Dynamic Clinical Measurements of Voluntary Vaginal Contractions and Autonomic Vaginal Reflexes

Paul M. A. Broens, Symen K. Spoelstra*, Willibrord C. M. Weijmar Schultz

*Corresponding author for this work

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    IntroductionThe vaginal canal is an active and responsive canal. It has pressure variations along its length and shows reflex activity. At present, the prevailing idea is that the vaginal canal does not have a sphincter mechanism. It is hypothesized that an active vaginal muscular mechanism exists and might be involved in the pathophysiology of genito-pelvic pain/penetration disorder.

    AimThe aim of this study was to detect the presence of a canalicular vaginal sphincter mechanism by measuring intravaginal pressure at different levels of the vaginal canal during voluntary pelvic floor contractions and during induced reflexive contractions.

    MethodsSixteen nulliparous women, without sexual dysfunction and pelvic floor trauma, were included in the study. High-resolution solid-state circumferential catheters were used to measure intravaginal pressures and vaginal contractions at different levels in the vaginal canal. Voluntary intravaginal pressure measurements were performed in the left lateral recumbent position only, while reflexive intravaginal pressure measurements during slow inflation of a vaginal balloon were performed in the left lateral recumbent position and in the sitting position.

    Main Outcome MeasuresIntravaginal pressures and vaginal contractions were the main outcome measures. In addition, a general demographic and medical history questionnaire was administered to gain insight into the characteristics of the study population.

    ResultsFifteen out of the sixteen women had deep and superficial vaginal high-pressure zones. In one woman, no superficial high-pressure zone was found. The basal and maximum pressures, as well as the duration of the autonomic reflexive contractions significantly exceeded the pressures and the duration of the voluntary contractions. There were no significant differences between the reflexive measurements obtained in the left lateral recumbent and the sitting position.

    ConclusionThe two high-pressure zones found in this study, as a result of voluntary contractions and, even more pronounced, as a result of reflexive contractions on intravaginal stimulation, support the hypothesis that the vaginal canal has an active and passive canalicular sphincter mechanism. Further investigation of this sphincter mechanism is required to identify its role in the sexual response and genito-pelvic pain/penetration disorder. Broens PMA, Spoelstra SK, and Weijmar Schultz WCM. Dynamic clinical measurements of voluntary vaginal contractions and autonomic vaginal reflexes. J Sex Med 2014;11:2966-2975.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2966-2975
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of Sexual Medicine
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - Dec-2014


    • Intravaginal Pressures
    • Vaginal Reflexes
    • Vaginal Sphincter Mechanism
    • Vaginal High-Pressure Zone(s)
    • Female Sexual Pain Disorders
    • Genito-Pelvic Pain
    • Penetration Disorder
    • Pelvic Floor
    • WOMEN
    • ORGASM
    • DEVICE

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