Woman and Partner-Perceived Partner Responses Predict Pain and Sexual Satisfaction in Provoked Vestibulodynia (PVD) Couples


Natalie O. Rosen, PhD, Department of Psychology, Université de Montréal, C.P. 6128, succursale Centre-Ville, Montréal, Québec H3C 3J7, Canada. Tel: 902-470-7758; Fax: 902-425-1125; E-mail: natalie.rosen@umontreal.ca


Introduction.  Provoked vestibulodynia (PVD) is a highly prevalent vulvovaginal pain condition that results in significant sexual dysfunction, psychological distress, and reduced quality of life. Although some intra-individual psychological factors have been associated with PVD, studies to date have neglected the interpersonal context of this condition.

Aim.  We examined whether partner responses to women's pain experience—from the perspective of both the woman and her partner—are associated with pain intensity, sexual function, and sexual satisfaction.

Methods.  One hundred ninety-one couples (M age for women = 33.28, standard deviation [SD] = 12.07, M age for men = 35.79, SD = 12.44) in which the woman suffered from PVD completed the spouse response scale of the Multidimensional Pain Inventory, assessing perceptions of partners' responses to the pain. Women with PVD also completed measures of pain, sexual function, sexual satisfaction, depression, and dyadic adjustment.

Main Outcome Measures.  Dependent measures were women's responses to: (i) a horizontal analog scale assessing the intensity of their pain during intercourse; (ii) the Female Sexual Function Index; and (iii) the Global Measure of Sexual Satisfaction Scale.

Results.  Controlling for depression, higher solicitous partner responses were associated with higher levels of women's vulvovaginal pain intensity. This association was significant for partner-perceived responses (β = 0.29, P < 0.001) and for woman-perceived partner responses (β = 0.16, P = 0.04). After controlling for sexual function and dyadic adjustment, woman-perceived greater solicitous partner responses (β = 0.16, P = 0.02) predicted greater sexual satisfaction. Partner-perceived responses did not predict women's sexual satisfaction. Partner responses were not associated with women's sexual function.

Conclusions.  Findings support the integration of dyadic processes in the conceptualization and treatment of PVD by suggesting that partner responses to pain affect pain intensity and sexual satisfaction in affected women. Rosen NO, Bergeron S, Leclerc B, Lambert B, and Steben M. Woman and partner-perceived partner responses predict pain and sexual satisfaction in provoked vestibulodynia (PVD) couples. J Sex Med 2010;7:3715–3724.