Welcome to Vaginismus Research Ireland

A study of the experience of vaginismus and its treatment from the perspective of Irish couples and health care providers

What is Vaginismus

Vaginismus occurs when the pelvic floor muscle group involuntarily tighten, making vaginal penetration painful and/or impossible.

Vaginismus not only affects a woman’s ability to have sexual intercourse and to have a family but also makes gynaecological and pelvic examinations or even using tampons difficult or impossible. While most medical definitions concentrate on the physical spasming of the vaginal muscles when intercourse is attempted, this tends to exclude other factors at play.  Therefore, rather than being a sexual dysfunction, as it is often described, it may be a healthy response by the body to protect from harm. For example, the spasming of the muscles may be a way of protecting the woman from harm because of actual experiences such as painful examinations or painful sex, or from anticipated harm because the woman has heard messages that sex will be painful or associates shame with sexual behaviour.  These messages can come from a variety of sources such as the family, peer group or orthodox religious messages.

About Vaginismus Research Ireland

The Dublin City University study of vaginismus in Ireland seeks to interview Irish couples about their experiences of vaginismus, either past or present, in their relationship. Vaginismus can be very isolating as it is difficult to talk about the problem to friends or family or sometimes even to doctors and many couples do not know where to turn to for help.

The research seeks to start a conversation about vaginismus in order to raise public awareness of a condition that is all too common and very treatable but rarely spoken about.

By asking couples to share their stories, it is hoped that there will be greater understanding and sensitivity towards couples who experience vaginismus and also a greater awareness of where to turn to for effective help.

A Dublin City University study at the School of Nursing, Psychotherapy and Community Health
Dr. Maria McEvoy, Waterford - DCU Researcher, Vaginismus Research iIreland - Waterford Institute of Technology Lecturer

About Dr. Maria McEvoy

Dr. Maria McEvoy is a psychology lecturer at South East Technological University (S.E.T.U.) and has recently completed the Dublin City University’s part-time PhD Programme at the School of Nursing, Psychotherapy and Community Health under the supervision of Dr. Rita Glover and Dr. Rosaleen McElvaney. Her research focused on Irish couples who are experiencing or have experienced vaginismus in their relationship and the health care professionals that work with couples in order to enhance understanding of vaginismus and increased sensitivity of care.

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