Harmful or Helpful: Perceived Solicitous and Facilitative Partner Responses Are Differentially Associated with Pain and Sexual Satisfaction in Women with Provoked Vestibulodynia


Natalie O. Rosen, PhD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, IWK Health Centre, PO Box 9700, G2141, 5850/5980 University Avenue, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3K 6R8, Canada. Tel: 902-470-77; Fax: 902-425-1125; E-mail: nrosen@dal.ca


Introduction.  Provoked vestibulodynia (PVD) is a highly prevalent vulvovaginal pain condition that negatively affects women's emotional, sexual, and relationship well-being. Recent studies have investigated the role of interpersonal variables, including partner responses.

Aim.  We examined whether solicitous and facilitative partner responses were differentially associated with vulvovaginal pain and sexual satisfaction in women with PVD by examining each predictor while controlling for the other.

Methods.  One hundred twenty-one women (M age = 30.60, SD = 10.53) with PVD or self-reported symptoms of PVD completed the solicitous subscale of the spouse response scale of the Multidimensional Pain Inventory, and the facilitative subscale of the Spouse Response Inventory. Participants also completed measures of pain, sexual function, sexual satisfaction, trait anxiety, and avoidance of pain and sexual behaviors (referred to as “avoidance”).

Main Outcome Measures.  Dependent measures were the (i) Pain Rating Index of the McGill Pain Questionnaire with reference to pain during vaginal intercourse and (ii) Global Measure of Sexual Satisfaction Scale.

Results.  Controlling for trait anxiety and avoidance, higher solicitous partner responses were associated with higher vulvovaginal pain intensity (β = 0.20, P = 0.03), and higher facilitative partner responses were associated with lower pain intensity (β = −0.20, P = 0.04). Controlling for sexual function, trait anxiety, and avoidance, higher facilitative partner responses were associated with higher sexual satisfaction (β = 0.15, P = 0.05).

Conclusions.  Findings suggest that facilitative partner responses may aid in alleviating vulvovaginal pain and improving sexual satisfaction, whereas solicitous partner responses may contribute to greater pain. Rosen NO, Bergeron S, Glowacka M, Delisle I, and Baxter ML. Harmful or helpful: Perceived solicitous and facilitative partner responses are differentially associated with pain and sexual satisfaction in women with provoked vestibulodynia. J Sex Med 2012;9:2351–2360.