Symptoms of vaginismus 

The main symptom of vaginismus is tightening of the vagina, which can make penetration difficult or even impossible.

The severity of the problem can vary from one woman to the next.

Some women are unable to insert anything into their vagina. Others can insert a tampon and are able to have a gynaecological exam, but sex is not possible. Some women with vaginismus are able to have sex, but find it very painful.

Other symptoms of vaginismus can include:

  • a burning or stinging pain when the vagina is penetrated
  • an intense fear of penetration and pain, which makes you avoid sex
  • loss of sexual desire if penetration is attempted

The tightening of the vagina is involuntary and you cannot do anything to stop it. The body has learned to associate penetration with pain and, whenever penetration is expected, the vaginal muscles tighten as a protective reaction.

It's not true that women with vaginismus do not like or do not want to have sex. Many women with the condition enjoy closeness and share sexual pleasure with their partner. They can achieve orgasm during mutual masturbation, foreplay and oral sex. It's only when sexual intercourse is suggested or attempted that their vagina tightens to prevent penetration.

Seeking medical help

You should see your GP or visit a sexual health clinic if you think you may have vaginismus, as it's unlikely to improve without appropriate support and treatment, and it can lead to long-term emotional and relationship problems if not dealt with.

Try not to feel embarrassed about discussing the issue with your doctor. Seeing a doctor about it can be the first step towards overcoming the problem.

Read more about diagnosing vaginismus and treating vaginismus.

Page last reviewed: 09/01/2015

Next review due: 01/01/2018