Vaginismus, Dyspareunia and Abuse History: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

J Sex Med. 2021 Sep;18(9):1555-1570. doi: 10.1016/j.jsxm.2021.07.004. Epub 2021 Aug 6.


Background: Genito-pelvic pain/penetration disorder, which consists of a combination of vaginismus and dyspareunia, is considered a new diagnosis in the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Although the etiology of this diagnosis is not well known, a history of abuse has been suggested to be a primary factor in the emergence of this disorder.

Aim: This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to determine the association of abuse history with vaginismus and dyspareunia diagnosis.

Methods: Related keywords were used to search articles in PubMed, PsycArticles, PsycINFO, Scopus, Web of Science, and the Turkish scientific information database (TRDizin). All articles published in English and Turkish until August 2020 were systematically reviewed. A total of 14 case-control studies, including 1428 participants, were included in the final analysis. The fixed-effects model was used to pool odd ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) of the studies. Heterogeneity was evaluated using the I2 statistic.

Outcomes: Case-control studies that reported vaginismus or dyspareunia outcomes in individuals with or without a history of abuse.

Results: A significant relationship was found between a history of sexual (1.55 OR; 95% CI, 1.14-2.10; 12 studies) and emotional abuse (1.89 OR; 95% CI, 1.24-2.88; 3 studies) and the diagnosis of vaginismus. A significant relationship was found between sexual abuse and dyspareunia (1.53 OR; 95% CI, 1.03-2.27; 6 studies). No statistically significant relationship was observed between physical abuse, vaginismus, and dyspareunia. No significant difference was found between sexual or physical abuse in terms of assessment methods for the diagnosis of vaginismus and dyspareunia.

Clinical implications: This systematic review and meta-analysis points out that in the assessment of vaginismus patients, the risk of sexual and emotional abuse and in the assessment for dyspareunia patients, the risk of sexual abuse should be questioned and addressed in its treatment.

Strenght and limitations: The strength of the current meta-analysis is the inclusion of all forms of abuse, and studies published in Turkish and English with a broad and reproducible search strategy. The limitations of this meta-analysis are the exclusion of sources and design other than journal articles and case-control studies, including studies both childhood and adult abuse, which in some studies were not differentiated, having potential language and recall bias.

Conclusion: The study analysis suggests an association of vaginismus with sexual and emotional abuse and dyspareunia with sexual abuse. However, both disorders showed no association with physical abuse. S. Tetik, ÖY. Alkar, Vaginismus, Dyspareunia, and Abuse History: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. J Sex Med 2021;18:1555-1570.

Keywords: Dyspareunia; Genito-Pelvic Pain/Penetration Disorder; Meta-Analysis; Sexual Abuse; Vaginismus.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Dyspareunia* / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Vaginismus*