. A lack of lubrication can cause pain and irritation, and could lead to secondary vaginismus.

So how is it treated?

Vaginismus is both a physical and psychological issue. There are some extremely successful treatment methods for vaginismus. However, none of them offer a once-off miracle cure.

Treatment is gradual, and it takes a different amount of time for every individual. Treatment includes sex education, behavioural therapy, dilators, and working together with a physiotherapist.

It is important to bring in the expertise of a physio to ensure the PC muscles of the vagina are targeted.

If you think you might be suffering from vaginismus, please don’t suffer in silence. You are not abnormal, and there are treatment options available that will help you have a fulfilled and satisfying sex life in the future. Please contact me for further information.

A woman’s real-life struggle with vaginismus

Click this link to read about how one of my clients struggled with vaginismus, how she worked through the pain and reconnected with her husband.