It takes two: Theoretical and clinical advances in vulvodynia from an interpersonal perspective

Vulvodynia is a chronic pain condition that is characterized by recurrent vulvo-vaginal pain that does not have an identifiable cause. With an estimated prevalence of 8% in the general population, this pain negatively affects women’s and their partners’ overall quality of life, including their psychological, relationship, and sexual well-being. In vulvodynia, the pain interferes with both sexuality and one’s romantic relationship, which are two highly valued aspects of life and central to defining a person’s identity. In the last eight years, I have led the field with respect to studying this condition from an interpersonal perspective. That is, I use innovative and sophisticated research methods – including daily experience sampling, behavioral observation, longitudinal, and dyadic methods – to conduct studies examining the role of the relationship (e.g., partner responses to the pain, intimacy) in vulvodynia. What is now lacking is an overarching theory to integrate these findings and better inform prevention and treatment options. I will develop a novel theoretical model to incorporate the cognitions, affect, and behaviours of both women with vulvodynia and their partners, and how they contribute to the development and maintenance of this condition. As a Clinical Psychologist specializing in the treatment of vulvodynia and female sexual dysfunction more generally, I will also offer evidence-based lectures/workshops to locally-based researchers and clinicians

Project leader(s):
  • Natalie Rosen (Departments of Psychology and Neuroscience, Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Dalhousie University)

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