Vaginismus Symptoms

Variations, Experiences, Examples

Common Symptoms of Vaginismus:

1) Burning or stinging with tightness during sex


2) Difficult or impossible penetration, entry pain, uncomfortable insertion of penis


3) Unconsummated marriage


4) Ongoing sexual discomfort or pain following childbirth, yeast/urinary infections, STDs, IC, hysterectomy, cancer and surgeries, rape, menopause, or other issues

5) Ongoing sexual pain of unknown origin, with no apparent cause


6) Difficulty inserting tampons or undergoing a pelvic/gynecological exam


7) Spasms in other body muscle groups (legs, lower back, etc.) and/or halted breathing during attempt at intercourse


8) Avoidance of sex due to pain and/or failure

Depending on the intensity, vaginismus symptoms range from minor burning sensations with tightness to total closure of the vaginal opening.

Variations in the Experience of Vaginismus

Vaginismus can be triggered in both younger and older women, in those with no sexual experience and those with years of experience. Not all women experience vaginismus the same way, and the extensiveness of vaginismus varies:


  • Some women are unable to insert anything at all
  • Some women are able to insert a tampon and complete a gynecological exam, yet are unable to insert a penis
  • Others are able to partially insert a penis, although the the process is very painful
  • Some are able to fully insert a penis, but tightness and discomfort interrupt the normal progression from arousal through to orgasm and bring pain instead
  • Some women are able to tolerate years of uncomfortable intercourse with gradually increasing pain and discomfort that eventually interrupts the sexual experience
  • Women may also experience years of intermittent difficulty with entry or movement and have to constantly be on their guard to control and relax their pelvic area when it suddenly 'acts up'
Cover from Overcoming Vaginismus book, couple hugging on wooden bench.

Examples of the Effects of Vaginismus

Partial Penetration

Penetration may be possible, but some women experience periods of involuntary tightness causing burning, discomfort, or pain.

(Hover over image to view)

Impossible Penetration

As the man approaches the woman to attempt intercourse, her vaginal muscles involuntarily tighten the vaginal entrance, preventing penetration.

(Hover over image to view)

Partial Penetration

Penetration may be possible, but some women experience periods of involuntary tightness causing burning, discomfort, or pain.

Impossible Penetration

As the man approaches the woman to attempt intercourse, her vaginal muscles involuntarily tighten the vaginal entrance.

Vaginismus Symptoms Severity Range

Vaginismus symptoms severity range from level 1 to 4

1. Minor discomfort or burning with tightness is experienced with vaginal entry or thrusting but may diminish

2. More significant burning and tightness is experienced

3. Involuntary tightness of the vaginal muscles makes entry and movement difficult and painful

4. Partner is unable to penetrate due to tightly closed vaginal opening. If entry is forced, significant pain results

How Does Vaginismus Cause Problems?

With vaginismus, the mind and body have developed a conditioned response against penetration (see causes). The body has learned to expect or anticipate pain upon penetration, so that the powerful PC muscle 'flinches' or contracts to protect against the potential of intercourse pain. This can be equated to automatically blinking one's eyes and wincing when an object is hurled toward us. It is not something a woman thinks about doing- it just happens.


The tightened PC muscles may cause burning or pain with sex or may completely block entry. Instead of preventing pain, the tightening of the PC muscle group ultimately causes pain; although acting as a defense mechanism against pain, the opposite effect results.


Vaginismus has a wide range of manifestations, from impossible penetration, to intercourse with discomfort, pain or burning, all resulting from involuntary pelvic tightness. When a woman has never been able to have pain-free sexual intercourse due to penetration difficulties, it is generally classified as primary vaginismus. When a woman develops the vaginismus condition after having previously enjoyed problem-free sex, it is generally classified as secondary vaginismus. Depending upon the classification, there may be some minor differences in the way in which vaginismus is treated (see diagnosis).

Vaginismus is Involuntary - Not Intentional!

It is important to note that vaginismus is not triggered deliberately or intentionally by women. It happens involuntarily without their intentional control and often without any awareness on their part. Vaginismus has a variety of causes, often in response to a combination of physical or emotional factors. The mystery of the problem can be very frustrating and distressing for both women and their partners. Despite the fact that vaginismus is involuntary and can strike any woman, many woman feel intense shame from being unable to have intercourse and keep their pain private, feeling uncomfortable sharing their secret with anyone.

Common Quotes - Can You Relate?

"It always felt tight and uncomfortable. I never realized it was vaginismus."

"I experience burning pain upon penetration attempts."

"I'm still a virgin even though we've tried many times - it's like he hits a wall."

"Sex used to be great, but now I close up - it burns and stings."

"Sex was fine until after the baby - now it always hurts."

"We can't consummate our marriage - it's impossible."

"The doctor says there's nothing wrong with me. So why does it still hurt?"

"When he starts to move, it feels uncomfortable and we have to stop."

"Ever since the operation I feel burning pain when I try to get him in."

"After menopause I began to feel soreness and now now I tighten up."

"I don't wear tampons because it is too hard to get them in."

"I seem to 'tighten' up down there even when I really want to have sex."

"There's no way I'm doing a pelvic exam again - it's unbearable."

"Sex has never been comfortable for me."

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