Vaginismus, endometriosis: 'Women's health continues to be downplayed', says doctor

  • Good sexual and reproductive health ensures good health and well-being.
  • However, many women find difficulty in talking about specific conditions that may affect them.
  • A UK-based doctor and women's health advocate says women shouldn't suffer in silence.

Good sexual and reproductive health is key to a woman's general health and well-being, yet women often shy away from these discussions.

One intimate health expert urges women to talk openly about their sexual health. Dr Shirin Lakhani, a UK-based GP and owner of Elite Aesthetics, told Cover Media that women should feel free to bring up topics they are concerned about, whether it’s with their doctor or a loved one.

READ MORE | A doctor's guide to healthy living at every stage of womanhood - from pre-puberty to menopause

“Women’s health continues to be downplayed, especially around sexual health, and women often go incorrectly treated,” she says, adding:

“Sexual health-related issues are wide-ranging and encompass everything from sexual dysfunction, sexual expression, and also pleasure.”

The women’s health advocate, as her Instagram bio reads, discusses a couple of key health concerns women are often too embarrassed to talk about or seek help for.


Vaginismus is the body's reaction to the fear of some or all types of vaginal penetration, explains the NHS.

It happens when the muscles of  the pelvic floor spasm and prevent  anything – from a tampon to a penis – from entering the vagina. 

READ MORE | Is sex too painful for you? You could have vaginismus

A previous City Press article notes that many women across the world have been suffering in silence, mostly due to embarrassment, which has made finding accurate and credible statistics on the condition challenging.

Fortunately, vaginismus is highly treatable.

Lichen Sclerosus

This is an uncommon condition that creates patchy, white skin and can affect a woman’s genital area. It can cause irritation, skin changes, itching and pain, explains the Cleveland Clinic

While it can occur in all genders, it occurs mainly in post-menopausal women and girls who haven’t started puberty.

There’s no cure, but treatment can help.

READ MORE | These 5 essential health checks are non-negotiable, ladies – here’s where to go and how much they cost


Endometriosis affects approximately 176 million women worldwide, yet it is poorly managed, says Lakhani.

The disorder happens when tissue similar to the tissue that lines a woman’s uterus, grows outside of the uterus, such as the bladder, WebMD explains.

The primary symptom of endometriosis is pelvic pain, which is often associated with menstrual periods. “I know of women with endometriosis who, before diagnosis, were told they have a low pain threshold,” says Lakhani.

“In many cases, diagnoses can take several years, and even when they have a diagnosis, women are told to either live with it or go on birth control.” 

There is no cure for endometriosis but treatments, such as surgery or medication, are available.

Women shouldn’t suffer in silence

“We need to make sure women feel like they are listened to and that they can talk to family, friends and their doctor about their symptoms,” says Lakhani.

“Nobody should be suffering at home with conditions that can be treated.”

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.