Journal article

Living with genital pain : Sexual function, satisfaction, and help-seeking among women living in Sweden

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Subtitle: Sexual function, satisfaction, and help-seeking among women living in Sweden

Author list: Thomtén, Johanna

Publication year: 2014

Start page: 19

End page: 25

Number of pages: 7

ISSN: 1877-8860

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.sjpain.2013.10.002


Abstract

Background and aims: Female genital pain is a debilitating problem that negatively affects several aspects of the life of women. Several studies present figures of prevalence indicating that the problem affects nearly 20% of young women. However, many women fail to consult health care and the estimated prevalence therefore remains insecure. Historically, genital pain was commonly viewed as either physiological or psychosexual. Although the current field of research and clinical expertise in general agree upon a biopsychosocial conceptualization, less is known about the manifestation of the problem in everyday life and the experience of seeking health care among afflicted women. The objectives of the present study was to examine genital pain in a general female population living in Sweden cross-sectionally in terms of prevalence, sexual function, sexual satisfaction and help seeking, and to identify possible predictors of genital pain among women. Methods: The study was a population-based study using a postal questionnaire administered to 4052 women (age 18--35). Of these 944 (response rate: 23%) took part in the study. Results: Genital pain of six months duration was reported by 16.1% of the women. Women with pain more commonly reported fungal infections, other pain problems, sexual dysfunctions and symptoms of anxiety than pain-free women and in addition lower sexual satisfaction. There were no differences in sexual frequency. Pain was most commonly reported during sexual intercourse, but many women also experienced pain during non-sexual activities, with pain durations of several hours after the pain eliciting activity was interrupted. Of those reporting pain, 50% had sought care for their pain. The most common was to counsel a doctor and to receive topical treatment. However, the experienced effects of the treatments were on average low. In the explanatory model, fungal infections, and sexual dysfunctions were associated with genital pain. Conclusions: The study had a low response rate, but still indicates that genital pain is common and negatively affects several aspects of women life, not just sexual activities. Although many women report pro-longed pain experiences, many fail to consult health care and among those who seek care the effects of treatment are on average poor. There are strong associations between sexual dysfunctions (lack of sexual arousal, vaginal muscle tension hindering intercourse) and genital pain that, based on previous findings in this field of research, might be viewed in terms of circular maintaining processes. Implications: Female genital pain is not just limited to the sexual context, but often negatively affects several situations in women life. The size of the problem calls for immediate development of preventive interventions and treatment programs that focus on sexual education and to encourage a healthy sexuality among women and their partners. There is a need to identify methods in order to assemble evidence based interventions of female genital pain. Such methods are currently lacking, resulting in poor treatment options for women with pain. © 2013 Scandinavian Association for the Study of Pain.


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