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Wifey Wednesday: When Sex Hurts

It's Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!

Last week on Wifey Wednesday I wrote about what to do when sex is just ho hum. I received some comments asking about what to do when sex just plain hurts, and I thought it was time for a Wifey Wednesday on vaginismus, the condition when the vagina tenses up and makes sex very painful.

If you're finding that it hurts, but you don't have a full-blown medical condition called vaginismus, this post by Hot, Holy and Humorous covers the subject well. But I want to talk to the 5% of women who have actual muscle pain that makes sex either impossible or very, very difficult.

For those who are tormented by it, it’s horrible indeed. Many of these women can’t insert tampons or handle pelvic exams at the doctor’s office, either. One respondent to the survey I put together for my upcoming book, The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex, who is 29 and married for eight years, says “vaginismus put an end to sex years ago.” Today she and her husband make love less than once a month.

Before you start panicking, let me assure you that most women who experience pain when they make love don’t actually have vaginismus. It’s simply that they’re a little nervous, and so a little bit more tense than they usually would be. When you're a newlywed, rest assured that some women do feel more than just a little sting when the hymen tears. If the couple has sex a number of times over the next few days before that tear has healed, the pain can be aggravated. It will, however, subside with time.

The medical condition of vaginismus, on the other hand, is caused when the muscles at the top 1 ½ inches of the vagina tense up (or the bottom, depending on how you look at it—it’s really just the 1 ½ inches closest to the opening). If you’ve used a tampon, you’ve probably encountered these muscles without realizing it, because once you get the tampon passed that first inch and a half, it glides in much more easily.

These muscles tense involuntarily; you’re not doing it on purpose. Reassure yourself and your husband that if you’re having this problem, it certainly is not deliberate! In fact, it’s rather difficult to get those muscles to un-tense. But you can!

The best route to a cure is to identify the underlying reason for this condition. For some it’s caused by a childhood trauma, like sexual abuse. For others, it’s a relationship issue: you just don’t feel safe and able to relax. If you take things slowly and work on why you don’t feel safe, and talk to counsellors or mentors if any past abuse issues are a factor, you’ll likely find that the pain will subside as your heart is healed.

Unfortunately, for many the causes just aren’t clear. Even worse, there isn’t very much a physician can do. But that doesn't mean it's hopeless. What you can try to do is to train yourself to control those muscles, and thus learn to relax them. Here’s how:

When you’re peeing, try to stop the flow of urine. Feel those muscles? They’re the pelvic floor muscles, the same ones that tense up when you have pain. Everytime you pee, try to tense and relax, tense and relax, three or four times so that your body learns how to relax.

Then, when you start to make love, have him enter you just a little way until it starts to hurt, and try the same thing: tense first, and then relax. You may have to spend a few minutes doing this (try to treat it like a game, and for him it will probably feel nice, anyway, because you’re squeezing him), and eventually you’ll likely find that it doesn’t hurt as much. Other treatments include progressively larger “vaginal dilators”. This sounds absolutely horrible and clinical, but it’s just another way of saying “putting increasingly larger things in there”, building up to something which is about the thickness of an erect penis.

Gynecologists and family doctors who specialize in this field often provide small silicone devices of various sizes to use, but if you really don’t want to go to a doctor, you can be creative. Just make sure it’s safe, and that you use safe cleaner afterwards to avoid infection. You can use this as part of your foreplay, too, and see if you can handle narrow things, building up to thicker things.

When Debbie was married, she was afraid she’d have issues because she had never been able to use tampons, and she had been sexually abused as a child. Sure enough, she found sex very difficult. Her husband Max was extremely patient with her for the first four months, taking time to play around with her and get them both more relaxed. Then, when they finally did try intercourse again, she found that the pain had gone away because she felt so accepted and loved.

If it’s hurting, tell your husband that story. Sure, it’s hard to be patient. But being patient will often be what helps her to be able to relax and release her real sexuality! For most women, vaginismus is a head thing. Our muscles tense up because we’re scared, threatened, or worried, but it’s completely involuntary. You can’t make yourself stop. If you put pressure on yourself, though, and feel badly about it, the pain will likely last a lot longer! The only thing you can do physically is to train your body to relax, and emotionally to learn to feel more comfortable in your relationship. A great resource for this is the vaginismus website, with lots of testimonials and lots of help.

One more thought: communicate to your husband that you dream of a great sex life, too. If he knows that this is still your goal—even if you don’t know how you’re going to get there—it’s going to be much easier for him to be patient than if he thinks you’re resigned to staying this way for the rest of your life.

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Write your own Wifey Wednesday post that links back to here, and then leave the link of THAT POST in the Mcklinky below. Thanks!

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At 10:43 AM , Anonymous Allison said…

I don't have long because I have 2 small children to tend, but I must say that I am a wife who has been through Vaginismus. If this is you, take heart, we have a great God and there is hope. My husband and I were completely unable to have sex. Now not only are we able to, but we have 2 children who are a testimony to God's grace in this area of our lives. Do some research and keep looking up!


At 2:02 PM , Blogger J said…

I am so glad you covered this subject in much more detail. I'm sure some women give up on intimacy when sex hurts, perhaps thinking that it always will. Thankfully, we have resources now to help us through these difficulties. Your blog post is a great resource!


At 3:57 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

THANK YOU for writing this post! Seriously, I wish I could hug you and buy you a cup of coffee or something because there is sooo little encouragement out there for those of us who deal with vaginismus. A lot of doctors have never even heard of it. I so appreciate that you not only mentioned the psychological issues involved with the condition, but also stated that some women just have pain and no one knows why. Most articles I've read about this condition pretty much just say "Try to relax and it won't hurt anymore." Real helpful... not! So again, thank you. I've been married for 8 months and I'm still working on getting over my vaginismus, but dilators have helped me so much. I've gone from not being able to insert a tampon (not even the tiny skinny ones) or even my finger to being able to insert a dilator larger than... well you know. Vaginismus can make you feel hopeless and like a freak of nature, but there is hope! You CAN train your body to function normally. I would recommend to any woman who has never been able to put in a tampon to get a pelvic exam BEFORE getting married. I know pelvic exams are the scariest thing a woman can imagine (especially if you've never been seen or touched "down there") but it's not as bad as finding out on your wedding night that you are unable to have sex (or that it hurts like the dickens). Do yourself and your future hubby a favor and take care of this problem before marriage -- it's way better than being forced to live in a sexless marriage for however long it takes you to get over vaginismus (and it can take months or in some cases years). And for those who are married and in the process of dealing with vaginismus, you can still do other sexy things with your husband until intercourse is no longer painful.


At 12:16 PM , Blogger Maypaki said…

Primary Vaginismus.
If you have it, then your body is NOT designed for sex.

It is God’s way of telling a woman that she is DESTINED to become a nun or celibate.
So if you have it, go on and BECOME A NUN.
That’s because it is God’s way of controlling the global population. God created women with such sexual dysfunction to keep them away from sex and thus preventing conception. Unfortunately, most women don’t realize it and would still go through days and weeks of therapy which is just time consuming.

Trying to remedy your condition is against God’s will.
God does NOT want you to have sex.
If you’re a woman, don’t get married & don’t have sex if your VAGINA wont let you.
God had CLOSED the gates of your virginity.
It is time to give up on men and become a NUN.

VAGINISMUS may be the answer to overpopulation.
God truly works in strange ways.

There are two types:

1. Primary vaginismus – oops, she has a nun’s vagina. Violating a nun’s vagina is immoral.

2. Secondary vaginismus – happens usually after giving birth or menopause. It means God doesn’t want you to make MORE kids. A natural birth control.

It is the answer to overpopulation. Sex is not for everyone. Some are unfit for sex.

Vaginismus may be the strongest evidence that God exist.Some higher power can manipulate a woman's body to control the population.
I am now an enlightened man.


At 11:56 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Please delete the above comment. It is false & offensive.

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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