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Arch Sex Behav. 2004 Feb;33(1):5-17.

Vaginal spasm, pain, and behavior: an empirical investigation of the diagnosis of vaginismus.

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School of Psychology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.


This study investigated the roles of vaginal spasm, pain, and behavior in vaginismus and the ability of psychologists, gynecologists, and physical therapists to agree on a diagnosis of vaginismus. Eighty-seven women, matched on age, relationship status, and parity, were assigned to one of three groups: vaginismus, dyspareunia resulting from vulvar vestibulitis syndrome (VVS), and no pain with intercourse. Diagnostic agreement was poor for vaginismus; vaginal spasm and pain measures did not differentiate between women in the vaginismus and dyspareunia/VVS groups; however, women in the vaginismus group demonstrated significantly higher vaginal/pelvic muscle tone and lower muscle strength. Women in the vaginismus group also displayed a significantly higher frequency of defensive/avoidant distress behaviors during pelvic examinations and recalled past attempts at intercourse with more affective distress. These data suggest that the spasm-based definition of vaginismus is not adequate as a diagnostic marker for vaginismus. Pain and fear of pain, pelvic floor dysfunction, and behavioral avoidance need to be included in a multidimensional reconceptualization of vaginismus.

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