When it comes to women's health, there is no such thing as a silly question. Do you have a question you want answered, but have been too afraid or embarrassed to bring it up with your GP? Or you forgot to ask while you were in the doctor's surgery? Now, you can 'Ask Dr Jean'.
Answering your questions for this edition of 'Ask Dr Jean' is gynaecologist and Jean Hailes Medical Director, Dr Elizabeth Farrell AM
I'm an 18 year-old female and not too long ago was diagnosed with vaginismus after attempting and failing to have penetrative sex with my boyfriend. Since I was 14 I have tried masturbating, but my clitoris has no/very little sensation and can't seem to get aroused let alone orgasm, which I think is called clitoral atrophy.
I'm have a very liberal attitude toward sex and pleasure so it hurts me that I can't experiment and experience it, especially since I'm still young and have a boyfriend with a high libido.
On the surface this seems like a very small issue I guess, but I developed severe depression and body dysmorphia because I didn't feel ‘woman enough’ and my friends have always been vocal about how ‘amazing’ masturbating and orgasming is. I've cried myself to sleep regularly because I know that I'm missing out on one of the greatest gifts to life … I sound dramatic but please don't laugh.
My boyfriend of 3 months says he's supportive and claims to possess the patience of a Buddah but I can tell he's frustrated which makes me feel even more worthless…
Any ideas as to how to overcome these hurdles will be greatly appreciated.
Firstly, see a GP you trust to discuss your experience and to examine you. It is important to check your vulval skin to exclude any skin conditions that may lead to thinning and narrowing of the tissues. A gynaecological assessment is appropriate to check for any hormonal causes and then referral on to a sexual therapist if there is no change in your sexual response.
Vaginismus is due to overactive pelvic floor muscles that shorten and contract, which causes narrowing of the vagina with pain on attempted penetration. Pelvic floor overactivity can also lead to changes in sexual response.
A pelvic floor physiotherapist will teach you to relax the pelvic floor, use trigger point therapy and sometimes give you vaginal trainers (dilators) once you have learnt the relaxation technique to allow you to then have penetrative sex.
You may need a team of health professionals to help you achieve pleasurable sexual intimacy with time.