Communication is the key to a healthy relationship. Whether it’s friendship, family or even couples. By communicating with each other, we can better understand each other’s desires and situations. However, the reality is not always that easy for vaginismus survivors.
Vaginismus is a reproductive system disease where the muscles of a vagina squeeze or spasm when something is entering it. This causes a stiffness which can range from mildly uncomfortable to quite painful. This stiffness or pain also makes it difficult for the penis to enter the vagina and leads to a penetration failure.
On Saturday, July 10th, 2021, Kacapikir as a program from Angsamerah has held a webinar about vaginismus entitled: “It’s not that I don’t want to, but I cannot”. The participants were introduced more about vaginismus by dr. Robbi Asri Wicaksono, SpOG and heard the story from a vaginismus survivor, Dian Mustika, who is also the initiator of Komunitas Pejuang Vaginismus (the Vaginismus Survivor Community).
Vaginismus is only experienced by women who are sexually active, so there is no early examination to detect the symptoms. As the first comprehensive vaginismus medical practitioner in Indonesia, dr. Robbi stated that generally, pain in the vagina itself should not be felt for whatever reason. Especially when having sex, it supposed to bring pleasure, not pain. However, there are a lot of myths circulating in society that cause vaginismus survivors to also experience psychological and social pressure. For example, sex is about women serving men, sex only requires an erect penis, painful sex is normal especially on the first night, if you still feel the pain it means you are not relaxed, etc.
Knowing these myths, vaginismus survivors become anxious, depressed, have low self-esteem and negative emotions. They are stigmatized and insulted by many people and may even got pressured by their own partners because they are considered unable to satisfy their husbands. These things also make vaginismus survivors feel helpless and confused, not knowing what to do. Most of the time, communicating it with a partner is not enough.
This is the same thing that Dian Mustika experienced when she first found out that she had vaginismus. Dian admitted that she was lucky because she’s able to get information and treatment quick enough for her vaginismus, meanwhile she saw that there were many vaginismus survivors who still didn’t understand, lacked access to proper information, so many felt like giving up. Since then, Dian has been initiated to gather the survivors and formed Komunitas Pejuang Vaginismus (the Vaginismus Survivor Community), a support group as a forum for sharing experiences and information.
Dian also shared some of the difficulties they have faced so far, for example, there are still many vaginismus survivors who have not opened up because they feel ashamed and depressed. There are still many survivors who are in denial as well. Therefore, moral support is very much needed for vaginismus survivors, along with proper education for the husbands of survivors. Dian also recommends to immediately seek expert help, and most importantly the survivor’s commitment and readiness to carry out the healing process.
So, what causes vaginismus? dr. Robbi explained that to this day, the cause of vaginismus is still unknown. From the medical history, vaginismus itself has been found since 1547. While the data on vaginismus survivors in the United States ranges from 7-17%, meaning that seven out of a hundred women of productive age suffer from vaginismus.
One of the most common methods to treat vaginismus is Dilation Training, which involves inserting a dilator into the vagina to stretch the muscles and become accustomed to penetration. The dilation method itself can be done independently by vaginismus survivors, only dr. Robbi emphasizes that every vaginismus survivor has her own timeline. Some suffer from vaginismus for a long time and have a long healing progression, some are newly detected and go through an easy healing process.
Therefore, dr. Robbi also urged the healthcare workers to be able to provide humane solutions which are effective and efficient for vaginismus survivors. For dr. Robbi himself, vaginismus is not only a physical disease, but also a problem of humanity. Healthcare workers must also be able to provide appropriate services without stigma, so as not to increase anxiety and psychological stress for vaginismus survivors.
“We will never be able to help curing the vaginismus survivors by blaming them and accusing them of not being relaxed enough or not able to control their minds. They have no control overthe vaginismus. It’s not their fault. They need to be helped, not blamed,” said dr. Robbi summing up the webinar.
Friendly, safe, and comfortable healthcare service without stigma and discrimination are values that have always been emphasized by Angsamerah as a foundation and primary healthcare facility. Angsamerah believes that everyone has the right to get a good quality and proper healthcare services, including health education that broadens people’s horizons and perspectives.
Re-watch the Vaginismus Webinar: “It’s not that I don’t want to, but I can’t” (Sat, July 10th, 2021) on Angsamerah’s YouTube channel.