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Vaginismus: how my doctor made me feel worse…

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From a 20-something patient, who was just graduated from our vaginismus treatment program having reached a cure:

When I was in my late teens I saw a female gynecologist, thinking that being a woman she will understand my vaginismus and worries.  She pulled out the pediatric (small) speculum and attempted to do an examination.  When that failed she told me, ‘you will never be able to use tampons… You need to get to know yourself down there or you are going to have problems.’ 

The traumatic visit left the patient and her mother, who accompanied her to the appointment, quite shook up.  They still reflect on it with vivid memories and puzzlement.

Sadly, it not a rarity that healthcare providers, be they a male or a female, are frustrated with a patient who cannot proceed with a routine internal exam, a situation that disrupts the schedule, calls for extra measures (compassion, anyone?), invites diagnosing vaginismus (not all clinicians know how to), recommending resources and referral to a specialist.

Furthermore, such destructive comments deepen the shame and hopelessness that are associated with vaginismus, pushing many women into forgoing relationships and gynecologic care, which is unfortunate and totally preventable.

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