Date of Defense:
December 18, 2020
Objectives: We studied women with and without clinically-confirmed vulvodynia in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area from 2010-2013 to determine differences in perceived social support (PSS) in their adult relationships.
Design: We collected standardized clinical pain data and validated social support assessments from 234 women meeting the ISSVD criteria for vulvodynia and 234 matched controls with no clinically-confirmed history of vulvar pain.
Results: PSS scores were found to be lower among women with vulvodynia vs. women without (mean difference -.18 [on a scale from 1-5], 95% confidence interval [CI] -0.29, – 0.071).There were no significant differences in PSS across levels of vulvodynia severity or by provoked or unprovoked classifications. Cases with generalized vulvodynia tended to report lower total social support scores (mean 3.76, 95% CI 1.65-3.87) versus cases with localized vulvodynia (mean 3.92, 95% CI 3.82-4.02).
Conclusion: Vulvodynia is inversely associated with perceived social support in women’s networks of adult relationships. This is a novel finding in that little is known about the overall social networks of women with vulvodynia, outside of their romantic partnerships. Findings suggest a potential need for social intervention strategies.