Background: Endometriosis is often associated with severe dysmenorrhea, pelvic pain and dyspareunia and has a high impact on daily life as well as sexuality. Quality of partnership positively influences the course of various diseases and ability to cope with emotional and physical distress. However, studies focusing on the male partners of endometriosis patients are rare, and even less is known about the reciprocal relationship in these couples. Therefore, this study aims to explore the interrelations in couples with endometriosis in matters of psychological distress, sexual and partnership satisfaction and social support.
Methods: The cross-sectional study was conducted in two university-affiliated fertility centres in Germany and Austria with n = 104 female/male couples affected by endometriosis. Participants completed a questionnaire regarding endometriosis, partnership, sexuality, stress, anxiety, depression and social support. Both women and men were asked about the impact of women's endometriosis-related pain (IEP) on their everyday life (e.g. leisure time). Data were analysed using the Actor-Partner-Interdependence Model.
Results: Significant partner effects were evident: High depression, anxiety and stress scores in women were associated with a higher IEP in men (all p ≤ 0.01), reciprocally high stress and depression scores in men were correlated with a higher IEP in women (all p ≤ 0.05). Less sexual satisfaction in women was associated with a higher IEP in men (p = 0.040). There was a significant reciprocal association between the perceived lack of understanding from the social environment and a higher IEP, for both women (p = 0.022) and men (p = 0.027).
Conclusions: The male partner should be taken into account when counselling or treating women with endometriosis. Our study shows a high interdependence and reciprocal influence from both partners-positively and negatively-concerning psychological distress and sexual satisfaction. Furthermore, there ought to be more awareness for the psychosocial impact of endometriosis, especially in regard to social support and understanding. Talking about and improving sexual satisfaction as well as enhancing stress reducing techniques may hold great benefits for dealing with endometriosis. Registration number The study is registered with the German Clinical Trials Register (DRKS), number DRKS00014362.
Keywords: Actor-partner-interdependence model; Endometriosis; Partnership; Psychological distress; Sexuality; Social support.
© 2022. The Author(s).