Dyspareunia: Overview

Content Written By: Andrew T. Goldstein, MD

Pain during intercourse, dyspareunia, is one of the most common complaints in gynecologic practice. This syndrome used to be called vulvar vestibulitis syndrome, or VVS (an less commonly vestibular adenitis.) The World Health Organization, reported that between 8%-22% of women experience dyspareunia lasting at least 3 months. A study in Sweden of over 3000 women showed that at any given time, more than 4% of women in their 20’s have dyspareunia. This means that at least 20 million American women will experience chronic dyspareunia in their lifetimes.

For many years, it was the common belief among physicians that most dyspareunia was caused by psychological reasons. Women were labeled as “frigid,” “anxious,” or “hysterical.” Often, they were told that they had been the victims of “sexual abuse that they just didn’t remember.” However, finally, the medical community is beginning to recognize that almost all dyspareunia has a physiologic (physical) cause, and recent controlled studies have failed to find an association between sexual abuse and dyspareunia.

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