What is Vaginismus? 

Vaginismus is a reaction of fear, to having anything penetrate the vagina. It is caused by the tightening of the vaginal muscles and pain may be experienced during penetration. This interferes with sexual intercourse, not by inhibiting sexual arousal per se, but by inhibiting penetration and causing a loss in sexual desire due to the fear of pain and penetration. Even though it is a psychological reaction, it is something involuntary and uncontrollable, affecting 1-7% of women (Laskowska & Gronowski, 2022). 

There are two types of vaginismus: primary and secondary. In the former one, vaginal penetration has never been achieved, whilst in the latter one, there used to be vaginal penetration but not anymore. 

Causes of Vaginismus: 

– Fearing that your vagina is too small/tight. 

– Having had a bad sexual experience or even sexual abuse. 

– Having a painful medical condition or undergoing treatment that might cause dryness. – Beliefs about sex as being shameful or bad. 

Treating Vaginismus: 

Treatment is supported by trained specialists who support the individual, also involving the partner in some cases, with exercises and therapy to gain relaxation and explore one’s feelings and the relationship between the body and sex. 

Some treatments could include: 

– Education about sex, penetration, body organs and how everything works together during intercourse. 

– Relaxation techniques; mindfulness, breathing, gentle exploration of the vagina or/and surrounding areas. 

– Therapy, individual or couple, to explore feelings and past experiences. – Vaginal trainers/dilators can be used to help increase the vagina’s elasticity and to get accustomed to having something placed in your vagina.

– Physical training, involving pelvic floor/ kegel exercises, to gain more control of the vaginal muscles and their contractions/relaxation. 

Living with Vaginismus. 

It might be difficult to talk about vaginismus and you might carry negative thoughts or feelings about your experience of this difficulty. However, it is important to seek help and treatment as vaginismus can be treated and it would have a positive impact on your relationship, not just with your partner but also with your own body. 

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here

Abigail Church is a Humanistic Integrative Counsellor who works with adults and children through counselling with Willingness. She can be contacted on abigail@willingness.com.mt or call us on 79291817.


Goodman, B. (2022). Vaginismus. WebMD. 


Herndon, J (2020). What is Vaginismus? Healthline. 


NHS (2021). Vaginismus. NHS. 

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaginismus/#:~:text=Vaginismus%20is%20the%20body%27s%20 automatic,previously%20enjoyed%20painless%20penetrative%20sex. 

Laskowska, A and Gronowski, P. (2022). Vaginismus: An Overview. The Journal of Sexual Medicine. Vol 19 (5). 228-229. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsxm.2022.03.520 

The Gynae Centre. (n.d.) Vaginismus: Debunking the Myths.