Sometimes I wonder just how long the list is of things women don’t or can’t talk about.

We know from experience in the Menopause Chicks Private Online Community that sex…especially issues with sex…is often on that “secret” list. If you belong to our online community, you may have already witnessed how members share challenges that include loss of libido, vaginal dryness and partner communication.

What you may not see is that I also receive direct messages from women, who belong to the private community, have a specific challenge…yet still feel too embarrassed to reach out for help.

That challenge is pain with sex, which affects 10-20% of women.

“My doctor treated me for yeast infections for a year before we realized yeast was not the cause of my pain,” wrote one member.

“My doctor told me I must be too anxious and that I should have a glass of wine before sex,” wrote another.

“My doctor told me he couldn’t see anything that would be causing me pain, so it must be all in my head.”


Dr. Lori Brotto, Executive Director, Women’s Health Research Institute

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Lori Brotto, who helped explain what is happening with these women, and how it most definitely is not in their heads! Dr. Brotto is the Executive Director of the Women’s Health Research Institute (WHRI) at BC Women’s Hospital & Health Centre in Vancouver. She is also the lead researcher and author of a five year study recently completed by the University of British Columbia (UBC) looking at the psychological and mindfulness treatments for women with a chronic genital pain condition called Provoked Vestibulodynia or PVD.

Here is what we talked about:

Menopause Chicks: What is PVD?

Dr. Brotto: Provoked vesibulodynia, or PVD, is pain experienced when contact is made with the area near the entrance to the vagina, known as the vulvar vestibule. The pain often occurs during sexual activity, but it can also be triggered by clothing, inserting tampons, pap test, sitting, or any other touching sensations.

Menopause Chicks: How many women are affected by PVD?

Dr. Brotto: PVD affects up to 10% of women, many of whom are unable to receive an accurate diagnosis since symptoms of PVD do not appear physically. This can lead to frustration, hopelessness, and feelings of isolation as women are led to believe that their pain is “all in their head.”

Menopause Chicks: But your research uncovered hope for these women. Tell us about your study.

Dr. Brotto: Yes, our study at UBC compared Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and mindfulness mediation for groups of women with PVD. Our researchers discovered that both are effective treatments. Both work to reduce pain, increase sexual satisfaction and improve quality of life.

Menopause Chicks: What do you want women to know about PVD?

Dr. Brotto: There are three things we really want women to know. First–that PVD is a real pain condition and “it’s not in your head.” Second, with the research study complete, we really want to raise as much awareness as possible that effective psychological treatments have been proven to be very effective. If you are in pain, talk to your doctor about this article and PVD. And finally, we know that empowering women with the right knowledge about how to manage PVD is key to their recovery!

We couldn’t agree more! Knowledge is power. We know that once women have the right information, they like to share it with other women too, so I invite you to do your part by letting women in your circle know about PVD and that effective treatment options exist–they do not have to suffer in silence and #ItsNotInYourHead. THANK YOU.

For more information, read Understanding changes in the brain key to treating vulvodynia (L. Brotto Globe & Mail) and watch this video:

This is a sponsored post. The values of the Women’s Health Research Institute are closely aligned with Menopause Chicks and we are proud to share their work.