What Is Vaginismus?

Vaginismus is when the muscles of a woman’s vagina squeeze or spasm when something is entering it, like a tampon or a penis. It can range from mildly uncomfortable to quite painful. Vaginismus makes sexual intercourse difficult or impossible (the vagina can completely close up) and it can be painful. The symptoms can vary from one women to the next.

Vaginismus Types

There are two main types of vaginismus.

This is when a woman has had pain every time something entered their vagina, including a penis (called penetrative sex), or when they’re never been able to insert anything into their vagina. It’s also called lifelong vaginismus.

This is when a woman has had sex without pain before, but then it becomes difficult or impossible. It’s also called acquired vaginismus.


• Difficult or impossible penetration of the vagina, because the muscles in the vagina have tightened
• Burning or stinging pain and tightness of the vagina if penetrated by a tampon, finger or penis
• Fear of pain
• Intense fear of penetration and avoidance of sex • Loss of sexual desire if penetration is attempted
• Some women are able to have intercourse, but tightness and pain prevent orgasm.


There’s not always a reason for vaginismus. The condition has been linked to:
past sexual abuse or trauma
past painful intercourse
emotional factors

Other possible causes include:
fear that the vagina is too small for sexual intercourse
fear of getting pregnant
the after-effects of childbirth
relationship problems
tiredness or depression


Your doctor will likely ask:
• when you first noticed a problem
• how often it occurs
• what seems to trigger it

Typically, your doctor will also ask about your sexual history, which may include questions about whether you’ve ever experienced sexual trauma or abuse.