What is Vaginismus?
Vaginismus is a condition wherein the vaginal muscles contract persistently or involuntarily. These painful contractions can range from mildly uncomfortable to extremely painful and usually happen whenever:
- A partner attempts vaginal penetration during sexual intercourse.
- A woman tries to insert a tampon.
- The vaginal area or the surrounding area is touched.
Vaginismus does not necessarily interfere with arousal but can prevent penetration or make it unbearably painful and oftentimes impossible. The exact cause of vaginismus is unknown, but an interplay of several factors like fear and anxiety are being looked into.
Signs and Symptoms of Vaginismus
The signs and symptoms of vaginismus include:
- Painful sex
- Pain during penetration that may or may not go away upon withdrawal
- Tearing pain in women
- The man feeling like hitting a wall
- Discomfort or pain during internal pelvic exams and while inserting a tampon
Treatment of these symptoms includes Kegel exercises for women and the use of vaginal dilators.
What is a vaginal dilator
Vaginal dilators, also known as retrainers, are devices used in therapy aimed to treat and prevent vaginal penetration problems such as vaginismus. They are typically available in kits that contain a range of different dilator sizes.
This allows the patients to use the appropriate sizes and gradual progression throughout the treatment.
Benefits of Vaginal Dilators
Used appropriately, regularly and effectively, vaginal dilator therapy can elicit the following benefits:
- Minimize discomfort experienced during sexual intercourse due to a previous pelvic floor surgery or shortening, narrowing, and/or scarring of the vagina.
- Help overcome the fear and anxiety associated with vaginal penetration
- Reduce the risk of fibrosis and adhesion formation during and after pelvic radiotherapy
- Allow a woman to use tampons
- Help a woman control the pubococcygeal (PC) muscle to get rid of PC muscle reflex that could be the reason behind penetration difficulties, stinging pain, and tightness.
- Reduce the symptoms and severity of vaginismus by helping a woman gain control over the vaginal muscles rather than simply stretching the vaginal opening and muscle tissues
- Aid in the recovery and rehabilitation of the pelvic floor musculature and the vaginal tissue from stretching and tightness
How to use Vaginal Dilators
Before you start using vaginal dilators, here are several points that you should know and remember:
- Begin using the smallest size and gradually progress to larger dilators over time depending on your improvement and comfort.
- Designate an appropriate time and place for dilator therapy. Choose a warm and comfortable place where you can relax without interruptions.
- Lie down while bending your legs with cushions under the thighs to allow the leg muscles to relax completely.
- Warm the dilator slightly before use but do not make it too hot.
Here are the steps in using vaginal dilators:
Step 1. Lubricate the top of the dilator with a natural water-based and petrochemical-free lubricant.
Step 2. Focus on taking slow, relaxed, deep breaths so that your belly falls when you exhale and rises when you inhale. Continue doing this for five minutes at the beginning of each session.
Step 3. Observe your body and scan for any areas with tense muscles and try to encourage these muscles to loosen and relax with every exhale. Let the vaginal area soften as you breathe out by visualizing it.
Step 4. Insertion
Put the narrow end of the dilator on the vaginal opening while still doing diaphragmatic breathing. When you feel ready, gently insert the dilator up to a bearable depth with only minimal discomfort.
Pause insertion for up to a minute whenever you feel discomfort. Continue to relax and breathe. When the pain subsides, continue further and stop at regular intervals to allow your body to become accustomed to the sensation. Never force a dilator beyond your tolerance.
Step 5. When you’re done, gently withdraw and remove the dilator. Rest and recover for a while before you get up. Wash the dilator with soap and warm water, dry, and store it.