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J Consult Clin Psychol. 2013 Dec;81(6):1127-1136. doi: 10.1037/a0034292. Epub 2013 Sep 23.

Therapist-aided exposure for women with lifelong vaginismus: a randomized waiting-list control trial of efficacy.

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Outpatient Clinic of Psychosomatic Gynecology and Sexology, Gynecology Department, Leiden University Medical Center.
Outpatient Clinic of Sexology, Maastricht University Medical Center.
Department of Psychology, Open Universiteit.



Vaginismus is commonly described as a persistent difficulty in allowing vaginal entry of a penis or other "objects" (e.g., tampons, fingers, speculum). Lifelong vaginismus is diagnosed when a woman has never been able to have intercourse. The aim of this study was to investigate the efficacy of therapist-aided exposure for lifelong vaginismus.


Seventy women and their partners were randomly allocated to exposure or a waiting-list control period of 3 months. The main outcome measure (intercourse ability) was assessed daily during 12 weeks. Secondary outcome measures were complaints about vaginismus, coital pain, coital fear, sexual distress, and sexual functioning. The exposure treatment consisted of a maximum of three 2-hr sessions during 1 week at a university hospital. Each participant performed vaginal penetration exercises herself, in the presence of her partner and a female therapist. Two follow-up sessions were scheduled over a 5-week period.


Thirty-one out of 35 (89%; 95% CI [72%, 96%]) participants reported having had sexual intercourse at posttreatment compared with 4 out of 35 (11%; 95% CI [4%, 28%]) participants in the control condition. In most of the successfully treated women (90%), intercourse was possible within the first 2 weeks of treatment. Moreover, treatment resulted in clinical improvement regarding other symptoms related to vaginismus, coital fear, coital pain, and sexual distress. No treatment effects were found regarding other aspects of sexual functioning in women or their partners.


This study provides evidence of the efficacy of therapist-aided exposure therapy for women with lifelong vaginismus.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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