Vaginismus: When vaginal muscles contract

Posted at 09/13/2010 1:12 PM | Updated as of 09/14/2010 12:17 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Rumors saying that local celebrity couple--John Lloyd Cruz and Shaina Magdayao--was rushed to a hospital after suffering from what is called penis captivus has been denied by Star Magic.

Simply put, the so-called condition refers to an instance when a woman's muscles in the vagina clamp down on a man's penis so firmly that they lock inseparably in sexual intercourse.

Penis captivus is said to be common among animals (such as dogs), but not humans. The so-called condition may have a "largely hearsay" existence in medical history but is "not entirely mythical," a study by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) showed.

"Such a reaction cannot be dismissed offhand as impossible. It is theoretically quite possible. Yet it does not seem to have occurred in the past 100 years or so," BMJ said in the study, which was released in 1979.

BMJ continued, "If there had been, during that time, a case of penis captivus that needed medical intervention or admission to hospital it would have been eagerly reported in a medical journal with as much detail and evidence as possible. It is in the absence of any such reports which suggests that penis captivus is not only a rare but also a relatively transient symptom with consequences that are less than sensational than those fabricated by rumor."

Still, penis captivus is not an acceptable condition to some, if not most people.

What is quite common, however, is vaginismus, defined by American sexual health expert Dr. Laura Berman as the "involuntary spasms of vaginal muscles that make intercourse painful, or even impossible."

In other words, muscles involuntary clench as a "defense mechanism" when something is about to be inserted into the vagina -- whether it be a penis, a tampon or equipment for vaginal ultrasound.

"Too many times, women and their partners assume that a lack of desire is all that's wrong. In fact, many women with vaginismus want to have sex with their partners, but find their bodies won't cooperate," Berman wrote in an article at everydayhealth.com.

A common condition

Vaginismus is considered a common condition across the globe. A website, for one, was created solely to provide information about it.

The website, called vaginismus-center.com, was created by HKS or Hera Women's Health Center, a "boutique type" women's health center in Turkey.

"Vaginismus is not just your problem, but it is a sexual dysfunction that is frequently encountered all around the world. According to the results of a research conducted by CETAD (Sexual Education Treatment and Research Association), vaginismus rate in Turkey is 10%. Thus, one person out of every 10 is unable to experience full intercourse during a sexual relation or experience it with a lot of pain," the website read.

Among the symptoms of vaginismus, according to HKS, are the following:

- being afraid of sexual intercourse with her partner and not being able to try to have intercourse (penetration at all)
- having partial sexual intercourse (only a part of the penis can enter the vagina)
- not being able to insert pads or tampons into the vagina
- not being able to insert a finger into the vagina
- not being able to enter vaginal ultrasound instrument
- wincing and fearing gynecological examinations and not being able to take the gynecologist's examination seat.

Berman, a best-selling author and is considered as one of America's leading experts in female sexual health, noted that vaginismus may be a result of "long-standing genital pain or dysfunction in the pelvic floor muscles," or past trauma, where "intercourse becomes associated with painful memories or a fear of losing control."

"Some women experience vaginismus throughout their entire lives -- precluding any successful intercourse -- while others find it emerges after they have had a satisfying sex life. Whatever the case, the pain and distress it causes women and their partners is real," she wrote.

Body and mind

According to Berman, the solution to vaginismus lies in its sources -- the body and the mind. More specifically, she said it's all about learning to control vaginal muscles.

"The key is recognizing the difference between tension and relaxation in the pelvic floor," she wrote.

She recommended therapy if the patient has problems of sexual discomfort, as well as the use of weighted vaginal exercisers and kegel exercises, which involve the clench and release of urine flow. (To know more about kegel exercises, click here.)

Berman stressed, however, that it's still best consult a medical expert so the condition can be more properly treated.

"Women who think they may be suffering from vaginismus should see their ob-gyn and get tested for any possible vaginal infections or STDs (sexually transmitted diseases)," she wrote.