Bringing up vaginismus can, at the very least, be a little awkward for those who suffer from it. Having to explain the condition to anyone, let alone someone you care deeply for, may create an incredible amount of stress and can even affect relationships with a significant other as well as mental wellbeing.
Vaginismus can affect anyone with a vagina and doesn’t have any specific cause, which makes it very difficult to treat. Many who suffer from vaginismus must deal with the condition indefinitely, as there is no pharmaceutical remedy as of yet - possibly because of the nature of the condition, which is believed to stem from psychological roots that develop into physical symptoms.
The physical symptoms of the condition are what make living with vaginismus so difficult. Really, vaginismus is a condition where the pubococcygeus muscles, which control female orgasms, unintentionally contract and tighten up when anything comes into contact with the vulva or surrounding areas. It can be detrimental to sexual activity, as it can make any kind of penetrative activity painful or even impossible. And what makes vaginismus even more exasperating is that in most cases, it doesn’t dampen sexual arousal in the sufferer, so any feelings of sexual excitation that arise must at the least be curtailed or abandoned altogether.
There are typically two kinds of classifications for vaginismus:
Primary vaginismus - when vaginal penetration has never been achieved
Secondary vaginismus - when vaginal penetration was once achieved, but is no longer possible, potentially due to certain factors such as surgery, trauma or negative effects of radiation therapy
While no direct cause can be found, vaginismus is understood to occur when there has been past emotional or physical trauma, when there has been pain previously experienced with sexual intercourse, or from surgery and other invasive procedures. So how can CBD have a hand in vaginismus treatment or even just symptom relief?
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CBD - A possible therapy for vaginismus?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound found within the cannabis plant that was for decades considered an unimportant compound. Most of the studies previously undertaken on cannabis have been focused on one of the other compounds within the cannabis plant, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for its psychotropic nature, but CBD is beginning to attract quite a bit of medical and pharmaceutical attention due to its perceived therapeutic qualities.
Cannabinoids and the Endocannabinoid System
When CBD was seen to quash an epileptic seizure in its tracks on national U.S television, it could no longer be ignored: Since then, CBD has been a major focus for many studies, with research focusing on what other beneficial therapeutic qualities it may have. What they found fairly quickly was that both THC and CBD interact with a major physiological system called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS); named for the plant that led to its discovery. This system was found to play a huge role in maintaining homeostasis in the body, as well as control and monitor a host of other functions; from mood to pain regulation, inflammation, and even sleep and reproductive health. So what does CBD and the ECS have to do with vaginismus relief?
As of yet, there haven’t been any direct studies undertaken on CBD for vaginismus, but CBD has been seen to work for many of the symptoms and even the supposed causes of vaginismus. So what possibilities are out there for CBD and vaginismus treatment?
Psychology and Sex
If we’re talking with vaginismus in mind — with specific reference to the precursors that have been identified as the most probable causes for developing this condition — then we must look into how CBD interacts with psychological issue, such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health problems.
One up-and-coming area of research for CBD is in the treatment of PTSD. As trauma and other negative experiences have been cited as major contributing factors to developing vaginismus, then looking at how CBD can help relieve PTSD symptoms and other such mental health issues may help elucidate how CBD could help the physical expression of vaginismus.
So far, PTSD has been treated mainly with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, which are mostly used for disorders like anxiety and depression. But these inhibitors seem to have only a very small effect on those suffering from severe PTSD, especially for combat veterans. Dr Mike Hart, a self-proclaimed Cannabis Physician and Lifestyle Strategist, has been successfully treating his patients with CBD and THC for PTSD. He says that:
“Post-traumatic stress is primarily about learned fear. When you have more learned fear, that’s going to induce a state of hypervigilance and that can also cause nightmares and terrors at night”.
He follows on by mentioning that there is enough evidence to suggest that CBD has an influence on reducing learned fear, with a recent investigation from Veterans Affairs backing this claim. This investigation showed that veterans who began using cannabis had a 17% reduction in opioid use and a 30% reduction in Benzodiazepine use (antidepressant/ anti-anxiety medication), which corresponds with the positive feedback from Hart’s patients.
Inhibition of ‘The Bliss Molecule’
What is also very interesting is that those who suffer from PTSD have 50% less anandamide in their system. Anandamide is an endocannabinoid known as ‘the bliss molecule’, which is responsible for producing that ‘runner’s high’ you feel after exercise.
CBD is found to inhibit the production of an enzyme called Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAAH), which breaks down anandamide in the body. In a 2012 study from Heidelberg University in Germany, it was found that “the ability of cannabidiol to inhibit the FAAH activity and enhance intrinsic anandamide signaling might be a functionally relevant component of its antipsychotic properties”. So, by using CBD to block FAAH, CBD allows those with an anandamide deficit to use their anandamide more effectively and naturally.
CBD, Stress and Vaginismus
Stress and anxiety are said to be major factors involved in vaginismus. “General anxiety, performance pressures, previous unpleasant sexual experiences, negativity toward sex, guilt, emotional traumas, or other unhealthy sexual emotions” may be key players in the development of vaginismus. By targeting these specific instigators, we may just be able to assuage the physical expressions involved with the condition.
So how does CBD target stress? Well, CBD has been found to have potent anxiolytic effects, with some studies suggesting that CBD enhances 5-HT1A transmission, a subtype serotonin receptor, and may thereby affect serotonin faster than the antidepressant and anxiolytic pharmaceutical drugs currently on the market.
CBD Helps Lower Blood Pressure
At the recent International Cannabinoid Research Society Symposium in Montreal, Nottingham University Associate Professor Saoirse O’Sullivan presented her paper highlighting how a single dose of CBD can reduce blood pressure in humans. In a randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study, nine healthy volunteers were given 600mg of CBD. The results corroborated that CBD “reduces resting BP (blood pressure) and the BP increase to stress in humans, associated with increased HR (heart rate).” She theorised that this reduction in blood pressure could be secondary to CBD’s anti-anxiety effect and suggests that CBD has an inhibitory effect on the part of nervous system that stimulates the fight-or-flight response, “thereby preventing an increase in blood pressure and cardiac output.”
Though CBD has been shown to hold incredible potential for a number of associated issues involving vaginismus, helping produce more positive sexual experiences, it is crucial to remember that vaginismus is a physiological condition with psychological roots. CBD may only improve symptoms; not treat the cause. Vaginismus treatment needs to be approached holistically by looking at both psychological and physical options in order to completely overcome it.
There is a distinct lack of research and literature pertaining to CBD’s effects on vaginismus relief, so if you’ve used CBD to treat vaginismus, we would love to hear about your experiences. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story.
Note: We can’t make any medical claims or give medical advice, so we encourage you to always talk with a medical professional before you begin any new treatments or remedies.