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J Sex Med. 2014 Dec;11(12):3035-50. doi: 10.1111/jsm.12701. Epub 2014 Sep 22.

Pelvic examination experiences in women with and without chronic pain during intercourse.

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Department of Psychology, Queen's University, Kingston, ON, Canada.



Although pelvic examinations (PEs) are an important component of women's health, some women experience difficulty during PEs due to anxiety and pain. These difficulties may be heightened in women with chronic pain during sexual intercourse. Some evidence suggests that this population experiences pain and distress during PEs, but their experiences in this context have not been empirically investigated from a multidimensional perspective.


The aims of this study were to compare the PE experiences of women with and without pain during intercourse and to examine predictors of negative experiences in each group.


Women with vulvovaginal pain (n = 90), pelvic pain (n = 89), and women without current intercourse pain (n = 207) completed an online survey including sections assessing demographics, gynecological and medical history, and PE experiences. Respondents completed questionnaires assessing vaginal penetration cognitions and body image.


Participants rated their most recent PE on numerical scales for pain, embarrassment, anxiety, and the overall quality of the experience.


Women with pelvic and vulvovaginal pain during intercourse reported significantly more pain and anxiety during their most recent PE compared with the no pain group, and women with a higher number of lifetime gynecological diagnoses reported significantly more pain. Multiple regression analyses indicated that various predisposing, examination-related, and psychological factors predicted specific PE ratings in each group.


The results provide empirical support that PEs are more physically and emotionally difficult for women who experience chronic pain during intercourse. These findings have important clinical implications, as PEs are a critical part of complete reproductive care and play an essential role in the assessment/management of sexual pain, including Genito-Pelvic Pain/Penetration Disorder.


Anxiety; Genito-Pelvic Pain/Penetration Disorder; Pain During Intercourse; Pelvic Examinations; Sexual Pain

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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