Our story and why we want to help
Vaginismus is one of the most misdiagnosed and poorly understood of all medical conditions. It is the dominant cause of unconsummated marriages and plagues countless women with ongoing sexual tightness and pain. It commonly defeats adolescent girls attempting tampon insertion. Yet, 71 years after women won the right to vote in the United States, and 22 years after we put a man on the moon, nobody seemed to know anything about it...
Our journey began in 1991, right out of college. Married, we spent our first year agonizing over a surprise difficulty with sex. We were baffled, asking ourselves 'What on earth is going on?' Fighting embarrassment, we met with doctors and specialists, but the appointments were fruitless. Our symptoms stumped everyone we spoke with. A total mystery. No diagnosis. No treatment.
We were stuck.
Fortunately, we were young and in love, and full of the wellsprings of youthful positivity. If nobody knew how to fix it, we would figure it out. We were determined. Love and hard work would find a way. We would not to go through life with this problem unresolved. There had to be a way to fix it.
Medical literature in the early 1990s barely referenced vaginismus. Women's health issues were still rarely talked about publicly. Large gaps seemed to stretch between the frustrating experiences of women and the offerings of relief within medical circles. Physicians seemed to have painfully insufficient knowledge of problems of women's health, though you could sense that efforts were being made to improve. This was before the internet became significant and before computers allowed a doctor or patient to search the matrix of known data almost effortlessly.
Our university was part of a major hospital system. The campus included a massive medical library and research facility. We were determined that the answers would be found within this system and went to work spending long hours pouring over stacks of journals and volumes. Yet incredibly, after exhausting every related medical reference text and journal we could find, we were hardly closer to a solution. We found only a scant few sentences referencing the vaginismus issue and certainly no definitive answers toward treatment. Some literature suggested that it was an untreatable condition.
The condition did not fit very well within established medical categories. Was it a medical problem? Sort of, but not really. Nobody was sick. Was it a physical problem? Well, the body was all there and normal by examination. Was it a mental or emotional issue? We did not think any mental health issues were involved. Was it a sex problem? Yes, but a problem of no-sex, or tightness making sex difficult or impossible. Could surgery resolve it? No, surgery would not help – the body was already normal.
We were astonished at the tremendous difficulty trying to get help. Could we be one of the only couples on planet earth to ever encounter this problem? Physicians looked weirdly at us, puzzling to make sense of our description. Vaginismus can certainly make you feel like a freak of nature.
Again we kept seeking answers. Slowly, focusing all of our energy on trying to figure things out, we began to understand and see a pathway to resolution. We perceived that vaginismus was an involuntary tightening of the muscles in the pelvic floor. It results from a misplaced limbic reaction. Muscle reactions were happening involuntarily without awareness, just like we breath without thinking about it, and blink naturally to protect our eyes.
With enduring effort, we figured out methods to control and eliminate the muscle tightening reaction, and found our way to resolution. Life became normal again! We could go on to have children and grow old together like a regular married couple. We were so thankful to have found our way past such a frustrating experience and looked forward to a happy future.
After we made it through and resolved our problem, we soon became aware of other couples struggling with the same issue. First, a pastor at our church connected us quietly with another couple complaining of similar symptoms. They had been suffering in shame and silence, not knowing where to turn and desperate for solutions. We weren't the only ones after all – it was crazy that other couples in our own church could have the same problem – what a small world! Only later did we realize that the problem was far more common than suggested by the absence of medical literature.
Eventually, we felt compelled to take what we had learned, put it into a program, and pass this on to others. We spent five months writing our first book. Our insights into the underlying problems of the condition, combined with research and personal experience made us ideal candidates to piece together the first program available to overcome vaginismus. It was truly a herculean task, but the results were SO worth it. With some help, we created a website and began to distribute the guide. To our delight we soon began receiving emails from couples who had overcome vaginismus thanks to our program.
In all honesty, our initial publication had gaps that needed improvement. We were still guessing about the best ways to desensitize and eliminate the tightening responses. Yet the program worked, and people were being helped a great deal. At that time, we developed a moderated online support forum (on the website vaginismus.com) that eventually built up more than 100,000 posts from women going through the recovery steps. Our early literature was positively reviewed out of the gate by journals and media organizations.
We did not want anybody to be stuck anywhere in our recovery process, so we kept working at improving every little step. Feedback with years of development research have helped us perfect the recovery process to overcome vaginismus. With so much experience and feedback from doctors and patients, the program has become an outstanding, reliable guide – simple to follow and used by many.
Over the years, our writings, illustrations and methods have been copied throughout the internet and in books and video clips. Our efforts have helped develop a much wider understanding of the condition among medical professionals, and we are glad to see how much easier it is for women to figure out what they are experiencing. We are proud to see women's health issues given much greater attention than they were decades ago.
Vaginismus is a fully treatable condition – no one should suffer needlessly. Following the first program release over 20 years ago, we have worked to provide women and clinicians with the most effective resources available anywhere. We also developed and patented better vaginal inserts - the best out there in our humble opinion.
Today, our products are regularly used by hospitals, clinics, and healthcare professionals worldwide. Our resources help with vaginismus, but also for conditions such as vaginal atrophy, and post-cancer recovery. The mission continues with new zoom support groups, and program translations into Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Turkish, and Russian.
We always strive to provide excellent customer service, and welcome questions and feedback. And yes, we still love to receive emails from those who have been helped by our website and products. With God's help, we hope to continue making a difference in the lives of those struggling with vaginismus, and look forward to developing even better resources to make it easier to recover quickly.
With all of our hopes for a whole and happy life,
Mark & Lisa Carter