Long-term Vaginismus

As of November 2011, I have 21 patients who have struggled with vaginismus for more than 15 years, of which nine patients had vaginismus for more than 20 years and three patients who have struggled for 37 and 38 years. All of these patients have had a variety of failed treatments. None of these patients were classified according to the severity of their vaginismus.

Vanessa’s Story

Vanessa is a 44-year-old teacher from England struggled with severe vaginismus for 20 years. As I read through the first page of her story, I kept shaking my head thinking all she had gone through, the lack of diagnosis, the inadequate treatments, divorce and a life of frustration. She tried dilators for fifteen weeks, psychotherapy for twenty weeks, hypnotherapy for twenty weeks and two sessions of sex counselling, none of which helped. I have said many times that it is so important to stratify the severity of vaginismus; it is nearly impossible to treat severe cases with “talk therapy”. Her story follows:

“I am 44 years old and I have had vaginismus all my life, although I did not know it until I became a young adult. Had Dr Pacik offered his treatment 20 years ago, it would have completely changed the course of my life.

When I became a young adult, I realized that I was not able to have sex without fear of pain. As a result, I would clam up and it was impossible for the man to enter me without force. I could not understand why I was like this, especially as all my friends found it easy to have sex. I found out about my “condition” after I met my partner, whom I later married. Initially, we thought I may be like this as we were not married and I had a fear of pregnancy, even though we were taking contraception.

I could not discuss this with anyone except my partner. I was so embarrassed about it that I could not mention it to friends or family. I did nothing about it as a result.

My partner and I were then married. However, even after that, I found it very difficult to have sex. Our marriage was not consummated. Over time, we relied more and more on oral sex and just stopped discussing the problem. We just didn’t know what to do, and this was before the days of Google and the internet.

Eventually, after about 4 years of marriage, I went to see my doctor. She recommended me to a sex therapist but did not mention the name of the condition. My husband and I then went to see a sex therapist. She gave me physical therapy and did indicate after the first session that my husband did not need to attend any more sessions. I continued going to see her for a few months but no real progress was being made. Eventually, I lost heart and gave up.

Again after some more years, I went to see another doctor who referred me to another sex counsellor. Again, I went to see her and she focused on the physical and the emotional sides but again, no real progress was made after a few months.

As you can imagine, this lack of progress caused an immense strain in our marriage. We eventually divorced after 10 years of marriage. Immediately after the divorce, I sought general counselling from a medically qualified hypno-therapist. During our sessions, I mentioned the issue of the sex. He told me it was nothing and that my husband should have been more assertive!

I still did not address the issue for another few years. However, as I was getting older, I thought I should inquire about having a baby through donor insemination. I had a consultation with a few different clinics about this. One of the clinics did an examination of me and the nurse told me that I had a condition called vaginismus. I had never heard of this condition nor been diagnosed with it. By this time, I was about 37 years old. This was the first time that I had heard a name for my condition.

By this time, the internet had been born and I looked at treatments for the condition. I came across CBT therapy which seemed ideal. I therefore booked to see a therapist. The sessions focused on the emotional scars rather than the physical symptoms. I made some progress through this. It occurred to me that I may have been sexually abused as a child by an uncle which I seemed to have blocked from my mind. That could be the cause of the condition. As I progressed, I continued to search online for answers and came across a vaginismus kit, comprising of two books and a pack of dilators. With my therapist’s encouragement, I ordered the kit from the US (I live in the UK) and did the physical therapy at home while also seeing my CBT therapist. My mind set became more positive and I felt I was making some progress.

However, as time went on, I realized that the progress was limited. In particular, I was finding it hard to continue using the dilators as each day was challenging and the more difficult it became, the easier it was to make excuses not do the dilation. The book encouraged us to do breathing exercises and muscle exercises before attempting to insert the dilator. At this stage, I had still not discussed this with friends or family and was therefore trying to deal with it on my own. As you can imagine, I gave up the dilation and the CBT after about a year.

I then met someone and at that time, I did an online search again at about 3 am when I couldn’t sleep. It was then that I found Dr. Pacik. I had to read his website several times as I could not believe there was now a treatment available. Eventually, I booked the treatment with him and flew to the US. It was the best decision I made. After the treatment, within about 6 weeks, I was able to have intercourse – after all this time, it was so easy!

Dr Pacik and his staff really looked after me. I had travelled to the US on my own as my new partner was not able to travel with me. It was nerve-racking but I had no need to be nervous. I did not feel anything when the treatment was being administered. Once I had woken up after the treatment, we were given help with dilation for the next few days at the clinic. We also discussed sex very openly.

I came back to the UK and was determined to ensure I did what I was told to do. I therefore did the dilation daily. On the first attempt at intercourse, we did not succeed. However, we succeeded on the second attempt after receiving guidance from Dr Pacik and Ellen. It has now been 10 weeks since I had the treatment. I am still doing the dilation regularly and we are able to have intercourse. Because the botox is still in my system, my muscles are not able to feel in the same way they would without the botox. The important thing is to continue dilating in order to stretch the muscles so that when the botox begins to wear off, I can still have intercourse. I am absolutely certain the intercourse will continue even after the botox has worn off and this comes from the testimonials of other patients who no longer have botox in their system.

I cannot begin to express what I feel. The nurse who looked after me, Andrea, told me that the treatment would change my life. She’s right. By being able to have sex, I can now have normal relationships with men and although I will not now have children, I may be able to find a life partner, if I have not already! Being able to have sex releases so much pent up energy and frustration and I am beginning to feel like a new person because of this. I am glad I have been given the chance to have a normal life now and whatever else happens, a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

I know Dr Pacik is aware of the important work he does and the lives he changes, not just for the women with the condition but for their partners. However, from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank him and all his staff for the remarkable work they do. I feel like a woman now and am doing everything I can to catch up for the lost years!”