After working with women with vaginismus for almost 15 years, I have learned how isolating and alone this condition can make one feel. Women struggle with this secret and it takes tremendous courage to reach out and seek treatment.
I’d like to share a recent success story of a patient of mine who faced her fears, and overcame vaginismus. Her story is inspiring, and hopefully will encourage other women who are silently suffering to seek help.
“If a few months ago you had asked me to describe my medical journey/treatment in order to overcome Vaginismus, I would probably have started crying just sharing my heart of how hopeless I felt. How sex was something I was sure would just not happen for me. Vaginismus is an isolating monster. That’s about the best way I can describe it. It makes you feel alone in a situation that no one understands, broken and unable to be fixed, helpless despite countless attempts, and betrayed by your own body. You feel frustrated that while with every other situation you are an extremely logical person, you just can’t get your body to listen to you or you can’t understand what is going on.
Growing up, I was never able to insert a tampon, never had a gynecological exam, or was never able to have sex. I knew the tampon thing was strange, but I never really though much into it. When I was in college, I went to my gynecologist to get a normal routine exam (which I had never done before.) I was so anxious, I remember feeling sweat actually drip down my body. When I explained to my gynecologist that I haven’t been able to use tampons and haven’t had sex, she stated that she wouldn’t “violate” me today and to come back when I was sexually active. When I got engaged I still wasn’t sexually active due to the decision of wanting to wait until marriage, but I went to see a new gynecologist in order to get birth control for once I was married. Again, I explained how I couldn’t use a tampon, never had an exam, and never had sex. Again, this gynecologist told me to “come back a few months after being married when I was used to having things enter down there.”
Fast forward to my honeymoon. Failure. After many attempts, sex just wasn’t happening for us. My husband would say it felt like he was hitting a brick wall. There was no way he was getting in there. For me, it was just painful. My husband was so sweet, but we both were frustrated. When we got home, we decided to just give it time, chalking it up to it being a new experience for me. After about 6 months or so of no luck, we decided to start going to couples counseling. In a few months our counselor stated that she thought it might be Vaginismus and to look it up. Relieved with a possible answer, we went home that night and looked it up and found an online website where you could purchase dilators and a how-to book. We quickly bought them desperate to find a fix. When they arrived, they just sat in our room for months. Taking the dilators out and looking at them made me feel anxious, let alone trying to use them. When I did attempt to put in the smallest dilator, about the size of a pinky, it was again like I was hitting a wall. After a couple more months of hiding alone in confusion, I decided to try going to a midwife. When I went there and it was clear that I could not go through an examination, she determined that it would be best if I did an examination under anesthesia. I had told her that I thought it might be Vaginismus, but she had concluded that she believed the issue was my hymen. That led me on a road of MRI’s, specialists, and surgery that would lead to no success. When all was done and tried, the gynecologist then referred me to PT in order to work on my pelvic floor muscles (the same muscles involved in Vaginismus) that included dilator work. Exhausted, defeated, and hopeless my sweet cousin sent an email of a video of a girl who used [a medication] in order to cure Vaginismus. Instantly I went on a Google search for possible places around me and came across Maze.
When I started reading reviews, I was in tears. I couldn’t believe that there were other women just like me struggling with this and that they had found success. My friends “gently” pushed me to make the 10-minute phone consult a few weeks later after I told them about it. The consult call was nothing less than a gift. The women I talked to encouraged me to feel hopeful and ensured me that they had a job because there were SO many women just like me who struggle with this. I immediately started the process to get the procedure done. A few weeks later I got a phone call from Melissa, who I truly believe is an angel. She was so unbelievably compassionate, understanding, and informative. After hearing from everyone thus far that I needed to just relax, that it would happen, or that I was thinking about it too much, she was able to actually explain medically what was wrong. She was everything opposite of the care that I had seen so far in doctors and gynecologist. Melissa told me of how the procedure is helpful, but an equally or even more important part of the process is the PT done with the dilators after the procedure. Right there, I expressed my concern of how I had not been able to use dilators in the past and I how I was sure I would fail. She encouraged me and made me feel even more confident that I had made the right decision to pursue this. Less than a month later I traveled to NY to get the procedure done.
When I went in to get the procedure done, I had the sweetest nurses who handled me, and my very anxious questions, like champs. I finally met Melissa in person and she again explained the whole procedure to me. She told me how immediately following my procedure she would have about an hour-long session with me using the dilator. Again, I felt nervous, but I was ready to try anything. I went in to get the procedure and woke up from the anesthesia with the largest dilator inside of me. Tears. I couldn’t believe that something was inside of me without any pain. Melissa came and I was able to use the largest dilator. I couldn’t believe it. We then switched it out for a medium dilator, which I went home with in and slept with for the night. When I went back to my hotel, I thought for sure that I was just being super brave in front of the doctors and that I wouldn’t be able to do the dilators on my own. I was so nervous to use the bathroom because I didn’t want to have to re-insert the dilator. However, I was able to put the dilator back in with no pain! When I went for my follow up appointment the next day, Melissa walked me through the dilators and how they are used and I was able to get back up to the largest one in. Joy is all I felt. I felt free from being a prisoner in my broken body for the first time.
When I went back home I continued on with my dilators. I used them every day for 30 minutes, as I was instructed to. I was so surprised that they actually became somewhat of a comfort to me. I was successful with them! It made me feel so happy and confident! Melissa and I kept in contact weekly to see how I was doing and if I needed anything. When my period came that month I was able to use a tampon! After about a month of using them, I was ready to go back for my post month follow up appointment with Melissa. My husband and I still hadn’t been successful with sex, but I was eager to talk it through with her. She was able to do an examination on me (never done before!) and she provided multiple options for how to extend my PT in order to be successful. A week later, my husband and I achieved intercourse! I never thought I would have seen the day. Honestly, we are almost 2.5 years married now and we both had assumed that we were just going to be in a marriage where the intimacy would be dead.
This procedure, the care I received from Melissa and the Maze community the day of and the weeks following, has rejuvenated me. The joy in my marriage is overflowing. We are so incredibly thankful. If you are still reading this and considering doing this procedure, be brave, just this one last time. It is so, so worth it. You are in such good hands. We cannot give enough praise to Melissa and the others at Maze. They make miracles happen.”
– E, 25 Years Old