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Spinal Cord. 2018 Nov;56(11):1084-1094. doi: 10.1038/s41393-018-0188-6. Epub 2018 Aug 23.

Women's experiences of sexuality after spinal cord injury: a UK perspective.

Author information

1
Buckinghamshire New University, High Wycombe Campus, Queen Alexandra Road, High Wycombe, HP11 2JZ, UK. helen.thrussell@nhs.net.
2
National Spinal Injuries Centre, Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Mandeville Road, Aylesbury, Bucks, HP21 8AL, UK. helen.thrussell@nhs.net.
3
Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery and Palliative Care, King's College London, James Clerk Maxwell Building, 57 Waterloo Road, London, SE1 8W, UK.
4
National Spinal Injuries Centre, Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Mandeville Road, Aylesbury, Bucks, HP21 8AL, UK.
5
London Spinal Cord Injury Centre, Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Brockley Hill, Stanmore, HA7 4LP, UK.
6
Midland Centre for Spinal Injuries, The Robert Jones & Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Oswestry, Shropshire, SY10 7A, UK.

Abstract

STUDY DESIGN:

Cross-sectional phenomenological qualitative study.

OBJECTIVES:

To investigate women's experience of sexuality after spinal cord injury (SCI) with a focus on rehabilitation and manging practical impact.

SETTING:

Women with SCI living in the community in United Kingdom (UK).

METHODS:

Participants were recruited via three UK SCI centres, ensuring tetraplegia, paraplegia and cauda equina syndrome representation. Single semi-structured interviews exploring individual's experiences around sexuality following SCI were recorded and transcribed for thematic analysis.

RESULTS:

Twenty-seven women aged 21-72 years, sexually active since SCI were interviewed, each lasting 17-143 min (mean 55 min). Six key themes emerged: physical change, psychological impact, dependency, relationships and partners, post injury sexual life and sexuality rehabilitation.

CONCLUSIONS:

Sexuality remains an important, valued aspect of female identity following SCI; sexual activity continues and though altered remains enjoyable and rewarding. Sexuality rehabilitation should commence early, preparing women for altered sexual sensation, disclosure of altered sexual function to partners, and encouraging early self-exploration. Techniques optimising continence management in preparation for and during sex should be taught. Participants identified a need for women-only education and support groups, increased peer support, self-esteem, communication and social skills training and even fashion advice and pampering sessions during rehabilitation. Support and education for partners are needed. Staff require support to be knowledgeable and confident in addressing women's sexuality needs. Use of the Ex-PLISSIT model for psychosexual support could help staff to better meet these needs.

PMID:
30140048
DOI:
10.1038/s41393-018-0188-6
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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