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Vaginismus is a sexual problem in which the muscles of the vagina involuntarily spasm and clamp closed. This can be a very painful and debilitating problem, and can make sex painful or impossible. Vaginismus is believed to be caused by sexual trauma or even just a past history of painful intercourse.
Vaginismus can make any kind of vaginal penetration difficult including that involved with a pelvic exam or even inserting a tampon.
Women with vaginismus tend to feel anxious about sex which compounds the problem. These women can become sexually aroused and can reach orgasm from clitoral stimulation, but intercourse is often impossible because it is too painful.
The exact number of women who suffer from vaginismus is unknown, but it is uncommon. It can be treated through a combination of education, counseling, and exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor (Kegel exercises). Vaginal dilation may also be recommended using plastic dilators, but this should only be done under the guidance of a qualified health care provider.