Vaginismus in History
Vaginismus is a problem that has existed for hundreds of years in woman’s health. The first written records about this problem go back as far as to 11th century. Its discussion and talk being much more in the recent years, has only taken this problem to the surface.
In the old days, for many couples who were not able to have children, vaginismus problem was there, but as the couples did not know who to consult for their private problems, they chose to hide these.
Vaginismus is a concept that is scientifically defined first in 1861 by “Sims” and this concept has not changed almost a bit in 150 years. Interesting observations of this scientist who examined one his patients are recorded as such:
“The most interesting point in the account of the woman was the fact that although she was married for quarter of a century, she was still a virgin. In my examination about this phenomenon, vaginal examination utterly failed… Even my very slight touch to the vaginal entrance was causing an intensive reaction. The neural system was in chaos, there was this general muscle tension. Her whole body was turning rigid intermittently and trembling. She was screaming and her eyes were glowing like mad. While tear drops were gliding down her cheeks, this situation that resembled terror and death agony, was very pitiful. Despite the reflection of all of her physical pain, she was strong, staying on the examination coach, she was begging for me to go on if there was hope for her desperate condition. With all my strength, after a few minutes of thrusting, I was able to put my finger into her vagina for a few seconds, but it did not go further. There was great resistance in the vagina and a rigid contraction that lessened the sensitivity of my finger. Thus, through this examination, I realized that there was this hard to overcome contraction at the entrance of the vagina.”
Sims MJ (1861)
Although the operation became disputable, the procedures of widening without an operation and widening under anesthesia were successful and found their place among the more realistic treatment methods.
Trotula from Salerno in his scientific work named “Women’s Diseases” written in 1547 perhaps made the first description of the condition currently we call vaginismus as this: “It is such a contraction in the genital region that even a seduced woman can be a virgin”.
Walthard (1909), questioning Sims’ concept of extreme sensuality of the genital organs and by proposing the idea that the vaginal muscle contraction is “a phobic reaction” to the fear of pain, highlighted the importance of “psychotherapy” and education instead of operations and widening procedures.
Faure and Sireday, in a 1923 study, found out that vaginismus was the involuntary, painful, spasmodic contraction of the vulvo-vaginal channel due to extreme sensitivity special to the genital organs.
In 1993, Beck defined vaginismus as “an interesting example of scientific negligence”. Although rather late, it is promising to see the increase of the reawakening scientific interest towards this neglected women’s health problem.
The mutual question of our many patients, who apply to Hera Women’s Health Clinics, is this: “Is vaginismus a new problem or did it occur in the old days too?”
The answer to this question, as you have read above, is that vaginismus is not a new dysfunction and that it has been encountered for hundred years in the societies, but because it recently finds more attention, it is wrongfully thought as a dysfunction that has recently emerged.
If it is considered that every one person out of ten suffers from this problem in our society, it will be realized that this problem is actually still tried to be covered and that our people are not yet conscious enough about the matter.
Sims suggested for the first time the procedure of widening (dilatation) the muscles and nerves located at the vagina entrance after an operation, through glass wideners.