Psychosexual characteristics of vestibulodynia couples: partner solicitousness and hostility are associated with pain

Mylène Desrosiers, Sophie Bergeron, Marta Meana, Bianca Leclerc, Yitzchak M Binik, Samir Khalifé
Journal of Sexual Medicine 2008, 5 (2): 418-27

INTRODUCTION: Provoked vestibulodynia is a prevalent yet misunderstood women's sexual health issue. In particular, data concerning relationship characteristics and psychosexual functioning of partners of these women are scarce. Moreover, no research to date has examined the role of the partner in vestibulodynia.

AIMS: This study aimed to characterize and compare the psychosexual profiles of women with vestibulodynia and their partners, in addition to exploring whether partner-related variables correlated with women's pain and associated psychosexual functioning.

METHODS: Forty-three couples in which the woman suffered from vestibulodynia completed self-report questionnaires focusing on their sexual functioning, dyadic adjustment, and psychological adjustment. Women were diagnosed using the cotton-swab test during a standardized gynecological examination. They also took part in a structured interview during which they were asked about their pain during intercourse and frequency of intercourse. They also completed a questionnaire about their perceptions of their partners' responses to the pain.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Dependent measures for both members of the couple included the Sexual History Form, the Locke-Wallace Marital Adjustment Scale and the Brief Symptom Inventory. Women completed a horizontal analog scale assessing the intensity of their pain during intercourse and reported their frequency of intercourse per month.

RESULTS: Findings show that women with vestibulodynia and their partners did not differ from population norms with regard to global sexual functioning, dyadic adjustment and psychological adjustment. However, mean frequency of intercourse was lower than the standard for this age group. Also, women had significantly poorer sexual functioning than men. In addition, a regression analysis revealed that partner solicitousness and hostility were significantly associated with higher levels of pain during intercourse.

CONCLUSIONS: Results suggest that although the psychosexual and relationship characteristics of partners of women with vestibulodynia are within norms, their responses may play a role in the experience of pain.

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