What you need to know about painful sex

Penetrative sex should not be painful. If it is, then you may have vaginismus.

Vaginismus is a very common condition where the muscles around the vagina tighten involuntarily whenever penetrative sex is attempted. It can lead to emotional distress, relationship difficulties and can prevent you from being able to start a family. And because it is a sensitive and difficult subject to talk about, women often suffer in silence and sometimes for years.

What are its causes?

It depends. Worries that sex will be painful, a first sexual experience that was painful, injury to the vagina during childbirth, previous sexual abuse, and painful genital conditions like vulvodynia can all be causes.

What are its symptoms?

-some women cannot have penetrative sex at all

-some women find that penetration is possible but painful

-some women cannot tolerate any internal gynaecological examination

-some women have an intense fear that prevents any attempts at penetrative sex

What can I do?

1. See your GP. Seek medical advice from your GP as soon as possible. They will refer you to a specialist in Psychosexual Medicine who will encourage you to explore your feelings and fears.

2. Vaginal trainers. Your doctor might prescribe you vaginal trainers to help re-train the vaginal muscles to stop them from automatically contracting.

3. Pelvic floor exercises. They may help to gain awareness and control over the muscles that involuntarily contract.

4. Active relaxation.

If you want to find out more, this is a useful website: http://www.ipm.org.uk

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