This is a guest blog with Mary Buxton, LCSW, who is an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist.
Mary has generously offered to write a few guest blogs on a subject most of us need help with, but may be reluctant to ask about, sexuality. Today is the first part in a series on Vulvar Pain.
Q: What is Vulvar Pain Syndrome? Vulvar Pain syndrome happens in two different ways. Provoked vestibulodynia is a big word that translates to having pain in the vulvar area on touch. That touch can be from attempted vaginal penetration for intercourse or medical exam, tampon use, tight clothing or other sources of touch. Somewhere between 12-15% of women in US suffer from this problem.On the other hand, unprovoked vestibulodynia does not require touch for pain to be felt. These women experience a chronic burning of the vulvar area and comprise 6-7% of the general population.
Q: What is the impact of this problem on a woman’s life?
She might experience painful intercourse or the inability to have intercourse due to the tightening of the pc (or pubococogyeal) muscle. That muscle surrounds the vaginal opening and can clamp shut in response to and anticipation of pain.
She might develop:
- Negative feelings toward sexuality
- Negative feelings toward herself as a sexual person
The problem can lead to:
- Lower intercourse frequency
- Lower levels of desire
- Decreased arousal
- Less orgasmic success
- Avoidance and fear of sex because of the pain
In addition to this disruption in her personal, relationship and sexual functioning, she might have trouble with getting pregnant because she is avoiding painful intercourse.
Q: What’s involved in treatment for this problem?The non surgical approach that seems to work the best is a multidisciplinary approach to treatment involving an MD, a sex therapist, a pelvic floor physical therapist and a pain management specialist, when needed.