• IT'S TIME TO BE FREE OF PAIN

    At least 2 in 1,000 women experience vaginismus once in their lifetime - and probably many more who may be too afraid or embarrassed to seek medical attention and help. With a 95% chance of treating the condition, it is time to talk about vaginismus, shatter the isolation, eliminate the pain.

  • What is Vaginismus?

    "Vaginismus is the term used to describe recurrent or persistent involuntary tightening of muscles around the vagina whenever penetration is attempted."
    The symptoms include burning or stinging pain upon penetration, as well as intense fear or loss of desire when penetration is attempted.

    How does it develop? It is a complex psychosomatic condition, and the causes can be varied, such as a painful first intercourse, sexual abuse, fear of pregnancy or a deeply rooted belief that sex is wrong.

    Vaginismus isn't "only" about sex, it's about life. Penetrative sex is not the only thing its victims loose - let's be honest, not all of us prioritise that - but a sense of intimacy or self-worth too. It can painfully interfere with regular gynaecological examinations, the use of tampons and mooncups or even childbirth. And if you have no one to talk to and share your experiences, the isolation can be unbearable.

     

    Let's fight the stigmas around female sexual health and open up the conversation together!

  • I Have Vaginismus, What Can I Do?

    how to conquer the condition

    You are not alone:

    • Approximately 10% of adult women have experienced painful intercourse in the last six months.
    • 2 out of every 1,000 women has at least moderate vaginismus.
    • Approximately 20% of women who seek help from sexual clinics are experiencing vaginismus.
    • 53% of clinical vaginismus patients are married.
    • 53% of women with vaginismus are between 25 and 35 years old, with 18% younger and 29% older.

    Diagnosis

    The main symptom of vaginismus is an involuntary and painful tightening of the vagina, which may make penetration difficult or even impossible.

     

    For some women it is absolutely impossible to insert anything into their vagina, let it be fingers or tampons. Some may be able to insert a tampon or participate in a gynaecological exam, but sex is not possible. Again others suffering from vaginismus may be able to experience penetrative sex, but find it painful.

     

    Other symptoms can include:

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

    The first step after you've realised you may have vaginismus, is to seek professional help and confirm the diagnosis with your GP. As the NHS website clarifies, vaginal examination will be necessary at some point to rule out a physical cause of vaginismus, such as an injury, infection, or oversensitive nerves at the opening of the vagina (provoked vulvodynia).

    Healing & Treatment

    Is it treatable? Yes it is! Because it’s a condition that involves the head and body, the best thing to do is see a psychotherapist who knows about vaginismus. All the therapists on the COSRT website will have had specific training in this. We strongly encourage you to seek out help from professionals, as treatment success rates hover around 95% in most clinical trials.

     

    If you have more questions about vaginismus and would like to read advice from a trained sexual and relationship therapists, please go the the FAQ section just below.

  • FAQ & Blog

    anonymous advice letters from our mailbox - huge thanks to Sarah Berry Sex & Relationship Therapist, for her  advice!

    September 14, 2016
    A first hand account of vaginismus. I have primary vaginismus most likely from being sexually abused at a young age. My first hint was the inability to insert a tampon. The first time caused me to pass out and then I avoided inserting a tampon. In 9th grade I made an attempt and couldn't insert...
    I have been dealing with vaginismus on and off for three years after a long period of enjoying a normal, healthy sex life. I’ll never really know what caused my vaginismus but always put it down to a combination of a reoccurring case of thrush I suffered with and day to day stress. My partner...
    Yes, as can bisexuals, queer people, asexual… Vaginismus is not just about penis in vagina sex.
    Absolutely. The first thing to do is learn to relax and squeeze the PC muscle that is tensing during vaginismus. This is the muscle that you squeeze when you want to stop a flow of wee, so you can practise this when you next go to the toilet.   The next step is to practise inserting things into...
    Yes you can. In fact some people find it easier to become better acquainted with, and work with their vagina when they don’t feel pressured (their own internal pressure or from their partner) to be intimate. People with vaginismus can often avoid any intimacy such as snogging for fear they...
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  • Resources

    All things helpful from reading to therapeutic tools and toys. Please be advised that our approach to healing vaginismus is a very sex positive and as such, this section contains is NSFW parts.

    Books to help you heal

    Sex Guides

    With Vaginismus and painful sex often comes a difficulty of reaching orgasm. Whilst a thundering climax may not be the most important thing when it comes to sex, never having one can certainly add to the feelings of frustration and helplessness.

     

    Not having an orgasm isn’t necessarily to do with Vaginismus, and the good news is that you can have one even if you have not yet progressed to penetration. Majority of women report that their orgasm originates from the clitoris, which means no insertion is necessary for sexual pleasure!

     

    Becoming Orgasmic contains a practical program to help women learn how to have an orgasm, or to have orgasms easier. It’s the self-help guide most often recommended by sex therapists and relationship counsellors.

     

    Ultimate Guide to Orgasm for Women is not a self-help guide, but still very useful when it comes to learning more abut women’s orgasms, and the different types of orgasms women can experience.

    Books to get you in the mood again

    Starting with fantasies

    Feeling aroused is a big step towards happy, healthy sex with yourself, or with a partner. It can be very difficult feeling sexy when just thinking about sex causes the vagina to clench up.

     

    Reading erotica and enjoying sexy fantasies are great ways of slowly becoming accustomed to thinking about sex in general, and thinking about yourself having sex in particular. You can buy paperbacks if you prefer the traditional style of flicking pages, or there is now an abundance of erotica easily available for more discreet e-reading.

    Nancy Friday

    The sex-positive feminist

    Every woman should, at some point in her life, read a book by Nancy Friday, the American sex-positive feminist whose first book My Secret Garden caused uproar in the early 70’s.

     

    Friday spent time talking to women (and men) about their real-life fantasies, which she then compiled into four books. Allowing yourself to fantasise about the kind of sex you’d like to have is both liberating and arousing.

     

    Our pick:

     

    The Forbidden Forest

     

    Women on Top

     

    My Secret Garden

     

    Men in Love

    Bisexual and Lesbian Erotica

    Bisexual Erotica

    Eroticism comes in many forms, and if you find yourself fantasising about sexy encounters with both men and women, a book on bisexual erotica could be for you. Choosing a book with many short stories, rather than one long story, means you get more to choose from.


    Best Bisexual Women's Erotica

     

    Lesbian Erotica

    Maybe you prefer to fantasise about other women or girl on girl encounters? There are many excellent lesbian anthologies out on the market, some are softer stories, and some are more graphic if that’s your preference.

     

    Girl Fever

    Classic Erotica

    Perhaps you’re not so keen on modern writing, in which case classic erotica may be just what you are looking for.

     

    Classics such as Fanny Hill or Delta of Venus never go out of fashion, and you’ll find yourself rereading favourite paragraphs over and over.

    Sh! Soft Silicone Dilating Kit with Bullet Vibe

    Created to help you advance towards a happy and healthy sex life

    The kit consists of four soft and smooth silicone shafts of graded sizes, plus a vibrating bullet. Following and aiding therapeutic work, together with appropriate exercises, the Sh! Dilating Kit will help you transition to pain-free penetration.

     

    Learn more and get the kit!

    Lubes and Vibrators

    Vibrating sex toys, or vibrators, are wonderful tools for helping to relax tense nerve-endings.

    Vibrators needn’t be big to be effective; even the teeny-tiny finger tip vibes can be both useful and fun.

     

    Go slow, and always add a generous amount of a lubricant you like the feel of. We recommend water-based lubricants as they are more body friendly. Opting for a paraben-free version lessens the risk of you developing irritation, so always look at the ingredients before making a purchase. Sh! Pure Lube is an excellent choice as it is body-friendly and hypoallergenic.

     

    Choosing a more viscous lube can often be helpful as the thicker liquid creates a soft, padded layer between fingers/toys and vulva or vagina. Sh! Pure Plus Lube is waterbased, paraben-free and viscous.

    Feelz Toys Finger Tip Vibrator

    These finger tip vibrators are small, non-threatening and very easy to use. Simply slip one (or two) over a finger, and explore the outer contours of your labia. The gentle vibrations will help you relax.

     

    Feelz Toys Finger Tip Vibe

    Rocks Off Finger Tingles

    The Finger Tingles is a phenomenal choice for women who feel unsure about sex toys, or are worried that it will feel mechanical or “un-natural”. Simply slip the vibe over your finger, and your finger becomes the vibrator! It’s skin on skin contact, but with the bonus of soft vibrations.

     

    Sh! Mini Pink Vibrator

     

    If a Dilator/Vaginal Trainer doesn’t seem pleasurable or fun to you, there is no reason why you can’t choose a small, soft vibrator instead. As with a dilator, take it slow and don’t force the issue. The Pink Mini Vibe comes with seven settings, giving you plenty to explore.

    Sh! Discreet Vibrator

    When people say that size doesn’t matter, they haven’t experienced Vaginismus. Size matters. Always start off small – it’s about building confidence for both brain and vagina. The Sh! Discreet vibrator is a little bit bigger than an average sized finger, and can be a good option for someone who doesn’t fancy a Dilator/Vaginal Trainer.

    Silicone Dildos

    Using a soft, flexible silicone dildo is another good option. They come in a variety of sizes (and colours!) and we can help you find a size that would work for you. If you enjoy vibration, there are vibrating dildos available too.

    Support Groups

    There is a London Vulval Pain Support Group which includes some women who are suffering with vaginismus. You can find out more on their website. We will also be holding a discussion group as part of our vaginismus awareness event in September, you can reserve a place on eventbrite.

  • Therapists

    Choose a professional who understands your condition!

    Sarah Berry

    Sex & Relationship Therapist

     

    Having sought therapy for my own sexual difficulties, I have an understanding about how difficult sex and relationship problems can be and how they can impact your life.

     

     

    http://www.sarahberrytherapy.co.uk/

    Kate Moyle

    Psychosexual & Relationship Therapist

    I believe in helping people to get to a place where they feel in control
    of their bodies again; working towards sexual wellbeing, health and
    happiness.

    www.katemoyle.co.uk | www.thethoughthouse.co.uk

    John O'Reilley

    Psychosexual & Relationship Therapist

    I am qualified with a British Association for Sexual & Relationship Therapy and have been working in this area since 2002. I have assisted many women and couples struggling with vaginismus.

     

     www.johnoreilly.co.uk
     

    Karen Pollock

    LGBTQ

    Councellor

    I am a registered member of the BACP, working towards COSRT accreditation and specialising in LGBTQ issuess. I offer empathetic, non judgemental open-minded counselling in Northumberland

     

     

    www.counsellinginnorthumberland.com

    Northumberlandcounselling@gmail.com

    Krystal Woodbridge

    Psychosexual & Relationship Therapist

    I am a member of COSRT and a qualified nurse working in St Albans. I am a registered therapist with Pink Therapy and a former winner of the COSRT post-graduate award for work in psychosexual therapy.

     

    www.woodbridgetherapy.co.uk

    krystal@woodbridgetherapy.co.uk

    Trudy Hannington

    Psychosexual & Relationship Therapist

    I am a Psychosexual Therapist at the Leger Clinic, in Doncaster, and Chair of The College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists, as well a member of the British Association of Sexual and Relationship Therapy.

     

    www.legerclinic.co.uk/

    appointment@legerclinic.co.uk

    Clare Staunton

    Sex and Relationship Councellor

    I'll work holistically to help you gain a sexual identity where pleasure and consent are at its heart - reducing anxiety around intimacy.
    I'm based in West London, contact details below if you'd like to get in touch.
     

     

    www.sexualhealinguk.com/

    sexualhealinguk@hotmail.com

    Mike Lousada

    Psychosexual & Relationship Therapist

    I have been practicing as a Psychosexual Somatic® Practitioner in different forms for most of my adult life. My psychotherapeutic influences come from many different schools, and is currently working in London.

     

     

    www.mikelousada.com/

    info@mikelousada.com

    Carolyn Staunton

    Psychosexual & Relationship Therapist

    I am Carolyn Cowan, a Psychosexual & Relationship Therapist who is also a sex addiction therapist & a member of COSRT & ATSAC. You can make appointments to see me in Belgravia, central or south London. I can also work via Skype or FaceTime.

     

    www.sexhelp.org.uk

     info@carolyncowan.com 

    Kirstie McEwan

    Psychosexual & Relationship Therapist

    I have then undertaken further specialist training with Pink Therapy to work with sexual and gender diversity.I am registered with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and I am also a general member of COSRT, currently working toward accreditation.

     

     

     

     

    www.counsellingwithconfidence.co.uk

    info@counsellingwithconfidence.co.uk

    Dr Su Yap

    Clinical Psychologist and Psycho-sexologist (ESSM/EFS certified)

    I work as a Principal Clinical Psychologist in a NHS sexual health clinic, and am an active member of the British Society of Sexual Medicine. I run a successful private practice with individuals and couples I take a holistic view of the person, looking at biological, psychological & social factors that cause sexual problems. I use psychological techniques that scientific research has shown to be effective for sexual problems.

    http://mindsurgerylondon.co.uk/

    mindsurgerylondon@gmail.com

    Rima Hawkins

    Rela​tionship and Psychosexual Therapist

     

    I am a professionally qualified COSRT accredited, BACP registered therapist with over 20 years of sexual health experience. I have a private practice in Chelsea and Fulham. My main interests are female clients with psychosexual issues and clients who have inter/cross cultural relationship issues. My primary mode of working is Humanistic-Integrative Psychotherapy.

     

    http://www.rimahawkins.com/

     

    Can't find what you're looking for?

    Visit the College of Sex and Relationship Therapist's website for a full list of COSRT therapists in your area. COSRT accreditation is awarded to psychosexual therapists who have met strict criteria in training, experience, knowledge, ethical standards, clinical skills and commitment to continuous professional development; this is audited annually.

     

     

    www.cosrt.org.uk

  • Ask us a question or share your story!

    We know suffering from vaginismus can be frightening and isolating. We are here to answer your questions and connect you to other women fighting it.

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