Sex is a major issue in most marriages, but never more than when there are problems in the bedroom. Experts estimate that as many as two out of every 1000 women suffer from vaginismus, a spasm of the pubococcygeus (PC) muscle of the vagina, which makes sex very painful or even impossible. The good news: Vaginismus can usually be cured if both partners are committed to the treatment.
Andrea Mattisen, LICSW, BCD, a psychotherapist at the Human Sexuality Clinic at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, offers this advice:
Talk to Your Doctor. It's up to you to broach the topic of painful intercourse with your gynecologist -- many doctors don't routinely ask about it. Don't be timid in your discussion; offer your doctor as many details as possible. There's no reason to be embarrassed -- chances are, she's heard it all before.
Touch. Often, women who suffer from vaginismus avoid all forms of touching because they fear it will lead to intercourse. Instead, focus on touching or massaging each other without the intent of having sex.
Communication. After each massage or touching activity, give each other three compliments and one constructive criticism. Use this as a way to talk about what felt good and what didn't.
Sensuality. Messy activities, like finger painting and sculpting with Play-Doh, can help loosen you up and tap into your sensual side.
Exercises. Kegel exercises -- tightening and relaxing the vaginal muscles -- may be very beneficial.
Information Resources. For additional information check out: Treating Vaginismus, by Joseph LoPicolo, is also available on video through the Sinclair Institute: 800-955-0888.
A Woman's Guide to Overcoming Sexual Fear and Pain by Aurelie Jones Goodwin, EdD, and Mark E. Agronin, MD (New Harbinger Publications, 1997).