Vulvodynia affects the vulva, the external female genital organs. This includes the labia, clitoris, and vaginal opening.
There are two main subtypes of vulvodynia:
Doctors don’t know the cause of most forms of vulvodynia. And there is no evidence that infections, such as sexually transmitted diseases, cause vulvodynia.
Researchers are trying to find the causes of vulvodynia. They may include:
A woman of any age, beginning in her teen years, may have vulvodynia. Estimates of women with vulvodynia range from 200,000 to six million. Once thought to mainly affect white females, African-American and Hispanic women are now known to be equally affected.
When a woman has vaginismus, her vagina’s muscles squeeze or spasm when something is entering her, like a tampon or a penis. It can be mildly uncomfortable, or it can be painful. There are exercises a woman can do that can help, sometimes within weeks.
Painful sex is often a woman’s first sign that she has vaginismus. The pain happens only with penetration. It usually goes away after withdrawal, but not always.
Women have described the pain as a tearing sensation or a feeling like the man is “hitting a wall.”
Many women who have vaginismus also feel discomfort when inserting a tampon or during a doctor’s internal pelvic exam.
Doctors don’t know exactly why vaginismus happens. It’s usually linked to anxiety and fear of having sex. But it’s unclear which came first, the vaginismus or the anxiety.
Some women have vaginismus in all situations and with any object. Others have it only in certain circumstances, like with one partner but not others, or only with sexual intercourse but not with tampons or during medical exams.
Other medical problems like infections can also cause painful intercourse. So it’s important to see a doctor to determine the underlying cause of pain during sex.