It is a real issue, it is out there and it needs to be addressed
SEX is often considered a rite of passage for many people across many culture, and everyone will experience it sooner or later. However, when sex does occur, and you experience a burning or stinging pain instead of the expected intimate connection you share with your partner – it should be time to see the doctor. A condition involving a muscle spasm in the pelvic floor muscles, vaginismus makes it painful, difficult, or impossible to have sexual intercourse. Suwannee Pongprakyun, fertility counsellor at KL Fertility dishes out details on this condition.
Some do feel the pain
“The incidence of vaginismus is supposedly to be about 1 to 17 per cent per year worldwide. However, as a fertility counsellor, I usually encounter an average of three to four vaginismus patients each month,” explains Suwannee.
Often places a strain on the relationship
According to Suwannee, couples with vaginismus are capable of being physically intimate and are able to maintain a loving, joyful and harmonious relationship together.
“However, during the counselling session, when the couple starts speaking about vaginismus, tension may be observed as the lack of sexual intimacy does potentially affect the relationship. Especially when these couples have the intention of producing children or expanding their family,” she notes.
What goes on in a counselling session?
“In our clinic, the patients would have a consultation with our physicians first. The doctor will be able to diagnose vaginismus through pelvic examination or if they notice penetration cannot be achieved when they attempt to perform a transvaginal scan. The doctor may also inquire about the patient’s medical and sexual history, carefully taking note of keywords such as ‘Our relationship has not been consummated.’, ‘It hurts when we have sex.’, and ‘we failed to have successful penetration’.”
Typically, vaginismus counselling would consist of a lot of information gathering in relations to:
• The couple’s sexual intercourse experience(s)
• The wife’s childhood experiences & upbringing
• The wife’s history of trauma or abuse
• The wife’s views, thoughts and feelings about sexual intercourse.
“A lot of focus will be placed on the wife because vaginismus is a disorder purely experienced by women only,” explains Suwannee.
“As a counselling psychologist, the first form of treatment for vaginismus is helping the woman become more psychologically and physically comfortable with sex. This is done through behavioural reconditioning of the bodies response to feared objects such as the penis, a tampon, a speculum, a transvaginal scanning probe or any other objects that is safe to be inserted into the vagina.”
“Personally, I prefer using a systematic desensitisation approach, whereby my female patients will be asked to create a hierarchy of the above feared objects that she will then progressively work through to insert vaginally over the course of treatment.”
Primary and secondary vaginismus
“Primary vaginismus occurs in women who have never been able to have pain-free intercourse and is believed to be caused by psychological issues such as anxiety, fear of pain, stress, traumatic events or childhood experiences.”
“Secondary vaginismus on the other hand is when a woman who has had successful penetration, then develops vaginismus. This may be due to physical causes such as a medical condition, surgery, pelvic trauma, childbirth, or menopause.”
According to Suwannee, the treatment for both primary and secondary vaginismus is the same.
Empathy and support is key
How can husbands and partners play a role to help ease the pain?
“My advice is to do some research and educate themselves on the matter in order to understand the condition better. Second, learn to empathise with the spouse. The symptoms felt by the woman such as tightness or spasms is not within her control.”
“Thirdly, be patient and supportive especially during the treatment process. The process of trying to overcome vaginismus can be frustrating. Knowing that they have the husbands support and that they are not alone can make a difference in their progress towards recovery. — The Health
Suwannee, fertility counsellor at KL Fertility believes that sex education is key to understand this issue.
When love hurts
THIS is the story of Emma, a 35-year-old with her husband , who is 36. They have been married for 10 years. The couple has been trying to conceive for five years. However, she was unable to consummate the marriage. “Every time we tried to have sex, it was like there was a block that wouldn’t allow penetration and it was very painful. I opened up to my best friend who told me she had just started seeing a fertility expert. I wasted no time in scheduling an appointment.”
The doctor not only diagnosed that Emma had vaginismus, but told her it could actually be treated. “I began undergoing medical massages and a few treatments later, I was asked to have sex. I was so happy to say that the treatment worked!”
The couple was ecstatic about their new found joy in marriage, and after one and a half years of treatment and a change in lifestyle – Emma discovered she was pregnant. “Sadly I suffered a miscarriage but my doctor was very supportive and reassured me to try again.” The couple prayed for another and was given new hope later on. “I missed my period – the doctor confirmed the pregnancy but I was extra cautious this time. Our second time trying was a success, and our son was born safely on October 14.”
“My advice to couples out there is to never give up and keep looking for answer. Don’t be embarrassed and feel like something is ‘wrong’ with you. Support from your family, friends and spouse are also crucial,” Emma advises.