Challenging Atrophied Perspectives on Postmenopausal Dyspareunia: A Systematic Description and Synthesis of Clinical Pain Characteristics

Department of Psychology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy (Impact Factor: 1.27). 03/2012; 38(2):128-50. DOI: 10.1080/0092623X.2011.569641
Source: PubMed


This study investigated the clinical attributes of postmenopausal dyspareunia. The authors obtained a systematic description of pain symptomatology from 182 postmenopausal dyspareunia sufferers using a structured interview, quantitative sensory testing, a standardized pain measure, and gynecological examination. The authors conducted a cluster analysis to examine whether sufferers could be categorized using clinical pain and gynecological factors. The authors delineated 6 subgroups, each exhibiting distinct combinations of pain and gynecological characteristics. The results support the hypothesis that, similarly to premenopausal dyspareunia, postmenopausal dyspareunia is a heterogeneous condition.

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    ABSTRACT: Introduction. Although dyspareunia experienced after menopause is widely attributed to declining estrogen levels and vulvovaginal atrophy, critical reviews of the literature have suggested that these factors are incomplete as explanatory mechanisms. Little is known about psychosocial factors that may also be implicated in postmenopausal dyspareunic pain. Aim. To determine the extent to which levels of estrogens and progesterone, vulvovaginal atrophy, cognitive-emotional factors, and dyadic adjustment are predictive of postmenopausal dyspareunic pain intensity. Methods. A total of 182 postmenopausal dyspareunia sufferers underwent a structured interview concerning sociodemographic status as well as medical and pain histories, gynecological examination, cytological evaluation, a blood draw, and answered a series of self-report questionnaires. Given the large number of genital and pelvic pain variables measured, a principal components analysis was undertaken to identify a smaller number of components representing meaningful dimensions of genital and pelvic pain. Main Outcome Measures. Pain severity ratings during intercourse were obtained using the McGill Pain Questionnaire. Pain ratings were also obtained during gynecological assessment. Serum estrone, estradiol, and progesterone levels were measured via immunoassay. The Vaginal Atrophy Index and maturation value were used to determine vulvovaginal atrophy severity. Participants completed the Pain Catastrophizing Scale, State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, The Beck Depression Inventory-II, and Dyadic Adjustment Scale. Results. Hormone levels were not found to be consistent predictors of pain severity. Maturation value and cognitive-emotional variables (e.g., catastrophization, depression, anxiety) were significant predictors of vestibular pain, which affected over 90% of our sample. Relationship adjustment variables were inversely associated with pain severity within several genital locations. Conclusions. Results suggest that the traditional hypoestrogen and vulvovaginal atrophy conceptualization of postmenopausal dyspareunia is an insufficient explanatory model, and that pain is also influenced by cognitive, affective, and dyadic factors. Kao A, Binik YM, Amsel R, Funaro D, Leroux N, and Khalifé S. Biopsychosocial predictors of postmenopausal dyspareunia: The role of steroid hormones, vulvovaginal atrophy, cognitive-emotional factors, and dyadic adjustment. J Sex Med 2012;9:2066–2076.
    No preview · Article · May 2012 · Journal of Sexual Medicine
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