Vaginismus Symptoms

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Vaginismus is the contraction or tightening of the pelvic floor muscles that occurs involuntarily when sexual intercourse is attempted. It can result in pain, burning, and aching. The symptoms also can occur during insertion of tampons or a speculum for a medical exam.

In particular, the symptoms of vaginismus:

  • Can occur all the time or only in certain situations
  • Can develop after a period of normal sexual function, or may occur throughout a woman's life
  • Can range from mild to severe can produce pain that may be described as searing, burning, sharp, aching, or tearing
  • Can interfere with sexual functioning even to the point at which penetration is impossible
  • Can cause a woman to feel that her vaginal opening is "too small," when this is not the case
  • Result from muscle spasm and produce real pain that is not imagined or "in your head"
  • Can arise for no apparent cause, or may result from a previous sexual trauma, anxiety, trauma during childbirth, infections, or a history of anxiety or discomfort during sex
  • Can lead to significant anxiety

Women who experience vaginismus often have a profound sense of embarrassment and may not mention the condition to their doctor. However, the condition can be treated through a variety of methods, including education, learning exercises to control the pelvic floor muscles, and vaginal dilation exercises. If a woman wishes, her partner can be involved in the treatment program as well. Success rates are high with proper treatment.

Medically reviewed by Wayne Blocker, MD; Board Certified Obstetrics and Gynecology


MedlinePlus. Vaginismus. WebMD, Female sexual problems. Female Sexual Problems.

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