Vaginismus occasionally develops in women with clinical symptoms of severe dyspareunia (painful intercourse). When dyspareunia has firm basis in pelvic pathology, the existence of which escapes examining physicians, and over the months or years coition becomes increasing painful, vaginismus may result.

The patient is not reassured by console that “it’s all in your head” or equally unsupportive pronouncements, when she knows that it is always severely painful for her when her husband thrusts deeply into the vagina during coital connection.

As examples of this situation, vaginismus has been demonstrated as a secondary complication in two cases, of severe laceration of the broad ligaments. Also recorded are two classic examples of onset of vaginismus, the first in a young woman with pelvic endometriosis, the second in a 62 year old postmenopausal widow (without sex-steroid replacement therapy) who through remarriage sought return to sexual functioning after seven years of abstinence.

The two women developing a syndrome of vaginismus subsequent to childbirth laceration of the broad ligaments supporting the uterus (universal-joint syndrome) have similar histories. A composite history will suffice to demonstrate the pathology involved.

Mr. And Mrs. D
was seen with the complaint of increasing difficulty in accomplishing vaginal penetration developing after 6 years of marriage. There were two children in the marriage, with onset of severe dyspareunia oriented specifically to the delivery of the second child. The second child, a post mature baby of 8 pounds 14 ounces, had a precipitous delivery.

There is a positive history of nurses holding, the patient’s legs together to postpone delivery while waiting for the obstetrician. As soon as sexual activity was reconstituted after the delivery the patient experienced severe pain with deep penile thrusting. During the next year the pain became so acute that the wife sought subterfuge to avoid sexual exposure.

The intercourse frequency decreased from two to three times a week to the same level per month. On numerous occasions the patient was assured, during medical consultation, that there was nothing anatomically disoriented in the pelvis and that pain with intercourse was “purely her imagination.”

Supported by these authoritative statements, the husband demanded increased frequency of sexual function. When the wife refused, the unit separated for serveral months. During these month period, the woman assayed intercourse on two separate occasions with two different men, but with each experience the pelvic pain with deep penile thrusting was so severe that her obvious physical distress terminated sexual experimentation.

The couple was reunited with the help of their religious adviser, but with attempted intercourse vaginal penetration was impossible. After 8 months of repeatedly unsuccessful attempts to reestablish coital function, the unit was referred for therapy.

Couple E
married 8 years when seen in the Clinic. They mutually agreed that coital connection had not been possible more than once or twice a month in the first two years of marriage. Each time, the wife had moaned or screamed in pain as her husband was thrusting deeply into her pelvis. After the first two years of marriage, every attempt at vaginal penetration had been unsuccessful.

Both had been under intensive psychotherapy, the husband for three and the wife for four years, when referred to the Foundation. During the routine physical examinations, advanced endometriosis was discovered, and severe vaginismus was demonstrated.

In due course the wife underwent surgery for correction of the pelvic pathology. After recovery from the surgery she returned with her husband for therapeutic relief of the vaginismus which, as would be expected, still existed despite successful surgical correction of the endometriosis.

Couple F
a 66 year old husband and his 62 year old wife, were seen in consultation. When the wife was 54 years old, her first husband died after a three-year illness during which sexual activity was discontinued. She remarried at 61 years of age, having had no overt sexual activity in the interim period.

She had never been given hormone-replacement therapy to counteract the natural involution of pelvic structures. First attempts at coital connection in the present marriage produced a great deal of pain and only partial vaginal penetration.

With reluctance the wife sought medical consultation. Her physician instituted hormone-replacement techniques. After a 6-week respite, further episodes of coital activity also resulted in pain and distress.

Despite the fact that by this time the vaginal walls were well stimulated by effective steroid replacement, the new husband found it impossible to attain vaginal intromission. The wife had developed obvious psychosocial resistance to the concept of sexual activity in the 60 plus age group based on the pain that had been experienced attempting to consummate her new marriage.

And a real sense of embarrassment created by the need for medical consultation and the necessity of admitting that she had been indulging in coital activity at her age.

As a result of the trauma that developed with attempts to renew sexual function subsequent to almost ten years of continence, she developed involuntary spastic contraction of the vaginal outlet. Judicious use of Hegar dilators and a detailed, thorough, and authoritative refutation of the taboo of aging sexual function (based on the belief that sexual activity in the 60, 70, or even 80 year age groups represents some form of perversion) were quite sufficient to relax and relieve the vaginal spasm.