Introduction: Overactive bladder (OAB) is quite prevalent and significantly affects health-related quality of life and daily functioning.
Aim: The impact of OAB on sexual health is currently not known. This qualitative study was conducted to gain a thorough understanding of OAB's impact.
Methods: Sexually active women with continent or incontinent OAB were recruited from urology and urogynecology clinics. Six focus groups of women (three continent and three incontinent) were conducted to assess the sexual health of women with OAB. Data were analyzed descriptively and qualitatively.
Main outcome measures: Qualitative data, Sexual Quality of Life Questionnaire-Female, Overactive Bladder Questionnaire.
Results: Thirty-four women (11 continent; 23 incontinent) participated; mean age was 48.4 years; 76% were white, 67% postmenopausal, and 88% in a long-term relationship. Continent women reported more frequent sexual activity than incontinent women; 91% reported intercourse >or=1-3 times per month vs. 50% of incontinent women. Half of the incontinent women reported a reduction in sexual desire related to OAB, aging, and menopause. Over half of continent women experienced pain with intercourse, and the majority complained of having to interrupt intercourse to void. Although not all incontinent women reported incontinence during intercourse, the majority were embarrassed by their incontinence and OAB with resulting loss of self-image. Both continent and incontinent women reported difficulty achieving orgasm because of pain, fear of incontinence, or anxiety related to intercourse. Approximately a third of the women would not initiate discussion of sexual issues with their physicians, but all women expressed concern about the impact of OAB on their sexual life.
Conclusion: Overactive bladder with or without incontinence negatively affects women's sexual health, reducing sexual desire and ability to achieve orgasm. Given the impact of OAB on sexual health, sexual health should be routinely assessed by clinicians and addressed by researchers.