Ever heard of a 'blind vagina'? Us neither, until a recently published piece of research in the British Medical Journal shone a light on the case of a 20-year-old woman who was struggling to have sex and had never menstruated because of the condition.
The woman, who lived in Pakistan, was married and had become sexually active six months before her wedding. It was then that she realized penetration wasn't possible, so she visited a doctor and was told she had a 'blind vagina'. Her husband had been physically and verbally abusing her because of their sexual struggles, and the abuse culminated in the woman returning to live with her parents.
The condition also explained her absent period and the pain in the lower part of her stomach, which she'd been struggling with for three years but had continued to live with because her mother believed she was going through delayed puberty. (The doctors later wrote that her "breast development was normal for age, and other secondary sexual characters seemed normal.")
While this condition is rare and there is little information about it out there, here's what we do know.
What is a 'blind vagina'?
When doctors examined the woman, they discovered she had a 'blind vagina' — also known as a 'dead-end vagina' — which some claim is the female version of a micropenis. It was just 2 cm long (less than an inch) and didn’t connect to her reproductive organs (her uterus was "normal-sized" and her "ovaries seemingly normal," the doctors said). For comparison, the average length of an unaroused vagina is around 6 cm (2.4 inches), according to one study.
Women with a 'blind vagina' have either a horizontal or vertical 'wall' of tissue blocking the vagina (a transverse vaginal septum).
Women often don't realize they have one until they reach puberty and menstruation age, or start having sex, which they may find painful.
What causes it?
A 'blind vagina' is a congenital condition and results from the reproductive system not developing completely in the womb.
What can be done?
After her diagnosis, the woman received surgery to connect the two parts of her vagina by cutting the 'wall' of tissue (hers was horizontal). A mold wrapped in a condom was then inserted into her vagina to stretch the muscles. That mold was later replaced by a silicon mold a week later, and removed altogether three weeks later.
Does it have any lasting effects?
Based on this case study, it seems women with this kind of congenital condition can go on to lead pretty normal lives. The 20-year-old was cleared to have sex four months after her surgery, with "no discomfort" according to the doctors, and by the time seven months had passed, she was pregnant. Her healthy baby son was delivered through Caesarean section.
"This surgery has given me a new life in the true sense. I had to suffer a lot of verbal, physical, and emotional abuse from my own family and my in-laws," the woman told the doctors. "This treatment blessed me with happy marital relations, self-confidence, and a healthy baby."