When Sex Hurts

Thousands of married women suffer from undiagnosed vaginismus—but there is hope.

What happens when the process of "becoming one" in marriage brings pain, not pleasure? Or when every attempt at intercourse induces intense burning and the sensation of being torn apart inside? Many women live with an invisible handicap that robs them and their spouse of the enjoyment of sexual intercourse. It's called vaginismus, and it's possibly the most common cause of female sexual pain you've never heard of.

Commonly misdiagnosed, vaginismus is the involuntary and unconscious spasm of the muscles surrounding the vagina, making penetration painful or impossible. Estimates suggest that in North America alone, hundreds of thousands of women suffer from vaginismus to some degree. Statistics are hard to gather because many never come forward due to shame and embarrassment. Victims suffer in silence for years, never realizing they can find help.

My journey with vaginismus began 12 years ago. My husband, Brian*, and I had been married eight years when I gave birth to our second child. Labor was traumatic, and the baby was finally taken by C-section. After my recovery and with two babies in the house, my husband and I were tired but eager to resume the joy and comfort of intimacy.

My husband and I were eager to resume the joy and comfort of intimacy—but it brought anything but joy and comfort.

Instead, sex brought anything but joy and comfort. Every time we had intercourse, I experienced intense burning pain. While I wanted to say "yes" to intimacy, my body said "no."

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May 25

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