Developing positive thoughts about penetration and improving communication between sex partners could help women with provoked vestibulodynia (PVD), according to new research in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
Women with PVD experience pain when their vulvar vestibule – the area surrounding the entrance to the vagina – is touched. Routine gynecological exams, inserting tampons, and sexual activity can all trigger pain.
While some women with PVD avoid sex altogether, an estimated 80% still try to have sex with their partner. This study investigated the role of penetration cognitions of women with PVD. Did positive thoughts correspond with less pain and greater sexual satisfaction? And how might communication between partners affect pain and satisfaction?
A team of researchers from Canada worked with 77 women with PVD. The participants’ mean age was 28 years.
The women underwent a gynecological exam and completed questionnaires that assessed their feelings about vaginal penetration, communication with partners, sexual satisfaction, sexual functioning, and pain during intercourse.
Participants who had negative thoughts about penetration tended to have poorer sexual function and lower satisfaction. The authors hypothesized that these women may have been so anxious about pain that they could not focus on pleasure or intimacy.
In contrast, women who thought positively about penetration had better function and higher satisfaction. Such thoughts may help them overcome the fear of pain and concentrate on intimacy.
Sex-related communication with partner was associated with higher satisfaction and better functioning as well. The authors suggested that women who discussed their sexual worries may have received more support and encouragement from their partner. In addition, couples might have discussed non-penetrative sexual activities that were less likely to cause pain.
Clinicians who treat women with PVD might consider their patients’ thoughts on penetration, the authors noted. Helping women improve those perceptions – and their communication with their partner – could be key. Including partners in treatment plans could also help.
“Enhancing sexual communication may contribute to improved pain outcomes for women with PVD, particularly when positive penetration cognitions have been established,” they wrote.
The Journal of Sexual Medicine
Anderson, Alexandra B., MSc, et al.
“Associations Between Penetration Cognitions, Genital Pain, and Sexual Well-being in Women With Provoked Vestibulodynia”
(Full-text. March 2016)