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Experience of Symptoms, Sexual Function, and Attitudes Toward Counseling of Women Newly Diagnosed With Vulvodynia

Piper, Claudia Kraus LMSW1,2; Legocki, Laurie J. PhD3; Moravek, Molly B. MD, MPH4; Lavin, Katie MSW, MPH2; Haefner, Hope K. MD1,4; Wade, Kathleen PhD2; Reed, Barbara D. MD, MSPH3

Journal of Lower Genital Tract Disease: October 2012 - Volume 16 - Issue 4 - p 447–453
doi: 10.1097/LGT.0b013e31825c2e24
Original Articles

Objective This study aimed to assess health beliefs and behaviors, experience of pain, coping mechanisms, sexual function, and attitudes toward counseling of patients newly diagnosed with vulvodynia.

Materials and Methods Participants were enrolled from all newly diagnosed vulvodynia patients seen at the University of Michigan Vulvar Disease Clinic at Chelsea. Participants completed a questionnaire assessing perceptions and beliefs about their vulvodynia, coping ability, sexual function, and interest in counseling.

Results Thirty-one women were enrolled, ranging in age from 21 to 81 years; 68% had current partners. On a scale of 1 to 10 (low to high), participants rated their symptoms as severe—(mean [SD] = 7.42 [1.50]), perceived little control over symptoms (2.61 [2.64]); were very concerned about symptoms (8.77 [1.73]); and were very emotionally affected by their disorder (7.00 [2.82]). During the previous 4 weeks, 52% reported low to no sexual desire; 71% reported being dissatisfied with their overall sex life; 26% were not comfortable saying no to partner sex; 23% to 36% did not attempt penetration; and for 36%, their pain was rated as high or very high. Sixty-one percent of women indicated that they would consider counseling for coping with vulvar pain. In addition, 29% (9/31) said they “would” and 48% (15/31) said they “maybe would” consider seeing a sex therapist for their vulvar pain.

Conclusions Women with newly diagnosed vulvodynia report substantial impact of vulvar pain but feel little control over symptoms. Sexual desire and sexual satisfaction are low. Most of the respondents would consider counseling to help address these issues.

Women newly diagnosed with vulvodynia report psychosocial and psychosexual impact but feel little control over symptoms; a majority would consider counseling to address these issues.

1Center for Vulvar Diseases, 2Department of Social Work, 3Department of Family Medicine, and 4Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Michigan Health Systems, Ann Arbor, MI

Reprint requests to: Claudia Kraus Piper, LMSW, Sexual Health Counseling Services, Department of Social Work, University of Michigan Health System; 4260 Plymouth Rd, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2707. E-mail:

The authors declare they have no conflicts of interest.

Support for this study was provided in part by the Ansbacher Fund for Resident Education and Research at The University of Michigan Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, The University of Michigan Department of Family Medicine, and The University of Michigan Department of Social Work.

©2012The American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology