Home Common Conditions


Written by Emma McGeorge

If you’ve experienced psychogenic vaginismus (pelvic floor myalgia) you know that it can cause a lot of pain, irritation, frustration and distress. It’s a condition where the vaginal muscles tighten or spasm involuntarily. It can range in severity and often happens before or during sexual intercourse, but can also be triggered by using a tampon or receiving a pelvic exam.

What are some of the causes of vaginismus?

Psychogenic vaginismus can occur from the first time you try to penetrate the vagina during sexual intercourse or with any type of vaginal penetration, such as with tampon insertion or during a pelvic exam. But frustratingly, it can also happen to some women after they’ve experienced a period of non-painful vaginal penetration, leading to unwelcome sexual pain that, if left untreated, can result in long-term female sexual dysfunction.

Causes of vaginismus include:

  • Past experience of uncomfortable or painful sexual intercourse
  • Past sexual trauma, including the experience of rape, or sexual abuse or assault
  • Dissatisfaction or sexual and physical abuse in a relationship 
  • Previous pelvic examinations that caused pain
  • Fear of becoming pregnant
  • A general fear of penetration and pain – if this happens before the first time a woman has sexual intercourse, it is considered lifelong vaginismus

Get medical and psychological support to treat vaginismus

The good news is that female sexual dysfunction due to vaginismus can be successfully treated. As it is both a psychological and physical condition, we encourage you to visit a gynecologist and a psychologist who can help you work through the causes of your condition. Pelvic floor physical therapy is also an excellent option, as involuntary spasm in your pelvic floor muscles may also be interfering with normal sexual functioning.

Read: How to Treat Vaginismus at Home

As vaginismus is a complex condition, you might have to see a few different professionals until you find the right fit for you and your specific needs. But don’t give up! With the right team, you’ll be able to gently unpack some of the thoughts and feelings behind the condition and create a plan to overcome it.

Get comfortable

Taking time to relax and gently explore your sexual body can make you feel more comfortable about using tampons, your partner’s penis or having pelvic exams. Becoming familiar with yourself in a safe and comfortable space, helps you learn what feels good for you and calms some of the stress you may be feeling, helping pave the way to reducing or even eliminating episodes of painful intercourse.

Take your time, explore your body, and increase your sexual knowledge about what you enjoy and what you don’t. We have lubricants and vaginal moisturizers for vaginismus to help you get slowly comfortable with your body and work up to very light penetration. They’re natural, nurturing and made from the highest quality ingredients to help you feel good about using a tampon, toy, your partner’s penis, or vaginal dilators.  

When it comes to sex, you might be wondering how to not have pain during intercourse. We suggest communicating with your partner and explaining you want to take sex slowly. Put on the slow tunes and ask them first to focus on the outside of your vagina before moving to penetration. There’s no rush. In fact, you don’t even need to have penetrative sex to experience intimacy with a partner - but above all, you must communicate and come to an understanding. This helps you build a better relationship with your partner, especially at times that you need the additional understanding.

Has vaginal dilation therapy been recommended?

Vaginal dilation therapy’s purpose is to help relax the vaginal walls and tissue. Known as desensitization therapy, dilators can be used as a tool to learn vaginal dilation exercises that can relax your vaginal walls, reduce or eliminate persistent involuntary spasm, and decrease your pain - relaxing your pelvic floor and desensitizing your vulvar and vaginal area making it easier (and less painful) to have sex and use tampons.

Think of your vagina and pelvic floor like someone who is really stressed out and holding their shoulders up to their ears all the time. We need to slowly let those muscles relax again. Even when your thoughts are calm, your body may still tense. 

This is especially a problem with women who have experienced long-term stress or abuse in the past; even if the danger is long passed, your body may have conditioned itself to be in a constant state of physical stress. Your body needs to un-learn these habits that it adopted in order to help you survive now that you don’t need them. 

This is a long process, and one that you need to be patient with as your body becomes accustomed to your new normal. Dilators help your body to understand that everything is safe. And they allow your body to become used to, and comfortable with, stimulus and penetration without experiencing severe physical and psychological pain.

Vaginal dilation therapy is an excellent treatment for vaginismus because you go at your own pace and never exceed your own comfort level. Vaginal dilators come in sets of different graduated sizes so you can start with the one that fits inside you without pain or discomfort. You then slowly but surely increase the size of the dilators you’re using therapeutically until you reach your desired size, which all depends on your end goal. This can vary from looking to reduce the pain associated with inserting a tampon, having penetrative sex with your partner without worry, or no longer having to suffer additional discomfort during pelvic exams.

That’s why we just LOVE the silicone dilators from Intimate Rose. We’ve tried many (many) dilators and these are our number one choice for vaginismus hands down. They come in a variety of sizes, are made with 100% medical grade silicone and were even made by a pelvic floor physical therapist. Plus, they don’t look like sex toys but rather like the therapeutic devices they are. We feel confident you’ll like them as much as we do. 

Still wondering if a dilator might be helpful for you? Check out this article answering frequently asked questions from a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic health!