Lisa and Joe were high school sweethearts who got married at the age of 18. Joe was Lisa’s first sexual partner and though intercourse had always been really painful for her, she became pregnant soon after they tied the knot. After their daughter was born, things in bed didn’t improve, and she decided to head to the gynecologist’s office. The gynecologist ask a lot of questions, looks more and more puzzled, then finally announces: "Lisa, do you realise you're actually still a virgin?"
You’re probably wondering how on earth Lisa could be a virgin mom. Her gynecologist diagnosed her with vaginismus, a disorder where the outer part of a woman’s vagina contracts in muscle spasms she can’t control. When a woman has vaginismus, intercourse can be very painful and the spasms make penetration difficult and often impossible.
In rare cases, a woman can get pregnant without actually having intercourse if a man ejaculates close to her vagina, but not actually inside. That’s just what happened to no fewer than 10 women out of 260 in a Chilean study presented at the World Congress for Sexual Health. The women were all in stable relationships and visited an ob-gyn clinic because sex with their husbands just wasn’t happening.
With vaginismus, muscle spasms are only a problem before penetration – whether it’s between the covers with a woman’s partner, during an exam at the gynecologist’s office, or even just when she imagines having sex. It’s pretty common for a woman with the disorder to have never masturbated or used a tampon.
One of the built-in causes of vaginismus is that the woman is scared that when a partner puts his penis into her vagina, it’ll really hurt. Some women might develop vaginismus if they haven’t had sex ed and have never learned what intercourse is all about. For example, they might think their vagina is just too small for a penis to fit into. Other times it’s a case of a really religious background where talking about sex is taboo.
But there is good news for women with this disorder. Treatment often works wonders. Take the Chilean study – after their time at the clinic, all of the women were able to have sex with their husbands.
Successfully treating vaginismus means dealing with both the physical and psychological side of the disorder. Physical therapists work with a woman to help her learn to relax her vagina and gain control over the spasms. At the same time, psychologists provide all the she needs on sex and help her get over her fear of penetration and any anxiety she may have.