Sexual, relational, and psychological functioning among women with provoked vulvar pain
Smith, Kelly B.
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Provoked vestibulodynia (PVD), or recurrent vulvar pain, is a prevalent condition among women. Although research has documented that PVD is associated with sexual problems, little research has systematically examined the intimate relationships of affected women. The general purpose of the current studies was to comprehensively examine sexual and relationship functioning among women with provoked vulvar pain. In order to do so, three related studies were conducted. The first study was a systematic review of the literature examining sexual and relationship satisfaction among PVD-affected women. Secondly, an online study was conducted using both standardized and qualitative measures to examine sexual, relationship, and psychological functioning among women with self-reported provoked vulvar pain and their male partners in comparison to controls. The online study also examined associations between affected women’s pain and women and partner’s functioning. The final study was a laboratory-based study that included women with PVD and matched control women and examined psychosexual functioning, including sexual and relationship satisfaction, and vestibular pain sensitivity; additionally, this study examined potential associations between women’s pain and self-reported functioning. Overall, these studies suggest that women with provoked vulvar pain experience decreased sexual functioning, sexual satisfaction, and psychological functioning in comparison to control women, and that pain-affected partners experience decreased sexual functioning and sexual satisfaction. The findings also indicate that some aspects of women’s pain experiences are related to their self-reported functioning and to that of their partners. This research has implications for understanding the potential sexual and relationship consequences associated with provoked vulvar pain, and is among the first to comprehensively examine affected partners’ functioning. It is hoped that these studies will contribute novel information to the vulvar pain literature, and that they will encourage future research examining sexual and relationship functioning among women with provoked vulvar pain and their partners.