Help for Painful Intercourse
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Help for Painful Intercourse

Are you avoiding sex because it's too painful? The cause may be treatable.

Sex is a major issue in most marriages, but never more than when there are problems in the bedroom. One fairly common problem is vaginismus, a spasm of the pubococcygeus (PC) muscle that makes sex very painful or even impossible. Experts estimate that as many as two out of every 1000 women suffer from this condition. 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.

Most times, it's up to you to broach the topic of painful intercourse with your gynecologist--many don't routinely ask about it. Don't be too 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.

Re-introduce affection without intercourse.

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.

Practice better communication with your spouse.

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.

Do Kegel exercises.

Practice tightening and relaxing your vaginal muscles (the ones used to stop the flow of urine).

Become comfortable with something inside your body.

Using a lubricant, practice inserting a tampon, working your way up from the smallest size to the largest. Next, graduate to dilators (which can be purchased at a pharmacy) to stretch the vaginal muscles.

Get in touch with your sensual side.

Messy activities like finger painting and sculpting with Play Doh can help loosen you up and tap into your sensual side.

Check out these resources:

  • Treating Vaginismus by Joseph LoPicolo. Videotape available through the Sinclair Institute (800-955-0888).
  • A Woman's Guide to Overcoming Sexual Fear and Pain by Aurelie Jones Goodwin, Ed.D. and Mark E. Agronin, M.D. New Harbinger Publications.