Sexual and relationship intimacy among women with provoked vestibulodynia and their partners: associations with sexual satisfaction, sexual function, and pain self-efficacy

Katy Bois, Sophie Bergeron, Natalie O Rosen, Pierre McDuff, Catherine Grégoire
Journal of Sexual Medicine 2013, 10 (8): 2024-35

INTRODUCTION: Provoked vestibulodynia (PVD) is the most frequent subtype of vulvodynia. Women report negative consequences of PVD on their sexual and romantic relationships. Researchers have recently highlighted the importance of examining interpersonal factors such as intimacy, and of including both women and their partners in study designs.

AIM: The aim of this study was to investigate sexual and relationship intimacy as defined by the Interpersonal Process Model of Intimacy and their associations with sexual satisfaction, sexual function, pain self-efficacy, and pain intensity among women with PVD and their partners.

METHODS: Ninety-one heterosexual women (M age = 27.38, SD = 6.04) diagnosed with PVD and their partners (M age = 29.37, SD = 7.79) completed measures of sexual and relationship intimacy, sexual satisfaction, sexual function, pain self-efficacy, and pain intensity.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Dependent measures were the (i) Global Measure of Sexual Satisfaction Scale; (ii) Female Sexual Function Index; (iii) Painful Intercourse Self-Efficacy Scale; and (iv) visual analog scale of pain intensity during intercourse.

RESULTS: After controlling for women's age, women's greater sexual intimacy (β = 0.49, P < 0.001) was associated with women's greater sexual satisfaction and higher pain self-efficacy (β = 0.39, P = 0.001), beyond the effects of partners' sexual intimacy. Also, women's greater sexual intimacy (β = 0.24, P = 0.05) and women's greater relationship intimacy (β = 0.54, P = 0.003) were associated with greater women's sexual function, beyond the effects of partners' sexual and relationship intimacy.

CONCLUSIONS: Women's self-reported sexual and relationship intimacy in the couple relationship may promote higher sexual satisfaction, sexual function, and pain self-efficacy, as well as possibly foster greater sexual well-being among women with PVD. The authors discuss implications for the inclusion of emotional and interpersonal aspects of the couple's dynamic in clinical interventions and future research in PVD.

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