I was sexually abused by my dad when I was a child. I am now 42. I have had three children; one was a premature delivery and he lived for seven weeks in hospital and then died. I had sexual feelings but did not have sex until I became married. On my wedding night I found having sex uncomfortable and it has been ever since. When I have internal examinations I get sore with the nurse touching me. Another doctor on attempting to do an internal could not do so. I also started bleeding after having a coil fitted. I asked the nurse if she could recommend an aroma therapist to me which she did. Maybe my body will feel better once I have had it done on my body? Could you give me some advice how I can make sex more comfortable for me?

"You have known profound suffering and I believe God wants to walk with you through this. Sexual abuse in childhood can cause the sort of vaginal problems that you are describing. You have a mild form of a condition called vaginismus, which involves an involuntary spasm of the vaginal muscles. These spasms cause sexual intercourse to be painful and for some people, impossible. It is a complex disorder because it is both a psychological and physical condition.

Vaginismus is controlled by the brain. Having been abused as a child, your brain has made the understandable decision to tense up the muscles surrounding your vaginal entrance in order to protect you. A painful internal examination will be caused by these same muscles tightening, and will add to the brain’s belief that the muscles need to resist penetration in order to protect.

The initial cause of vaginismus is emotional and is rooted in your mind, not your body. The good news is that your body could be fine and can function perfectly, but your mind is blocking such action. There are several things you can do to shift this problem and get your vaginal muscles back under your control.

First, practise PC muscle exercises three times a day. These are the muscles circling your vaginal passage. They are the same ones you would use if you were going to the toilet and wanted to stop the flow of urine for a moment. Practise pulling up and then releasing these muscles in three stages, like a lift rising up three floors. If you put your hand on your tummy while you do this, you should feel no movement to your tummy muscles. This will tune your brain into how to control these muscles so that you learn how to have control over them.

Second, buy some lubricant and on a daily basis massage it into the skin surrounding your vaginal entrance. As you do this, use your fingers to gently but firmly stretch the tissue down there, making it more pliable. KY jelly is not ideal for this as it becomes sticky; a better lubricant is something like Vielle which is available in the High street. Alternately, if you also suffer from vaginal dryness you might want to buy over the counter or get on prescription ReplensMD.

Thirdly, you need to stretch the muscles and tissue around your vaginal passage. You need to teach your muscles around there what is safe to allow to enter you and therefore how to relax in the right circumstances. You may need to get some counseling to help you emotionally separate out the past from the present. You will need to focus in on good feelings with your husband and build up your sense of safety with him. To do the physical side, it would help you to invest in some vaginal dilators. These can be ordered from Pharmacy 2 U or got on prescription from your GP. You should do your PC muscle exercises in a relaxed and safe environment and then insert the smallest dilator when you relax the muscles. You should continue using one size of dilator at least every other day for several weeks before progressing to the next size up.

While you are using the smaller two dilators you should refrain from having intercourse during those weeks and instead pleasure each other through other forms of touch and kissing. Use this as a time to get in touch with enjoying your own sexual feelings and each other’s bodies in different ways. When you are able to progress to the third size dilator and have used it comfortably for at least two weeks, then you will find you are ready for penetrative sex. Use lots of lubricant and focus on relaxing your muscles in the way you have learned to do through the exercises.

You will also need to shift some emotional habits. Face up to any intimacy difficulties such as feelings of shame, guilt, anxiety or disgust. These will all be affecting your physical body. A major part of your childhood abuse will have been the abuse of trust as well as your body. As you learn to trust and feel safe with your husband this can repair the damage done in the past; but you have to take that risk to let go of the old defences.

I think the aromatherapy could be very healing as you need to learn to feel good about and in your body. Notice what your language reveals when you write, ‘once I have had it done on my body?’ You need to shift into finding you can enjoy being ‘in’ your body; things must no longer happen in a separated way ‘on’ your body. You can regain control and allow pleasurable feelings in. I wish you every blessing…"