Couples, Communication, and Provoked Vestibulodynia

Couples, Communication, and Provoked Vestibulodynia

Comfort with expressing emotions could help couples facing provoked vestibulodynia (PVD), researchers suggest.

Women with PVD experience pain when an area of their genitals called the vestibule is touched. The vestibule is located just outside the vagina. The touch doesn’t have to be sexual. Women with PVD can feel pain inserting a tampon. Some women have more pain than others.

PVD creates intimacy problems for many couples. Researchers from the University of Montreal wanted to learn more about how couples’ expressed their emotions about PVD and what effect those expressions had on the sexual and psychological aspects of their relationships.

They recruited 254 couples who, on average, were in their early thirties. The women had either been officially diagnosed with PVD or had PVD-like symptoms. They had had pain during intercourse for at least six months and that pain occurred in at least 75% of their attempts at intercourse.

The couples completed a series of questionnaires designed to assess their pain, sexual satisfaction, sexual functioning, depressive symptoms, and their relationship.

In particular, the researchers considered a factor called “ambivalence over emotional expression” or AEE. AEE refers to how much comfort a person has with the way he or she expresses emotions. The study authors explain it this way:

Is the inexpressive person making an effort to actively inhibit the expression of his or her emotions? Does the expressive person often express emotions that he or she wanted to keep private in the first place? Generally, a person would be qualified as ambivalent over emotional expression when the way in which he or she expresses emotions (or does not) is personally problematic and carries with it negative personal consequences such as feeling inadequate or fearing to hurt someone else.

After analyzing the data, the researchers found that couples in which both partners had low AEE had better sexual satisfaction and function, were not as depressed, and had strong relationships.

Why was this so? The researchers suggested that these couples were more comfortable talking to each other about their sexual relationship, from the physical and emotional aspects to the actual activities that occurred in the bedroom. Communication may have helped them become less distracted by sexual problems as well. 

The study was first published online in February in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.


The Journal of Sexual Medicine

Awada, Nayla, B.Sc., Psy.D. Candidate, et al.

“To Say or not to Say: Dyadic Ambivalence over Emotional Expression and Its Associations with Pain, Sexuality, and Distress in Couples Coping with Provoked Vestibulodynia”

(Full-text. First published online: February 19, 2014)

You may also be interested in...

Other Popular Articles

What Is Jelqing, and Does It Actually Work?

The term “jelqing” refers to a set of penis stretching exercises that some believe can make the penis bigger. Although the practice has gained attention and popularity in blogs and internet forums in recent years, there is no scientific evidence that it is an effective way to permanently increase the size of one’s penis. In fact, in some cases, jelqing may actually cause damage to the penis, so it is a good idea to get all the facts before setting off to try it.

What Is the Average Penis Size?

If you have ever wondered how your penis compares to others in terms of size, you are not alone. Many men are curious to know how their penises stack up compared to the average. Unfortunately, general curiosity can sometimes give way to full-on obsession and anxiety about penis size. This can be an unhealthy and often unnecessary fixation, especially because most men who think their penises are too small have perfectly normal-sized penises.

What Is Sensate Focus and How Does It Work?

Sensate focus is a technique used to improve intimacy and communication between partners around sex, reduce sexual performance anxiety, and shift away from ingrained, goal-oriented sexual patterns that may not be serving a couple.

What Is Edging and Why Do People Do It?

Edging is the practice of stopping sexual stimulation before reaching orgasm to prolong a sexual experience. The term stems from the concept of approaching the metaphorical “edge” of orgasm but stopping before going over the edge.

Can Sex Reduce Menstrual Cramps?

The SMSNA periodically receives and publishes ‘guest editorials.’ The current article was submitted by Mia Barnes, a freelance writer and researcher who specializes in women's health, wellness, and healthy living. She is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Body+Mind Magazine.

Having sex while you experience menstrual cramps is healthy and can provide significant benefits. While it might not be the first activity that comes to mind when your PMS or period cramping begins, many people enjoy sex to reduce menstrual cramps, experience increased pleasure and benefit from other advantages. Learn more about having sex while menstrual cramps are happening and how it can help your body.

Can Sex Throw off Your Vaginal pH Balance?

The SMSNA periodically receives and publishes ‘guest editorials.’ The current article was submitted by Mia Barnes, a freelance writer and researcher who specializes in women's health, wellness, and healthy living. She is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Body+Mind Magazine.

Your vagina is a pretty powerful organ. It is a pathway for menstrual blood and babies. It also is a main player in sexual intercourse. You might hear about your vagina’s pH and worry that yours is at risk. Here’s what to know about vaginal pH, including the impacts sex could have.

Find a Provider

Find a provider who specializes in sexual medicine in your area.