Chronic vulvovaginal pain affects millions of women, and while it can be mitigated by her partner's response, it can also exacerbate the condition particularly if they avoid sexual activity, a Canadian study showed.
Provoked vestibulodynia (PVD), triggered mainly by sexual contact, is suffered by 12% of women between puberty and menopause, and the chronic pain can result in significant sexual dysfunction, psychological distress, and a reduced quality of life.
But a woman's partner who is sensitive to the condition and is "overprotective" to the point of avoiding sexual contact can "exacerbate the problem," University of Montreal psychologist Sophie Bergeron told AFP, to avoid penetration, but focus on other forms of sexual fulfilment would better aid the situation, said Bergeron, a lead author in the study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
"An overly concerned partner may lead a woman to avoid sexual intercourse or exacerbate her pain by increasing her anxiety, hyper-vigilance and negative thoughts about the pain, which can in turn increase her pain during intercourse," said another lead author, Natalie Rosen, also at the University of Montreal.
Compassion for the condition
"If a man avoids sexual intercourse with a partner with PVD, then he may also reinforce her negative pain appraisals and that can lead to increased pain during intercourse." Most of all compassion for the condition, said the study, can lead to greater sexual satisfaction for affected women.
Causes for the condition are still not precisely understood, and surgery for the condition has a 70% chance of success. Even then, 9% of women may suffer more pain from the condition after invasive treatment so most treatments used are antidepressant drugs and anaesthetic creams or gels.
Psychotherapy is also helpful, noted the study, for groups of women or with their partners to combat a complete loss of sexual desire and avoidance of sexual intercourse. (Sapa, September 2010)