Vaginismus: Dos and don’ts

This week’s expert: Dr Rosie King, Sexual Health Physician, Educator and Author

Vaginismus is a surprisingly common condition, but women often fail to seek help because of embarrassment and sometimes shame, says sex and relationship expert Dr Rosie King, and the distress it causes should not be underestimated.

Once suspected, the diagnosis is often readily confirmed via a careful, detailed history plus or minus a physical examination. Given the sensitivity of the issue, Dr King says it is important to note a number of ‘don’ts’ that need to be considered in the doctor’s approach – don’t just order a lubricant, or an anti-fungal, or a xylocaine gel; don’t order a pelvic ultrasound or do a speculum examination; don’t just say have a glass of wine before sex: don’t suggest trying different positions for sex and don’t just say relax. None of these are helpful.

Vaginismus can be treated but it often takes some months, generally about three, but sometimes six and occasionally a year. Treatment involves a combination of counselling, education, anxiety reduction, pelvic floor muscle relaxation exercises and retraining of those muscles (often with the help of a specialised physiotherapist).

It’s important to explain to the woman that the term vaginismus is actually ...

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