Pain Characteristics, Psychosocial Wellbeing, and Sexual Wellbeing of Women Diagnosed With Provoked Vestibulodynia and a History of Sexual Abuse

J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2021 Apr;43(4):447-454. doi: 10.1016/j.jogc.2020.11.021. Epub 2020 Dec 24.


Objective: Provoked vestibulodynia (PVD) is a common chronic pain condition characterized by pain at the vulvar vestibule elicited by touch. Both PVD and sexual abuse lead to negative psychosocial and sexual consequences. However, little is known about the wellbeing of women with PVD and a history of sexual abuse. The aim of this study was to characterize a sample of women seeking treatment for PVD who have experienced sexual abuse.

Methods: A total of 404 women diagnosed with PVD completed self-report questionnaires of PVD symptoms and psychosocial and sexual wellbeing before and after participating in a multidisciplinary PVD treatment program. History of sexual abuse was assessed via self-report, and women were dichotomized into groups.

Results: No significant differences were found on sociodemographic variables, baseline psychosocial or sexual functioning between women with and without a self-reported history of sexual abuse (n = 40 and n = 364, respectively). Significantly more women with a history of sexual abuse than without reported other comorbid chronic pain conditions and radiating PVD pain. History of sexual abuse did not affect improvements in sexual distress scores following multidisciplinary treatment for their PVD.

Conclusion: Ten percent of women in our sample self-reported a history of sexual abuse, but the two groups did not differ significantly with respect to their baseline psychosocial or sexual functioning concerns, and both groups reported reductions in sexual distress following treatment for PVD. These findings indicate that a history of sexual abuse does not significantly affect the efficacy of multidisciplinary treatment approaches for PVD.

Keywords: dyspareunia; pelvic pain; psychological distress; sexual trauma; treatment outcome; vulvodynia.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Adult Survivors of Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Anxiety
  • Crime Victims / psychology*
  • Depression
  • Dyspareunia / diagnosis
  • Dyspareunia / epidemiology*
  • Dyspareunia / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pain
  • Pain Measurement
  • Psychological Distress
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / diagnosis
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / epidemiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vulvodynia / epidemiology
  • Vulvodynia / psychology*