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Mon, May 03, 2010
The New Paper
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Her body tensed up when hubby wanted sex
by Benson Ang

SHE could not have sex with her husband of 10years because whenever they tried, her body would tense up.

Melissa (not her real name), 35, suffered from an unusual sexual condition called vaginismus, in which the muscles around the vagina involuntarily tighten, making intercourse painful or impossible.

The Ministry of Health does not track the number of vaginismus cases here, but Professor P. Ganesan Adaikan, clinical sexologist from the National University Hospital, and Dr B. Srilatha, a research fellow at National University of Singapore who specialises in obstetrics and gynaecology, told The New Paper that they see 20 to 30 such cases a year.

In an e-mail reply, they said it is related to “either perceived or real pain at attempted vaginal intercourse”.

The condition has also been documented by DrV.Atputharajah, an obstetrician and gynaecologist from Mount Alvernia Hospital, who wrote about it in his book Virgin Wives: Women With Unconsummated Marriages.

Wedding night woes

Melissa, a marketing professional, told The New Paper that she discovered the problem on her wedding night 10 years ago.

“We couldn’t do it. When I thought about sex, I thought it would be painful,” she said.  Melissa was a virgin before her marriage. And she remained one for about 10 years more.

After that night, she and her husband tried to have sex several times, once a week. He would try to arouse her and get her to “relax”.

They also went on holidays together to deepen their relationship. But they were not successful. Eventually, they got into tearful arguments about why she couldn’t “relax”.

Melissa said: “He was very frustrated and upset and gave up touching me because I was always complaining. But he didn’t push me that much, because he loves me a lot.

“I imagine some husbands or boyfriends would go crazy not being able to have sex with their partner.”

She felt she couldn’t tell her girlfriends, because she felt it was embarrassing.
Five years ago, Melissa went to a gynaecologist after reading an article in a magazine about women who had similar problems.

“I didn’t even know it was a condition. I thought it was just my own mental block.”
The gynaecologist recommended kegel exercises, which involves contracting and relaxing muscles in the pelvic area.

Despite monthly consultations over three months, Melissa said she was still afraid.
She shelved the whole idea of sex until earlier this year, when she approached

DrMartha Lee, a clinical sexologist, who proposed a series of treatments, including breathing techniques to make Melissa feel more comfortable with her body. She began to do the kegel exercises more often, she said, adding: “Dr Lee talked to me a lot. The sessions were very relaxing.”

In less than two weeks, before the third session with Dr Lee, she succeeded in having sex with her husband.

But to this day, she does not know the cause of her condition.

She said: “I hope other ladies out there will seek help immediately. I waited too long.”

She also hoped that more people would talk about such matters openly.

“In Asia, we are very conservative so many women suffer in silence.”

Dr Lee told The New Paper: “Melissa wanted to be able to have penetrative sex not just for the sake for her husband and marriage, but also for herself.

“She wanted to feel ‘fully woman’. I was struck by her courage and determination to overcome this issue.”

Dr Lee added that the cause of vaginismus is usually psychological. Other doctors we spoke to said this condition can also be treated through education, exercise and surgery.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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