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Arch Sex Behav. 2004 Feb;33(1):5-17.

Vaginal spasm, pain, and behavior: an empirical investigation of the diagnosis of vaginismus.

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1
School of Psychology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. reissing@uottawa.ca

Abstract

This study investigated the roles of vaginal spasm, pain, and behavior in vaginismus and the ability of psychologists, gynecologists, and physical therapists to agree on a diagnosis of vaginismus. Eighty-seven women, matched on age, relationship status, and parity, were assigned to one of three groups: vaginismus, dyspareunia resulting from vulvar vestibulitis syndrome (VVS), and no pain with intercourse. Diagnostic agreement was poor for vaginismus; vaginal spasm and pain measures did not differentiate between women in the vaginismus and dyspareunia/VVS groups; however, women in the vaginismus group demonstrated significantly higher vaginal/pelvic muscle tone and lower muscle strength. Women in the vaginismus group also displayed a significantly higher frequency of defensive/avoidant distress behaviors during pelvic examinations and recalled past attempts at intercourse with more affective distress. These data suggest that the spasm-based definition of vaginismus is not adequate as a diagnostic marker for vaginismus. Pain and fear of pain, pelvic floor dysfunction, and behavioral avoidance need to be included in a multidimensional reconceptualization of vaginismus.

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