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When Penetration is Difficult or Impossible

Primary Vaginismus Symptoms

  • Full sexual penetration seems physically impossible despite repeated attempts — almost as though there is no opening where the vaginal opening is supposed to be.


  • Women often mistakenly wonder if they are  physically abnormal in some way; whether their vagina is too small, their hymen is blocking the opening or they have no vaginal hole at all. Yet, Vaginismus is indicated in over 99% of cases.


  • Unconsummated marriages


  • Pain and tightness blocking attempts at insertion


Early Symptoms:

(not always present)​

  • Difficulty inserting tampons even after repeated attempts

  • Difficulty undergoing pelvic/gynecological exam with speculum/finger


As the man approaches the woman to attempt intercourse, her vaginal muscles (darkly shaded) involuntarily tightens the vaginal entrance making intercourse impossible, "like bumping into a wall. 

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Secondary Vaginismus Symptoms


  • Unexplained, ongoing sexual tightness and discomfort even though there is a previous history of normal intercourse.


  • Typically this type of vaginismus is triggered by a temporary physical pelvic medical condition, trauma, or pelvic-pain issue. Examples could include a urinary tract or other pelvic infection; a difficult delivery with stitches required; age-related changes like a hormonal/lubrication reduction after menopause; rape or assault; a pause of many years between spouses; or another similar occurrence.


  • The ongoing tightness is perplexing. Women wonder why they continue to experience burning, stinging, and tightness during sex, even though the initial problem had healed, resolved, or was fully treated.


  • Typically, the ongoing burning, tightness, pain and cause a couple to eventually discontinue sex.


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

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What is Vaginismus?

Vaginismus is a condition where the muscles surrounding the entrance to the vagina involuntarily tighten, making penetration impossible or painfully uncomfortable. Most women are unaware that their muscles tighten in this way during attempted penetration.

Note that some clinicians use the medical term Genito-Pelvic Pain/Penetration Disorder (GPPPD) in place of Vaginismus.


Get the Sex Life You Want 

Couples with vaginismus often describe the presence of a “wall” where the vaginal opening should be. This muscle reaction appears to be uncontrollable and can make pleasurable intercourse impossible. Couples tend to try again and again, hoping that this problem will be solved on its own.

When intercourse is impossible or painful, additional sexual attempts reinforce the muscular response, further ingraining the negative mind and body reaction. This response is a limbic system reaction: an associative response signaling the body to brace and protect itself. 

Fortunately, women can learn how to train their bodies to relax the over-responsive muscle reaction. Once training is complete, couples can consummate and enjoy healthy, penetrative sex.

Treating vaginismus is possible, to learn how to correct the response, visit Hope&Her.

Stressed Woman

Welcome to
Your Next Step 

Although vaginismus is involuntary, many women feel intense shame from being unable to have intercourse and attempt to keep their pain private.

We want to shout from the rooftops that you're not alone. Women across the world experience the same physical reactions and share similar stories and emotions. That's why we're here! The Hope&Her community exists because there are women and couples like you.


Having a trusted, healthy person to talk to can help many of you move on to the next step of your journey.

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