Female reproductive system comprises of sensitive female organs like vulva, vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tube and ovaries. These are governed by the action of different hormones which helps in child bearing during pregnancy. The different reproductive organs are held in place by a number of muscles. The different parts experience cramps and spasms at many times due to various reasons. Amongst them, vaginal cramps are very common and experienced by almost all women and across all ages. Let us see in details the symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment of vaginal cramps.
What are Vaginal Cramps?
Vaginal cramps are spasms experienced by the vagina. Vaginal cramps along with vaginal discharge are commonly experienced by women all over the world. It occurs among women of all races and ages. The exact reason for such a symptom is not understood clearly. The pain can be constant or intermittent and it may last for a few days or years.
Symptoms of Vaginal Cramps
- Burning sensation
- Pain experienced during different activities
- Sharp pain in vulva, labia and vaginal opening.
What are the Causes of Vaginal Cramps?
The following are the common causes which lead to vaginal cramps:
- Vaginitis: It refers to the infection of the vagina caused due to bacterial or fungal infection and can as well cause vaginal cramps.
- Fungal Infections: These are caused by yeast and candida. These lead to vaginal irritation, white discharge as well as vaginal cramps.
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs): These are caused by the species Trichomoniasis, Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea. The infection caused by these organisms lead to painful urination, vaginal itching and discharge.
- Vaginal Cramps Caused Due to Cancer: Uterine cancer causes vaginal bleeding and pain as well as vaginal cramps. Endometrial cancer has same symptoms along with pain in the pelvic region. Moreover, Human Papilloma virus (HPV) related cancer results in warts and is painful.
- Cervicitis: It is an inflammation of the cervix region which can cause vaginal cramps as well as pain in the pelvic region along with bloody or yellow discharge.
- Vaginal Cramps Caused Due to Muscle Strain: It is caused when the muscles are stressed, or injured due to overworking or physical activity.
- Premature Labour: Premature labour before 37 weeks of pregnancy causes contraction, cramps and pain in the vagina.
- Foreign Object: Symptoms of foreign objects in the vagina include vaginal cramps, pain, irritation, and fever.
- Pelvic Inflammatory Diseases: It occurs due to infection of the reproductive system that causes vaginal pain and cramps.
- Vaginal Cramps Post Menopause: The vaginal becomes thin and dry post menopause and sexual intercourse might cause pain.
- Aggressive intercourse or forceful sex (rape)
- Presence of cysts and fibroids
- Ectopic pregnancy might also cause vaginal cramps.
Besides these, there are other factors such as genetics, hormonal changes, nerve injury and genital surgery which might contribute towards vaginal cramps.
Prognosis of Vaginal Cramps
Since the exact cause is not known in many cases, hence specific treatment cannot be given. In some cases, vaginal cramps can be only reduced with proper medical intervention. In case of endometrial cancer or vaginal cancer, the prognosis may not be always good if the cancer has metastasized.
Diagnosis of Vaginal Cramps
The gynaecologist performs pelvic examination to check for any abnormalities or any other possible issues. A cotton swab is used to gently touch the genitals to identify areas of pain. Thus, physical examination of the pelvic region and medical history is noted.
Further diagnostic tests include:
- Colonoscopy to examine colonic region
- Barium enema is done by inserting the barium solution in the rectum region and then taking X-ray.
- MRI/Computed tomography scan
- Ultrasound of the pelvic region
- Cystoscopy by using a small camera to examine the urethra and the bladder.
- Tests are performed to rule out the presence of uterine cancer.
- If the physical cause of vaginal cramps cannot be ascertained then a sex therapist or couple counsellor may be able to help in determining any underlying emotional or psychological reasons of pain.
Treatment of Vaginal Cramps
There is no specific treatment and the treatment modalities vary according to the cause of the vaginal cramps/pain. It may be mild or strong treatment which may last for a few days or for a longer period of time. This treatment may give partial or complete relief. While, in some cases there may be no relief at all.
- Medications to Manage Vaginal Cramps: Antibiotics are given to treat infection causing cramps. Other medications to manage vaginal cramps include antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and hormonal therapy.
- Surgery: Some medical conditions causing vaginal cramps have to be treated with surgery.
- Biofeedback Therapy: Most of the pain in vagina is caused due to the tensed muscle. Hence biofeedback therapy can be given to relax these muscles.
- Vaginal Lubricants to Relieve Vaginal Cramps: Lotion which has soothing effect on the vagina is applied to allow for easy sexual intercourse to take place.
- Pelvic Floor Exercise: This exercise allows women to tone pelvic muscles.
- Counselling: In case of emotional problems, counselling sessions may help in improving communication, relaxation and impart sex education.
Prevention of Vaginal Cramps
Although, not all the causes of vaginal cramps can be prevented, some can be. The precautions to be taken to avoid vaginal cramps are:
- Wearing of clean and pure cotton panties
- Avoiding activities such as biking and horseback riding too often
- Take lukewarm baths for 10 minutes on a daily basis
- Avoid direct contact of shampoo and soap in the vulvar region
- Using lubrication gels during sexual intercourse if proper lubrication is not there
- Rinse the vulva with cool water after urination and intercourse
- Avoid wearing of very tight jeans which can cause Vulvodynia (a burning sensation in the vulva region)
Vaginal cramps/pain and vaginal discharge may be a result of different causative factors. Woman suffering from such pain should always consult a gynaecologist. Depending on the underlying medical condition, a specific treatment will be given and a routine check-up is done to know if the pain is decreasing. Physical relaxation and emotional counselling has proven to be helpful where the reason of pain was not understood.