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Does genital sexual pain matter? An explorative study on reproductive-age women

rossi, V1; Tripodi, F1; Nimbi, FM2; Simonelli, C2

1: Institute of Clinical Sexology of Rome, Italy; 2: Department of Clinical and Dynamic Psychology, “Sapienza” University of Rome, Italy

Objectives: Genital Sexual Pain (GSP) is a common symptom in reproductive-age women: about 40% of women 20-40 y.o. suffer from pain during sexual activity. Because of the lack of awareness, many women could continue to go on with this symptom without asking help to professionals, increasing the risk of pain chronicization and sexuality impairment. The aim of the present study was to investigate how many reproductive-age women in the general population experience GSP, the characteristics of such pain (duration, location, etiology), how they face the symptom, and their sexual functioning.

Material and methods: 653 women aged between 18 and 40 (mean age 25.7±4.37) were recruited with snowball method. Participants completed a socio-demographic questionnaire, the McGill Pain Questionnaire (MPQ), the Female Sexual Functioning Index (FSFI), the Female Sexual Distress Scale (FSDS).

Results: 190 women (29.6%) reported GSP in the last 6 months (mean duration of the symptom 16.87±33.75). Pain was located in: vaginal introitus and vestibule (52.1%), lower abdomen/pelvis (44.7%), labia minora/majora (25.3%), clitoris (8.4%), and perineum/anus (5.3%). Most women (75.3%) did not know the cause of the pain, and a quarter of them (24.7%) reported a specific diagnosis (vulvodynia, endometriosis, cystitis, vulvovaginal infections, Bartholin cyst). 58 out of 190 (30.5%) reported GSP as a “sexual problem”. Although 69 (36.31%) and 50 (26.31%) reached clinical scores on FSFI and FSDS, respectively, only13 (7%) were under psychosexual therapy for GSP.

Conclusions: Even if GSP was present in almost 30% of this cohort of women, just few of them asked help to a specialist for diagnosis and treatment. Cultural aspects may play an important role in explaining these results: most of women could either think that suffering from GSP is in some way normal or that there are not solutions available. This study confirms that there is still a lack of awareness about pain and sexuality and a low attention to the female quality of sexual life.



Work supported by industry: no.

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