Meghan Trainor turned heads this week when she shared some NSFW details about her sex life with husband Daryl Sabara. While the Grammy-winning singer’s struggle with “painful” sex may have been TMI for some, Trainor’s story actually raises awareness towards a condition that many women experience – but don’t always talk about.
In a recent episode of her podcast Workin’ On It, Trainor revealed that a medical diagnosis helped her understand why she was always in “pain” both during and after sex.
“My husband’s a big boy,” she admitted. “[It’s] to the point where I’m like, ‘Is it all in?’ and he’s like, ‘Just the tip.’”
“And I’m like, ‘I can’t do anymore.’ I don’t know how to fix that,” she said. “It’s painful, dude”.
The “All About That Bass” singer then revealed that she was diagnosed with vaginismus, an involuntary tensing of the vaginal muscles, which made her experience a “stingy” and “burning” sensation during sex.
“I thought that every woman walking around was always in pain during and after sex,” she explained. “I was like, ‘Doc, are you telling me that I could have sex and not feel a single bit of pain?’”
Vaginismus is the “involuntary tensing or contracting” of the pelvic floor muscles, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Whenever penetration is attempted – whether it’s during sex, a gynecological exam, or when inserting a tampon – the condition causes the vaginal muscles to unintentionally spasm. For some, vaginismus can either be mildly uncomfortable or very painful, and can make it difficult or sometimes impossible to have sexual intercourse.
It’s been said that experts are unaware how many people experience vaginismus because they’re too embarrassed to speak about their painful symptoms with their healthcare provider. However, a 2017 study reported that one in 10 women in the UK experienced pain during sex.
A study published in Sexual Medicine found it also affects five to 17 per cent of women in clinical settings, while the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said that three out of four women experience pain during sex at some point in their lives.
Because vaginismus causes painful sex, it is a type of dyspareunia – the medical term for persistent pain before, during or after sexual intercourse. According toMedical News Today, there are many different causes of vaginismus. Some factors that may contribute to vaginal muscle spasms include anxiety disorders, undergoing childbirth, pelvic surgery, menopause, traumatic events or negative feelings about sex.
Symptoms of vaginismus can also vary between individuals, but common effects include discomfort or pain during vaginal penetration and inability to have sex or a pelvic exam due to involuntary vaginal muscle spasms.
While Trainor said she doesn’t know how to “fix” her medical condition, there are some treatment options available for those experiencing pain during sex. To diagnose vaginismus, a doctor may discuss symptoms and sexual history before performing a pelvic exam to rule out possible underlying causes.
Treatment for vaginismus may focus on reducing the automatic tightening of the muscles in the vagina, as well as resolving any other anxieties or fears that may be related to the problem. Topical numbing cream, pelvic floor physical therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, and in rare instances, surgery, may all help in treating vaginismus, per the Cleveland Clinic.
Trainor’s experience with vaginismus can also help raise awareness towards mental health because, if sweeped under the rug, the condition can further a person’s anxiety symptoms. In 2019, researchers found that people with vaginismus may struggle with self-esteem and viewing themselves negatively, which can ultimately affect their mental health. People suffering from vaginismus can also hold a lot of anxiety surrounding sex as well, and may even experience panic attacks during intercourse.
Some studies suggest that people with vaginismus are more likely to have trouble conceiving, experience fertility problems, or undergo a cesarean section during labour. Because those with vaginismus may not seek medical attention out of fear of a painful internal pelvic exam, this can also put them at risk of undetected STIs or cervical cancer.
Despite her experiences with painful sex, Trainor remained optimistic that there was a light at the end of the tunnel: “I’m gonna figure it out. I’m gonna be a star at sex.”