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Avoiding or enduring painful sex?: A longitudinal study of coping patterns and sexual function in women with vulvovaginal pain
Örebro University, School of Law, Psychology and Social Work. (CHAMP)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8350-1836
Örebro University, School of Law, Psychology and Social Work. (CHAMP)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2718-7402
(Center for Health and Medical Psychology (CHAMP))
Örebro University, School of Law, Psychology and Social Work. (CHAMP)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5359-0452
2017 (English)In: SSTAR (Society for Sex Therapy and Research) 42nd annual meeting, 2017Conference paper, Poster (with or without abstract) (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Introduction: Recurring pain in the vulvar- or vaginal region induced by touch or pressure is common, affecting between 10-28% of women in reproductive age (e.g., Harlow et al., 2014). In addition to evident negative effects on sexual aspects such as frequency of sexual activity, sexual satisfaction and sexual function (for a review see Bergeron et al., 2015), vulvovaginal pain has an impact on women’s overall quality of life (Arnold et al., 2006). Despite these extensive consequences little is known about how women with vulvovaginal pain actually cope with sexual activities and the subsequent pain, and how their coping may affect the pain experience and sexual function over time. While avoidance (of pain associated activities) seem to be a commonly used strategy (for a review see Thomtén and Linton, 2013) amongst women with vulvovaginal pain, there is also evidence of endurance (of sexual activity despite pain) as a prevalent strategy (Brauer et al., 2014; Elmerstig et al., 2013).

 

Method: The study used questionnaire data from female university students between 18 and 35 years old, with two measurement points of five months apart. Women who reported experiencing recurring vulvovaginal pain during the last six months, and who responded at both measurement points constitute the sample of the study (N=117). First, multiple regression analysis was executed to test whether avoidance and endurance coping had a predictive value of sexual function beyond the pain experience in itself. Then, cluster analyses based on the respondent’s answers to the CHAMP Sexual Pain Coping Scale (CSPCS) were performed at both time points. Finally, common pathways over time was investigated to explore whether the same coping was used at baseline and follow-up.

 

Results: The multiple regression model exploring if pain, avoidance and endurance at baseline predicted sexual function at follow-up was significant, explaining 25% of the variance (F(2, 90) = 10.22, p < .001). Avoidance at baseline was the only significant predictor in the model, explaining unique variance of sexual function over time. The cluster analyses at baseline and follow up resulted in four distinct clusters respectively; Low scores, Avoidance, Endurance and High scores. The common pathways analyses, exploring typical pathways of change, revealed high stability within the clusters over time meaning that it was common for individuals in all clusters to use the same patterns of coping at both measurement points.

 

Discussion: The results of the study further manifests findings from earlier research while also making an important attribution in quantifying coping strategies in relation to vulvovaginal pain. The study reveals a strong association between vulvovaginal pain and how women cope with sexual activities, the stability of the use of coping over time, as well as the connection between coping and sexual function.

 

Utility/Limitations/Risks: Further knowledge about the relationship between coping and vulvovaginal pain will provide important theoretical and clinical implications regarding the development of the pain as well as potential clinical interventions.

 

Behavioral learning objectives:

After attending this poster presentation, the participants will be able to:

1. Recognize the importance of avoidance coping in relation to sexual function

2. Discuss the use of avoidance and endurance coping as a combined pattern

3. Identify the stability of the use of coping patterns over time

 

References:

Arnold, L. D., Bachmann, G. A., Kelly, S., Rosen, R., & Rhoads, G. G. (2006). Vulvodynia: characteristics and associations with co-morbidities and quality of life. Obstetrics and gynecology, 107(3), 617.

 

Bergeron, S., Corsini-Munt, S., Aerts, L., Rancourt, K., & Rosen, N. O. (2015). Female sexual pain disorders: a review of the literature on etiology and treatment. Current Sexual Health Reports, 7(3), 159-169.

 

Brauer, M., Lakeman, M., Lunsen, R., & Laan, E. (2014). Predictors of task‐persistent and fear‐avoiding behaviors in women with sexual pain disorders. The journal of sexual medicine, 11(12), 3051-3063.

 

Elmerstig, E., Wijma, B., & Swahnberg, K. (2013). Prioritizing the partner’s enjoyment: a population-based study on young Swedish women with experience of pain during vaginal intercourse. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, 34(2), 82-89.

 

Harlow, B. L., Kunitz, C. G., Nguyen, R. H., Rydell, S. A., Turner, R. M., & MacLehose, R. F. (2014). Prevalence of symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of vulvodynia: population-based estimates from 2 geographic regions. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology, 210(1), 40-e1.

 

Thomtén, J., & Linton, S. J. (2013). A psychological view of sexual pain among women: applying the fear-avoidance model. Women’s Health, 9(3), 251-263.

 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017.
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-62946OAI: oai:DiVA.org:oru-62946DiVA, id: diva2:1162709
Conference
SSTAR (Society for Sex Therapy and Research) 42nd annual meeting, Montréal Canada, April 20-23, 2017
Available from: 2017-12-05 Created: 2017-12-05 Last updated: 2018-08-13Bibliographically approved

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Engman, LinneaFlink, IdaLinton, Steven J.

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