Vaginismus or not?

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    Hi, just wondering if anyone has any advice. I’m 24 and I’ve never been able to insert a tampon or have penetrative sex because it’s always been painful or just feels like hitting a wall. Based on what I’ve read online, I’m pretty sure I have vaginismus, but for multiple years I haven’t really addressed it or tried to resolve it because it makes me anxious and my coping method has basically been to push it away and ignore it. But recently I decided to push myself to start taking steps that might help. As I’d never actually had a diagnosis, I went to a private gynaecologist for a consultation (I’m in the UK and it’s hard to be seen in person on the NHS at the moment due to Covid). She examined me with a speculum which I found EXTREMELY painful – worse than I’ve ever felt, I was literally groaning and asking her to stop. But then she said because she managed to examine me, it couldn’t be vaginismus because she wouldn’t have been able to get the speculum in and move it around if it was. She said everything looked normal and it just hurt because I was so tense, but that I shouldn’t diagnose myself with vaginismus ‘because I’m only young and nervous and I just need to relax and realise sex is a nice thing’.

    After having to pluck up the courage to actually talk to someone about it, I ended up finding the experience quite confusing (and patronising – I’m not exactly a 13 year old who just hit puberty). My understanding was that vaginismus = the involuntary tightening of muscles, which is what was happening, yet according to the Dr it’s not ‘bad enough’ to be considered that. Surely even if she managed to examine me, if it’s very painful it may still be vaginismus? But on the other hand, she’s a gynaecologist so I would have thought she would have some expertise in this area.

    I know no one here can diagnose me, but I’m just wondering if anyone has any thoughts on this or advice. I’d also really appreciate any advice on next steps I can take – the doctor’s advice to ‘just relax’ is a little bit easier said than done, I wish it was that easy!

    Thanks so much in advance.


    Hello Olive123! I’m so sorry that you had a doctors visit like that! My gyn did the same to me! She told me to just lube up, drink a glass of wine and relax. Not helpful at all. And yes you can absolutely have vaginismus and still be able to have a speculum inserted. Vaginismus has all different severities! I think it’s great that you want to start taking action! It is so easy to avoid and ignore due to how overwhelming it feels. But, vaginismus is very much curable!! I know the speculum hurt you, but having been able to get that in is impressive!! I think you should find yourself a dilating kit and start there! The kit I purchased when I was dilating is called the Pure Romance dilating kit and they’re all pretty colors so it makes it a bit more comforting and cute to look at 🙂 The kits start with dilators that are as small as your pinky, and slowly work their way up. Just like going to the gym, you wouldn’t be able to grab a 50lb weight so you’d start with maybe 5lbs and work your way up! The vagina is a muscle, and all it needs is some physical therapy to get rid of those involuntary spasms. When dilating, you want a consistent schedule. You want to aim for almost every day of the week, and 20 minutes a day. During this time, in my opinion… it makes the world of difference if you spoil yourself during dilation! I used to lay on a heating pad(for comfort) and I would do this in my room, on my bed watching tv and id put on a really good tv show or movie and id surround myself with pillows so I was extra comfy! When you begin, insert the dilator and leave it there for a minute and allow your vagina to adjust to the size. Then take it all the way out and put it back in(working on desensitizing the entrance of the vagina to work on those muscles that don’t want to allow penetration) and then once it is back in, you can slowly start moving it in and out. You don’t need to take it out fully during this part of your dilating session. And if you’re feeling up to it, you can lay down and leave your dilator in while you watch a movie. It’s not necessary, but it also doesn’t hurt to put in extra work! Move up in size when your current dilator becomes a breeze. You can also try inner vaginal massages. That’s when you use your finger or tiny dilator, and just gently press up against the wall of your vagina, just up to the first knuckle on your finger, and go around and around to massage the pc muscles at the entrance. Please feel free to ask as many questions as you like, we’re here for you 🙂 I hope this helps!! You can beat this!!!


    Hi Olive123 – Heather’s advice was excellent but I just want to reiterate that your experience at the gyno was terrible and I’m so sorry that happened to you! It sounds like vaginismus to me and even if it wasn’t, doctors shouldn’t dismiss pain and fear that’s clearly affecting their patients like that. One of the truly shocking things about the world of vaginismus is that there are loads of gynecologists who aren’t familiar with it even though it’s such a common affliction of people with vaginas. It’s crazy that most of us have to go years before we get a diagnosis and that usually includes multiple gynos. But anyway, being physically able to tolerate being examined (through enormous pain) does NOT dismiss the possibility of vaginismus.

    As Heather says, there are lots of treatment options based on the range of what you’re able to tolerate, from pelvic floor therapy to dilation on your own to the botox treatment, so I hope you’ll investigate some options if you feel so motivated. You don’t deserve to feel this much pain and there are solutions out there!

    mmHelen Leff, LCSW

    Hi Olive, Thank you for telling your story, it is such an important one. I’m sorry that you were failed by a health care professional and glad that you looked deeper for answers. Our bodies are very wise and you are clearly listening to yours. Both Heather and recessivegenqueen are right on!
    Let us know how we can be of further help.
    Take good care,



    You’ve already heard from the amazing and very knowledgable women above, but I want to join in them acknowledging your story and celebrating your strength and resilience! Leave no stone unturned as you search for proper diagnosis and treatment and have faith you will. Don’t be deterred by ignorant care providers – the literature (and all the success stories of our own patients) proves vaginismus is a highly treatable condition.

    Take your time and go at your own pace if you choose to go with dilators. Use lots of self-compassion, be patient with yourself and remember it’s about progression, not perfection. All best to you!

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