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Sexual Arousal in Women with Provoked Vestibulodynia: The Application of Laser Doppler Imaging to Sexual Pain

Authors

  • Stéphanie C. Boyer MSc,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychology, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
      Stéphanie C. Boyer, MSc, Department of Psychology, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 3N6. Tel: (613) 533-3276; Fax: (613) 533-2499; E-mail: 6scb2@queensu.ca
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  • Caroline F. Pukall PhD,

    1. Department of Psychology, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
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  • Susan M. Chamberlain MD

    1. Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Kingston General Hospital, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
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Stéphanie C. Boyer, MSc, Department of Psychology, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 3N6. Tel: (613) 533-3276; Fax: (613) 533-2499; E-mail: 6scb2@queensu.ca

ABSTRACT

Introduction.  Women with provoked vestibulodynia (PVD) report lower sexual arousal than nonaffected women, however, laboratory studies of arousal have reported contradictory results about whether group differences exist in genital and subjective arousal.

Aim.  To examine genital and subjective sexual arousal in women with and without PVD.

Methods.  Eligible women with and without PVD (N = 42) attended a laboratory session that included an interview, questionnaire completion, and genital imaging. A direct measure of superficial blood flow—laser Doppler imaging—was used to assess vulvar blood flow levels while participants watched three films, including an erotic film. Participants answered questions about their level of sexual arousal before, during, and after the erotic film.

Main Outcome Measures.  Average vulvar blood flow levels during the baseline and erotic films, numerical ratings of subjective sexual arousal and anxiety, as well as questionnaire measures of arousal.

Results.  There was a significant group difference in genital arousal, whereby the PVD group showed a lower genital response to the erotic film, as well as a significant interaction between baseline blood flow and group membership. Separate group regression analyses demonstrated that baseline blood flow explained a substantial amount of the variance in erotic film blood flow in the control group (70%), while only 27% was explained by this variable in the PVD group. There were no differences in subjective sexual arousal or anxiety between the groups. Across questionnaire measures, women with PVD reported lower sexual arousal than the control group.

Conclusions.  The results suggest that women with PVD show lower genital responsiveness than nonaffected women to sexual stimuli in a laboratory setting and that their genital arousal is likely impacted by a number of biopsychosocial factors. Boyer SC, Pukall CF, and Chamberlain SM. Sexual arousal in women with provoked vestibulodynia: The application of laser Doppler imaging to sexual pain. J Sex Med **;**:**–**.

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