Vaginismus: Improving Confidence and Desire

Shush Life Founder & CEO Ky Hoyle was recently on This Morning with the nation’s favorite duo, Phil & Holly. Ky spoke eloquently and passionately about the importance of breaking boundaries around female pleasure. There were some nay-sayers (no sex on morning TV, please!), but there were far more positive comments. We received so many emails from women (and a few men) looking for advice. We’ll share some of these questions with you (anonymously, of course), as we know there will be so many more women (and men) who will benefit from the answers and knowing that they are not alone.

We chose this as the first question to share because Vaginismus is far more common than you might think. It’s estimated that 2 out of every 1,000 women have at least moderate Vaginismus, and approximately 1 in 10 women have experienced painful intercourse in the last six months.

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

How can I improve my low confidence and desire after Vaginismus?

Hi, I saw Ky on This Morning today, and I just wanted to say how refreshing it was to finally hear the word “Vaginismus”… anywhere! It is not something I have ever heard mentioned anywhere but in a health appointment, and even then it’s often hard work!

I was finally diagnosed with Vaginismus after several years of suffering. I tried the dilators alongside psycho-sexual counseling, and it improved slightly. But I felt most confident and empowered after regularly seeing an incredible gynecologist who actually understood the condition very well. Following on from these appointments and after feeling improvements, my partner and I decided to try and start a family. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen as soon as we hoped, and we ended up having fertility investigations, eventually resulting in us having IVF (successfully!).

I now have the most gorgeous little baby, but here’s where I’d love some advice. We haven’t had any sexual contact/sex in a very long time! All the treatments, side effects, Vaginismus, as well as a traumatic forceps delivery have really impacted my confidence and desire! (Not to mention being exhausted from the baby!). Because of all my previous experiences, I find it quite difficult to explore my own body, almost unenjoyable. I honestly just don’t know where to start, I understand I might be waaaay too complicated for you. Just thought I’d give it a shot!

Thanks so much!

Explore pleasure in bite-size pieces

Hello there, 

Many thanks for your email. 

It seems like sex & pleasure have become very complicated, and no wonder – you’ve had lots to deal with. There are a few issues here, and we’ll speak about them in turn.

The first and most crucial issue is how you feel about your body. You say you find it difficult to explore it, and this is something we hear a lot; many women feel the same way. There is no quick fix for this – it’s something that has built up over time, and it will take some time to get to the bottom of it. The good news, though, is that you can overcome this. 

We have a great online course called Becoming Orgasmic. This course is designed for women in similar situations as you, women who don’t regularly masturbate or experience pleasure. The course is fun and educational, and you’ll learn about anatomy, libido and desire, and orgasms. It covers a variety of ways to explore your own body in bite-size pieces. You can watch it on your own or with your partner.

Dilators for Vaginismus

It may be that your Vaginismus is still active, or it may come back as you start exploring your body. This is normal – it’s your body’s way of letting you know it’s feeling anxious. It may be that you need to start over with your dilators. Make sure to go slow and not force the issue – it needs to take the time it takes. Rushing it can place you back at square one. We have created our own set of dilators made from body-friendly silicone. Our dilators come with a small vibrating bullet. The vibration can help relax these nerve-endings and help build arousal. We believe it essential to create a pleasurable experience when it comes to dilation. Your body will be much more receptive to the insertion. 

It could be an idea to book a few sessions with a psychosexual therapist if you find that your body isn’t receptive at all – we have some recommendations on our Vaginismus Awareness site. 

Also, the Vaginismus Network is an awesome bunch of women who organize online and IRL events. Their aim is to help break isolation around Vaginismus and we recommend checking them out.

Partnered sex

So, partnered sex with your husband. We have another great course coming soon, Light My Fire, which is for couples looking to reignite passion. It’s a gentle course on how to flirt and build a bond before getting closer. You can watch the course sessions separately and do the exercises together, or watch them together. Again, there is no quick fix. It makes sense that you spend some time working on how you feel about your body before attempting to be intimate with your husband. A weekly date night might be a good start – just having dinner and enjoying being together as a couple rather than new parents.

Starting off small is the way forward here, just holding hands and then slowly increasing the intimacy as and when you both feel comfortable.

Best Wishes,

Team Sh! Xx

We give tailored advice on every aspect of female sexuality – just email us and we’ll do our best to help. We’re a small team, so please bear with us if you don’t get a reply straight away – we will get back to you as soon as we can xx