Although chronic vulvovaginal pain can be relieved by a partner's response, it can also worsen, if the couple avoid sexual activity, reports a Canadian study.
Provoked vestibulodynia (PVD), triggered mainly by sexual contact, is suffered by 12 percent of women between puberty and menopause, and the chronic pain can result in significant sexual dysfunction, psychological distress, and a reduced quality of life.
But a woman's partner who is sensitive to the condition and is "overprotective" to the point of avoiding sexual contact can "exacerbate the problem," University of Montreal psychologist Sophie Bergeron told AFP.
"An overly concerned partner may lead a woman to avoid sexual intercourse or exacerbate her pain by increasing her anxiety, hyper-vigilance and negative thoughts about the pain, which can in turn increase her pain during intercourse," said another lead author, Natalie Rosen, also at the University of Montreal.
"If a man avoids sexual intercourse with a partner with PVD, then he may also reinforce her negative pain appraisals and that can lead to increased pain during intercourse."
Most of all compassion for the condition, said the study, can lead to greater sexual satisfaction for affected women.
Causes for the condition are still not precisely understood, and surgery for the condition has a 70 percent chance of success. Even then, nine percent of women may suffer more pain from the condition after invasive treatment so most treatments used are antidepressant drugs and anesthetic creams or gels.
Psychotherapy is also helpful, noted the study, for groups of women or with their partners to combat a complete loss of sexual desire and avoidance of sexual intercourse.