Intimate health expert reveals how to navigate the challenges of dating with vaginismus
By Stephanie Taylor, Intimate Health Expert and Managing Director of Kegel8
It’s that time of the year when love is in the air and you may be looking to enjoy a romantic evening.
However, for those with vaginismus, the idea of ‘date night’ may be a bit daunting.
Vaginismus is the involuntary tightening of the vaginal muscles when something is inserted into it. While it’s not clear how many women suffer from the condition, it is estimated that it affects one in 10 women. Occasionally, women can get vaginismus even if they have previously enjoyed painless penetrative sex.
While vaginismus can make it a little more tricky to date and enjoy romantic relationships, there are ways to overcome any obstacles.
How to deal with the mental impact
Take note of how you feel
There are several psychological reasons why you may experience vaginismus, ranging from fear of penetration, previous bad sexual experiences, a fear that you aren’t desirable or even the belief that sex is shameful or wrong.
Painful intercourse may exacerbate these feelings too, but it’s important to be kind to yourself.
If you’re struggling, talk to your GP, or seek out psychosexual therapy – an effective treatment in helping you develop positive associations with your body and sex.
Plus, practising mindfulness and breathing techniques is useful to help you learn how to relax your muscles.
Get to know your body
Before you take your relationships with others to the next level, consider getting to know your body better first. Masturbation not only has a whole host of benefits, but it can also allow you to engage in sexual activity without the fear of painful penetration.
And when it comes down to it, don’t take yourself too seriously, the goal doesn’t have to be orgasm, but rather finding what feels good! Enjoying sexual pleasure without any pressure is a great way to overcome the fear or shame you may hold about sex.
Communicate with your partner
Telling a new partner about your condition may feel awkward or uncomfortable, but there’s no reason to feel embarrassed.
Communication is an essential part of all relationships, both in the bedroom and outside of it. It’s best to be upfront with your partner and explain your condition before you decide to be intimate.
Once you feel ready for sex, make sure you feel comfortable enough to highlight what you enjoy and point out if you’re not.
Many TikTokers have shared how they approach the subject if you’re looking for some guidance.
Take baby steps
For many people, dilators are an important step in their vaginismus treatment. These dilators come in a set and gradually increase in size. Begin by inserting the smallest cone into your vagina to gradually ease tightness, moving up to the next to train the body to accept penetration at its own pace
While you may feel nervous to start, these dilators will help train your pelvic floor muscles to relax and can also help reduce hypersensitivity to touch.
Using dilators before sex can make penetration possible if that is your goal. While this may take the spontaneity out of your sexual experiences, it can be an opportunity to develop intimacy with a partner.
Practice those Kegels
While vaginismus may make you feel like you don’t have control over your own body, Kegel exercises are a great way to take back some of that control.
Kegel exercises strengthen the core muscles that support your pelvic organs, such as your bladder, bowel and uterus. So, regularly practising the movement of tensing and relaxing these muscles can help prepare your body for dilation.
Focus on foreplay
While past painful experiences may hinder your excitement, there are plenty of ways to be intimate without penetration. Touching, kissing and other sexual activities that do not involve penetration can help couples attain mutual pleasure.
Rather than focusing on achieving the end goal of having penetrative sex, take your time and enjoy a slow journey along the way. By focusing on intimacy, foreplay can also be a great way to ease some of the anxieties you may have around sex.
Studies have shown that it is possible for those undergoing regular treatment to overcome the condition and enjoy a healthy sex life.