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When a woman has vaginismus , her vagina’s muscles squeeze or spasm when something is entering it, like a tampon or a penis . It can be mildly uncomfortable, or it can be painful.
There are exercises a woman can do that can help, sometimes within weeks.
Painful sex is often a woman’s first sign that she has vaginismus. The pain happens only with penetration. It usually goes away after withdrawal, but not always.
Women have described the pain as a tearing sensation or a feeling like the man is “hitting a wall.”
Many women who have vaginismus also feel discomfort when inserting a tampon or during a doctor’s internal pelvic exam .
Doctors don’t know exactly why vaginismus happens. It’s usually linked to anxietyand fear of having sex . But it’s unclear which came first, the vaginismus or the anxiety .
Some women have vaginismus in all situations and with any object. Others have it only in certain circumstances, like with one partner but not others, or only with sexual intercourse but not with tampons or during medical exams.
Other medical problems like infections can also cause painful intercourse. So it’s important to see a doctor to determine the underlying cause of pain during sex .
Women with vaginismus can do exercises, in the privacy of their own home, to learn to control and relax the muscles around the vagina .
The approach is called progressive desensitization, and the idea is to get comfortable with insertion.
First, do Kegel exercises by squeezing the same muscles you use to stop the flow of urine when urinating:
- Squeeze the muscles.
- Hold for 2 to 10 seconds.
- Relax the muscles.
Do about 20 Kegels at a time. You can do them as many times a day as you want to.
After a few days, insert one finger, up to about the first knuckle joint, inside the vagina while doing the exercises. It’s a good idea to clip your fingernails first and use a lubricating jelly. Or do the exercises in a bathtub, where water is a natural lubricant.
Start with one finger and work your way up to three. You’ll feel the vagina’s muscles contracting around your finger, and you can always take your finger out if you’re not comfortable.
For women whose vaginismus is related to fear or anxiety, therapy helps.
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Vaginal contractions are contractions of the pelvic muscles surrounding the vagina , especially the pubococcygeus muscle . Vaginal contractions are generally an involuntary muscular response to sexual stimulation , including sexual arousal , and are commonly most intense during sexual stimulation and culminating in orgasm . Though usually an involuntary response, some women can control the muscles of the vagina to perform vaginal contractions at will. Vaginal contractions enhance the sexual experience and pleasure for both parties during sexual intercourse.
In a 1982 study, pelvic contractions of 11 women who manually self-stimulated to orgasm were monitored using an anal probe and a vaginal probe simultaneously. Near the perceived start of orgasm, a series of regular contractions began in 9 of the women, with anal and vaginal contractions synchronizing with each other. Three of the women’s orgasms consistently included only a series of regular contractions; for six other women, orgasms consistently continued beyond the regular series with additional irregular contractions. Two women had no regular contractions during reported orgasms. The women showed marked differences in orgasm duration and the number of contractions.  A 1994 study confirmed these results, but concluded that some women experience their orgasm regularly without contractions and some report having contractions during orgasm only occasionally. 
Vaginal contractions are caused by both the activity of certain brain regions and the release of the hormone oxytocin. It has been suggested that vaginal contractions during orgasm can increase the chances of pregnancy as they transport sperm up the reproductive tract from the vagina to the oviducts, which decreases the distance it has to travel. Additionally, when the woman is fertile sperm is only transported to the side of the dominant ovary. 
Involuntary vaginal contractions may arise from non-sexual causes. Involuntary spasm of the muscles around the vagina, usually caused by anxiety, can result in vaginismus . 
Vaginal contractions should not be confused with uterine contractions .
See also[ edit ]
- Pelvic floor muscles
- Muscle tone
References[ edit ]
- ^ Bohlen, JG; Held, JP; Sanderson, MO; Ahlgren, A (1982). “The female orgasm: pelvic contractions”. Arch Sex Behav. 11 (5): 367–86. doi : 10.1007/bf01541570 . PMID 7181645 .
- ^ Kratochvíl, S (1994). “Vaginal contractions in female orgasm”. Ceskoslovenska psychiatrie. 90 (1): 28–33. PMID 8174183 .
- ^ Puts, David A.; Dawood, Khytam; Welling, Lisa L. M. (2012-06-26). “Why Women Have Orgasms: An Evolutionary Analysis” . Archives of Sexual Behavior. 41 (5): 1127–1143. doi : 10.1007/s10508-012-9967-x . ISSN 0004-0002 . PMID 22733154 .
- ^ Ghazizadeh, Shirin; Nikzad, Masoomeh (2004). “Botulinum Toxin in the Treatment of Refractory Vaginismus”. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 104 (5, Part 1): 922–925. doi : 10.1097/01.AOG.0000141441.41178.6b .
External links[ edit ]
- Kratochvíl, S (1994). “Vaginal contractions in female orgasm”. Ceskoslovenska psychiatrie. 90 (1): 28–33. PMID 8174183 .
- Ghazizadeh, Shirin; Nikzad, Masoomeh (2004). “Botulinum Toxin in the Treatment of Refractory Vaginismus”. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 104 (5, Part 1): 922–925. doi : 10.1097/01.AOG.0000141441.41178.6b .
- This page was last edited on 17 July 2018, at 03:19 (UTC).
- Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License ;
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What causes vaginal cramps?
Last reviewed Thu 26 Jul 2018
- During pregnancy
- Seeing a doctor
This article looks at some of the most common causes of vaginal cramps, as well as treatment options and when to see a doctor.
Possible causes of vaginal cramps include the following:
Vaginal infections may cause cramps.
Vaginal infections can cause vaginal cramps, sharp pain, inflammation , and discomfort. Common types of vaginal infection include:
- bacterial vaginosis
- sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as trichomonas
- urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- yeast infections
Infections can also cause fever and unusual discharge, which may be foul-smelling.
Vaginal cramps are a common symptom of menstruation. They occur as the uterus contracts to shed the uterine lining.
Although cramps higher up in the pelvis are more common, it is not unusual to feel cramping in the vagina as well.
While doctors would expect some mild cramping during menstruation, severe pelvic pain and bleeding are not typical period symptoms.
A doctor can prescribe medications, such as birth control pills, to reduce the incidence of pelvic pain and discomfort resulting from menstruation.
Dyspareunia is the medical term for painful sex. This pain may occur during or immediately after sex.
Some people also experience dyspareunia when they use tampons.
Dyspareunia typically feels like menstrual cramps with the addition of a deep, burning pain inside the pelvis.
Multiple causes of dyspareunia exist, including infections, inflammation, and a history of surgery on the vagina or uterus.
Endometriosis is a condition that occurs when cells resembling uterine tissue grow outside the uterus.
This tissue contracts and bleeds during menstruation, but it cannot exit the body. This can result in significant pain and cramping.
If endometriosis develops in the vagina, it can cause cramping in this area. However, some people with vaginal cramping may be experiencing referred pain. Referred pain means that the tissue is contracting in other areas of the body, but the individual feels the pain in the vagina instead.
Pelvic floor disorders
Women who have given birth may experience pelvic floor disorders.
Pelvic floor disorders are conditions that cause pain, cramps, and other symptoms in the pelvic floor muscles, which support the bladder, rectum, and uterus.
These disorders may occur after a woman has given birth, as delivery can weaken the pelvic floor.
In addition to vaginal cramps, pelvic floor disorders can lead to constipation , pain during sex, and difficulty controlling a urine stream.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
PID is a condition that occurs when an infection in the pelvic organs causes inflammation in the vaginal tissue.
Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and may include:
- bleeding between periods
- pain in the lower abdomen
- pain during sex
- unusual discharge from the vagina or an odor
- vaginal cramps
People who have STIs, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia , are more likely to experience PID.
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths that develop in the uterine wall. They are most common in people who are in their 30s and 40s but tend to go away after menopause .
Uterine fibroids can cause heavy bleeding, vaginal cramps, pain during sex, and a feeling of fullness or pressure in the lower abdomen.
Vulvodynia is a medical condition in which a person experiences pain in the vulva, the external female genitalia, for 3 months or longer without any known cause.
Miscarriage, or pregnancy loss, occurs when a pregnancy ends at or before 20 weeks of gestation.
In addition to vaginal cramps, miscarriage can cause spotting or bleeding and pain in the abdomen.
Vaginal cramps during pregnancy
Vaginal cramps may occur during pregnancy for a variety of reasons. Mild cramps may be due to the implantation of the placenta or to cervical cell changes.
The growing uterus can also put pressure on the surrounding pelvic organs, causing some discomfort.
Vaginal cramps in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy can also indicate a miscarriage if bleeding accompanies them.
Sometimes, vaginal cramps during pregnancy can indicate that the baby’s delivery is imminent. If this occurs less than 37 weeks into the pregnancy, it is advisable to call a doctor to ensure that the symptoms do not indicate preterm delivery.
Together with contractions, vaginal cramping helps to make changes in the cervix to prepare the body for delivery ahead of the due date.
Vaginal cramping shortly before delivery may result in sharp or stabbing pains, which can indicate that the cervix is dilating to prepare for the birth.
When to see a doctor
Many causes of vaginal cramping are treatable.
While people can expect some mild vaginal cramps during menstruation, other instances of vaginal cramping can indicate underlying but usually treatable health issues.
A person should speak to a doctor if they are experiencing any of the following symptoms in addition to vaginal cramps:
- foul-smelling or unusual discharge
- a sensation of pelvic fullness and pressure
- heavy or unexplained bleeding
- severe pain
- pain during sex
- trouble controlling urination or feelings of urinary urgency
If a pregnant woman is concerned about vaginal cramps, especially those occurring alongside bleeding, she should speak to a doctor.
While mild vaginal cramps are often a standard symptom of menstruation, severe or recurrent cramps may have an underlying medical cause.
A doctor can provide an accurate diagnosis and recommend treatment options to alleviate pain and reduce the frequency of vaginal cramps.
What is bacterial vaginosis?
Bacterial vaginosis is a common infection caused by an imbalance of naturally occurring bacteria in the vagina. Symptoms include a grayish discharge with an unpleasant or fishy smell. If not treated, it can cause serious complications, including risks to pregnancy. Find out here about treatments, risks, and prevention.
What can cause cramps and discharge?
Menstruation, endometriosis, and infections are all possible causes of cramps and discharge. For most people, the discomfort will pass, but severe or lasting symptoms could be more of a cause for concern. This article looks at reasons for cramps and discharge along with treatment, prevention, and when to see a doctor.
Is having vaginal pressure during pregnancy normal?
It is normal to feel a heaviness or pressure on the vagina or pelvis during pregnancy. The common causes of vaginal or pelvic pressure are different in the early and late trimesters but are not usually cause for concern. In this article, we look at common causes, when to see a doctor, and how to relieve symptoms.
Ten reasons why cramps happen after your period
In this article, we look at common causes of cramps that occur after your period ends. We also look at symptoms, and ways to manage period cramps.
Treating endometriosis symptoms at home
Endometriosis is a common condition among women. During menstrual periods it can cause severe pain, cramping, and heavy bleeding. While there is currently no cure, several home remedies have been shown to alleviate symptoms. Here, learn more about home remedies, causes of endometriosis, and when to see a doctor.
Women’s Health / Gynecology
Pregnancy / Obstetrics
Sexual Health / STDs
Article last reviewed by Thu 26 July 2018.
Visit our Women’s Health / Gynecology category page for the latest news on this subject, or sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest updates on Women’s Health / Gynecology.
All references are available in the References tab.
Bacterial vaginosis — CDC fact sheet. (2017, February 16). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/std/bv/stdfact-bacterial-vaginosis.htm
Bleeding during pregnancy. (2016, July). Retrieved from https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Bleeding-During-Pregnancy
Dyspareunia. (2017, July 20). Retrieved from https://familydoctor.org/condition/dyspareunia/
Menstrual cycle: Your menstrual cycle. (2018, March 16). Retrieved from https://www.womenshealth.gov/menstrual-cycle/your-menstrual-cycle/#2
Pelvic inflammatory disease. (2018, June). Retrieved from https://bestpractice.bmj.com/topics/en-gb/195
Pelvic pains: Stabbing pain. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.pelvicpain.org.au/information/pelvic-pains/stabbing-pain/
Uterine fibroids. (2018, March 16). Retrieved from https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/uterine-fibroids
Vulvodynia. (2017, April). Retrieved from https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Vulvodynia
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