When it comes to the taboo stuff that isn’t always so easily talked about in real life, TikTok truly has a wealth of valuable information, helping to normalize the discussion of things like periods, sex, birth control, abortions, vaginismus, and more.
Haven’t heard of vaginismus? It’s a condition that causes an involuntary muscle contraction of the pelvic floor muscles, making insertion of anything into the vagina extremely painful and in some cases impossible. While it’s not talked about a lot, vaginismus is more common(Opens in a new window) than you may think. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists(Opens in a new window), nearly three out of four women experience pain during intercourse at some point in their lives. TikTok is bringing a sense of community to those living with the condition.
People with vaginismus can experience symptoms such as pain with pelvic exams, pap smears, penetration, and inserting period products and birth control medications such as IUDs (intrauterine devices). Not only can this disorder take a physical toll, but it can also have an emotional toll, with sufferers feeling rejection, fear, and anxiety surrounding having vaginismus. Some avoid social interactions in which friends and peers talk about hooking up, dating, sexual experiences, periods, and more due to fear of not fitting in/being misunderstood. Meanwhile, unpleasant experiences with doctors and OB-GYNs have caused women to avoid seeking out treatment for vaginismus and pelvic floor pain.
Dr. Sonia Bahlani(Opens in a new window), a pelvic pain specialist based in New York, says, “Vaginismus is way more common than we think, and it also doesn’t have to be related to trauma or some sort of traumatic event. People walk into my office and say that they were afraid to seek out care because they read or were told by doctors that vaginismus is only trauma-related.” Bahlani believes there should be a bigger focus on pelvic floor pain and dysfunction in gynecological and residency programs, as the lack of information can do real harm. “Vaginismus and pelvic floor pain can breed a lot of anxiety or depression, especially when you’ve been diagnosed with something that no one else can see,” she says. “This can be something that is really difficult for patients to deal with.”
People living with vaginismus are using TikTok to fill in the gaps for others with this condition. Of course, TikTok should not be considered a substitute for seeking medical advice — and, if you are dealing with pelvic floor pain, you should seek a qualified professional for a diagnosis — but it can help people feel more informed and less alone in their journey. And it’s extremely easy to begin your research on the subject from the comfort of your home! Creators like @thepelvicdancefloor(Opens in a new window), @azia_mery(Opens in a new window), @the_vaginismus_diaries(Opens in a new window), and @nosuchthingastmi(Opens in a new window), bring in millions of views, likes, and shares for their(Opens in a new window) videos about the condition. While offering useful videos, promoting inspiring discussions, and sharing their own struggles, these creators have also managed to create a community comprising those who’ve personally dealt with the disorder from OB-GYNs to pelvic floor therapists, and physician’s assistants.
Just type in “painful sex,” “pelvic floor therapy,” or “vaginismus,” and you’ll find a ton of videos at your fingertips. They shed light on how people were diagnosed, the type of pain they’ve dealt with, what it’s like to date and how to navigate sex with the condition, as well as treatment options — like pelvic floor therapy, dilator training, and talk therapy. Perhaps most importantly, all this conversation helps normalize a disorder that too many people have felt alone in facing, bringing awareness to a painful reality that’s been kept in the shadows for too long(Opens in a new window).
Here are a few of the TikTok creators who are educating people on vaginismus, and what you can learn from them.
Dr. Jennifer Lincoln is a board-certified OB-GYN based in Portland, Oregon, and author of Let’s Talk About Down There. She has over 2.8 million followers on TikTok, where she shares information about topics like birth control, abortion, vaginismus, news in healthcare, and more. Dr. Lincoln’s informative “What is Vaginismus” TikTok, a handy explainer of the disorder where she talks symptoms and treatments, has over 258k views.
“I believe the lack of comprehensive medically accurate sex education is the basis for why so few people know about vaginismus,” Lincoln tells Mashable. “When you’re never been taught about your anatomy or how your body works, you don’t have the background or language to know when something might not be normal and is a problem that can be treated. I also think for some people who’ve unfortunately had bad experiences with sex or at the OBGYN office, they’ve thought things are just supposed to hurt, and sadly don’t know they can seek care and not have to live with painful sex or painful exams caused by vaginismus,” she adds.
“Vaginismus is so hard because it can affect so much more than just your pelvic floor,” she adds. “It can put an enormous strain on relationships and harm your self-worth. If a partner isn’t understanding, it can be truly detrimental and actually add to the anxiety of the situation and make it worse. When we’ve defined women in society as being most desirable when they are seen as sexual creatures, having something that makes sex difficult can really mess with a woman’s perception of herself.”
Lincoln weighs in on the importance of her TikTok account and bringing awareness to vaginismus. “It’s important for me and others to bring awareness to this because women and people with vaginas deserve to feel good in the bedroom and get help when it’s not happening. When we talk about things like vaginismus, we break down the shame that exists right now around sexual health,” Lincoln tells Mashable
Skyler Stewart describes her TikTok, with over 23k followers and 3 million likes, as a “vaginismus awareness and education account.” Stewart covers personal topics such as dating with vaginismus, treatment for it, and her personal journey with pelvic floor therapy. Stewart also covers the mental and emotional health side of vaginismus, sharing how trauma or mental health issues can be one of the root causes of vaginismus. She often posts videos responding to questions about vaginismus, along with advice on how to deal with assumptions from others about the pelvic floor disorder.
“Dating with vaginismus is one of the topics that resonates most with my followers. Being in a romantic situation is a very common way for people to discover this issue and on top of that, it’s the most ‘in your face’ downside of vaginismus — not being able to have penetrative sex. In our society where heteronormativity is so prevalent, most young people are conditioned to think that there’s only one single real way to be intimate,” Stewart tells Mashable.
Dr. Sabrina Baxter is a pelvic floor therapist who shares her experiences dealing with vaginismus, specifically painful sex. Baxter covers everything from dilator training to stretches for your pelvic floor to lube and vaginal products that can ease the pain. She also provides the symptoms to look for if you think you might have vaginismus and talks about how to get help and therapy for pelvic floor dysfunction. Baxter even hosts paid online workshops(Opens in a new window) in which people can learn about vaginismus, pelvic floor therapy, and pain-free sex.
Nicole Ramos works as a pelvic floor therapist who uses her TikTok account to talk about vaginismus, periods, pelvic pain, orgasms, and more. Ramos’ content on vaginismus is mainly about symptoms to look for, exercises for the pelvic floor muscles, and methods to help cure vaginismus, such as dilators and massaging the pelvic floor.
Taylore Passero is an OB-GYN who brings educates people on everything having to do with the vagina, including menstruation, birth control, endometriosis, PCOS, medical exams, and vaginismus. Passero’s content on vaginismus is more educational, discussing vaginal dilators, vaginismus symptoms, and treatment solutions.
From relatable POV TikToks on birth control to vaginismus to all things vaginal health, Leanna the PA has built an open and honest dialogue with her followers, many of whom have commented how they wish more doctors were like her. With a following of over 318k followers and over 11 million likes, Leanna’s content on vaginismus pertains to how she handles vaginismus in patients, including performing pap smears. Leanna explains how she starts off pap smear exams(Opens in a new window) by using fingers and then working her way up to pediatric, small, and standard speculums depending on the patient’s comfort level.
For those struggling with vaginismus and vulvodynia, Azia Mery is here for all of your relatable content and resources. Her account covers everything from vaginal dilators to books and resources to use to learn about and treat vaginismus. She also has extremely helpful resources in her bio(Opens in a new window) on painful sex, dealing with vaginismus and vulvodynia, and more.
The content creator also talks about how sex is more than just penetration and showcases different social media accounts to follow for information on vaginismus and vulvodynia. “I spent years being tossed between different doctors, receiving the wrong treatment, feeling disrespected and invalidated as if my emotions, pain, and trauma weren’t real and it was all in my head. Sharing my journey on TikTok has helped me navigate how I healed. The messages I get about how my platform helped people feel less alone is a positive. Now that people have been asking how I did it, it’s given me the opportunity to truly step back and see what I’ve done,” Mery tells Mashable.
With TikTok becoming a hub of information, it’s no wonder people are finding out about vaginismus, and even being encouraged to look out for symptoms and learn how to treat it. With more awareness being brought around sexual health and vaginismus, it’s important to note that if you are feeling any extreme pain during penetration, it’s best to see a gynecologist or pelvic floor specialist. Your pelvic floor health is important and so are you.