Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Degree

Summer 2015

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Psychological and Quantitative Foundations

First Advisor

John Westefeld

Abstract

Vulvodynia is a chronic pain condition in which women experience extreme discomfort and pain during sexual intercourse. Although widely misdiagnosed and under-diagnosed, many women suffer from vulvodynia, with prevalence rates estimated as high as 16% within the United States (U.S.) However, very little is known as to what causes this chronic pain condition, resulting in inconsistent and varied treatment protocols. In turn, women with vulvodynia often report experiencing multidimensional levels of distress, particularly psychological, sexual, and relational in nature. It is also evident that vulvodynia can negatively impact women’s gender identity, especially the working definition of womanhood. The purpose of this qualitative study was to utilize Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis to develop greater understanding and insight as to the ways in which the lived experience of vulvodynia impacted four heterosexual women’s gender identity. Results of this study revealed the following four superordinate themes and seven subordinate themes: 1) critical time periods (i) initial adjustment to vulvodynia after first sexual intercourse was the most difficult time period, (ii) diagnosis was a turning point, and (iii) acceptance of vulvodynia and development of healthy coping strategies; 2) alienation and isolation (iv) feeling inherently different from other women and (v) feeling misunderstood, dismissed, and not believed by others, especially by medical professionals; 3) positive impacts upon life (vi) finding my voice and (vii) reclaiming and renewed appreciation for my body and my physical self; and 4) personalized definitions of womanhood based on individuals’ lived experiences and social contexts. In conclusion, implications for healthcare providers and future directions of research are offered.

Public Abstract

Vulvodynia is a chronic pain condition in which women experience extreme discomfort and pain during sexual intercourse. Although widely misdiagnosed and underdiagnosed, many women suffer from vulvodynia, with prevalence rates estimated as high as 16% within the United States (U.S.) However, very little is known as to what causes this chronic pain condition, resulting in inconsistent and varied treatment protocols. In turn, women with vulvodynia often report experiencing multidimensional levels of distress, particularly psychological, sexual, and relational in nature. It is also evident that vulvodynia can negatively impact women’s gender identity, especially the working definition of womanhood. The purpose of this qualitative study was to utilize Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis to develop greater understanding and insight as to the ways in which the lived experience of vulvodynia impacted four heterosexual women’s gender identity. Results of this study revealed the following four superordinate themes and seven subordinate themes: 1) critical time periods (i) initial adjustment to vulvodynia after first sexual intercourse was the most difficult time period, (ii) diagnosis was a turning point, and (iii) acceptance of vulvodynia and development of healthy coping strategies; 2) alienation and isolation (iv) feeling inherently different from other women and (v) feeling misunderstood, dismissed, and not believed by others, especially by medical professionals; 3) positive impacts upon life (vi) finding my voice and (vii) reclaiming and renewed appreciation for my body and my physical self; and 4) personalized definitions of womanhood based on individuals’ lived experiences and social contexts. In conclusion, implications for healthcare providers and future directions of research are offered.

Keywords

publicabstract, Gender Identity, Vulvodynia

Pages

vi, 141 pages

Bibliography

Includes bibliographical references (pages 135-141).

Copyright

Copyright 2015 Emily Weil McCann

Share

COinS