Acceptance of vulvovaginal pain in women with provoked vestibulodynia and their partners: associations with pain, psychological, and sexual adjustment

Katelynn E Boerner, Natalie O Rosen
Journal of Sexual Medicine 2015, 12 (6): 1450-62

INTRODUCTION: Provoked vestibulodynia (PVD) is a common vulvovaginal pain condition associated with negative psychological and sexual consequences for affected women and their sexual partners. Greater pain acceptance has been found to be associated with better functional and psychological outcomes in individuals with chronic pain, and acceptance-based strategies are being increasingly incorporated into treatment protocols. The present study is a novel investigation of pain acceptance in PVD couples.

AIM: The aim was to examine the associations between acceptance of vulvovaginal pain and women's pain during intercourse, as well as the psychological and sexual adjustment of both women with PVD and their partners.

METHODS: Sixty-one couples (M(age) for women = 27.95 years, SD = 5.87; M(age) for men = 30.48 years, SD = 6.70) in which the woman was diagnosed with PVD completed the Chronic Pain Acceptance Questionnaire, in reference to women's vulvovaginal pain. Women also rated their pain during intercourse, and couples completed measures of anxiety, depression, sexual function, and sexual satisfaction.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Dependent measures were (i) women's self-reported pain during intercourse on a numerical rating scale; (ii) State-Trait Anxiety Inventory trait subscale; (iii) Beck Depression Inventory-II; (iv) Derogatis Interview for Sexual Functioning; and (v) Global Measure of Sexual Satisfaction Scale.

RESULTS: Women's greater pain acceptance was associated with their lower self-reported pain during intercourse, controlling for partner's pain acceptance. Greater pain acceptance among women was associated with their own lower anxiety and depression, greater sexual functioning, as well as their own and their partner's greater sexual satisfaction, controlling for the partner's pain acceptance. Additionally, greater pain acceptance among male partners was associated with their own lower depression.

CONCLUSIONS: Findings suggest that psychological interventions for PVD should target increasing couples' vulvovaginal pain acceptance in order to improve women's pain and the sexual and psychological functioning of both members of the couple.


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