What is infertility?
How does vaginismus impact fertility?
If I'm unable to conceive due to an unconsummated marriage or inability to achieve penetration, does that mean I'm going to need fertility treatments to get pregnant?
Does having vaginismus mean I'll never have biological children?
These questions, and so many more, are what compelled me to dedicate a stand alone page (and post category) to this tricky and oftentimes disheartening topic.
When I first received my diagnosis of severe primary vaginismus back in the Fall of 2015, the reality of a loss of physical intimacy with my husband was quickly followed by the crushing thought, "How are we ever going to get pregnant?"
The National Institutes of Health defines infertility as "the inability of a couple to get pregnant or the inability of a woman to carry a pregnancy to term." This includes women/couples dealing with Endometriosis, PCOS, male factor infertility and severe vaginismus/pelvic floor dysfunction.
For women struggling with severe vaginismus, infertility is often part of the "package deal" in dealing with a pelvic floor dysfunction. And while there are many resources and websites that cite a desire to get pregnant as strong motivation for women to pursue and aggressively treat their vaginismus, very few resources talk about the reality of women who have been in treatment for 2, 3, 4+ years and are still unable to get pregnant without medical assistance, such as IUI, ICI, IVF or syringe methods.
While women with vaginismus aren't necessarily dealing with issues surrounding ovarian health or egg quality, they are oftentimes unable to achieve conception without the use of fertility options and/or medical assistance.
When I first began to feel the weight of vaginismus as it related to my possibility of motherhood, I found so many helpful articles/resources/books of encouragement under the topic of infertility. But I battled with the idea of considering myself a woman who dealt with infertility, particularly because I had always thought of infertility in terms of "internal issues" such as Endo and PCOS, rather than in terms of being physically able to conceive or not. I worried that I might be seen as "making too much" of my vaginismus struggles if I tried to participate or glean from conversations had by women in the infertility community. Even though I related so fiercely to stories of waiting and financial strain ( i.e. botox, intensive physical therapy, prolonged therapy) or IUI/IVF and pregnancy envy—was my inability to conceive naturally due to severe vaginismus really something that tied me into this infertility community? My hesitation was rooted in fear—wasn't infertility too big of an issue for the Lord to handle? Hadn't I read so many stories in the Scriptures detailing the sorrow and bitter weeping of women with empty wombs?
I saw it as another diagnosis. Another problem to add to my plate. Rather than what it was: another opportunity to learn the all-sufficiency of my Savior.
If I'm now asked why we haven't started having children, or what our plans are, I'll respond by saying that Ryan and I are dealing with infertility issues, but are eagerly waiting on the Lord's provision and direction for when/how we will start our family.
As women dealing with vaginismus, we might not feel the repeated pain of seeing a negative pregnancy test every month. But we feel the emotional toll of waiting, waiting, and waiting some more as we pursue a variety of physically and emotionally strenuous and expensive forms of treatment so we're able to conceive.
We watch while friends and family announce their pregnancies and births. We deal with pregnancy envy and the bitter taste of desiring something that we know might be years away. Sometimes we turn to IUI and assisted fertility to conceive meanwhile we pursue other options for treating vaginismus. But oftentimes we do it all alone. In part because of the personal nature of our struggle, and because sometimes—although we crave community—we fear judgement and misunderstanding from women going through more widely recognized forms of infertility and treatment.
Yes, our infertility and source of struggle looks different. And many times it takes us down other roads of treatment and resolution. But our pain—the pain of waiting for a child that we can't have yet—is the same. As is our need for encouragement and understanding from a community of that loves and understands us.
We are part of the 1 in 8. We stand with the multitudes of women around the world who are eagerly waiting on the Lord and placing every heart wish and unmet expectation into His hands.
But we are grounded in hope. And we are never alone.
How should we define infertility and who counts as infertile? from the Albany Medical Center
What is infertility? - NIH
Vaginismus and Fertility - FertilityPedia
* Visit Anchored and Enough on Pinterest for boards dedicated to infertility encouragement and gifts/resources for yourself or women in your TTC community also dealing with these issues!
* To any women reading this section because you've also felt the weight of vaginismus as it relates to fertility: take heart! Infertility and vaginismus are not too much for God. And the community we find with other sisters in the Lord who are also struggling with infertility/conception struggles and praying for children is a sweet and encouraging rock for our souls to lean on as we walk this road together.