Vaginismus: She Literally Couldn't Have Sex

By Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., REDBOOK

While there are lots of reasons people give their spouses to avoid having sex at times, some women literally can't.

I recently had a newlywed patient and her hubby come to see me because they'd been married for six months and still hadn't had sex. A careful exam confirmed what I'd suspected: that she had a condition called vaginismus. Any time an attempt at penetration is made, the muscles surrounding the vaginal opening spasm, making intercourse difficult and painful.

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Some gynecologists see the problem as one of simply "needing to relax," but it's often a real, physical issue and needs treatment.

First, I taught my patient to do Kegel exercises, so she could practice tightening and-key word-relaxing the pelvic-floor muscles. And I prescribed vaginal dilators, which helped her body get used to the sensation of penetration, until she was ready for intercourse. I also referred her to a sex therapist. After three months, the couple was happy to report that sex was a success!

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If you or your partner has similar problems, I recommend making an appointment with your gynecologist.

Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., is an ob/gyn and a professor at Columbia University in New York City. Email her questions at askhilda@redbookmag.com .

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