By Meghan Rossi
Women experience a number of changes throughout pregnancy. One of these changes can include pain, specifically:
Spontaneous or provoked pain in areas including the pelvis, vulva, perineum, vaginal opening, and inside the vagina
Pain during intercourse
There is limited research on the prevalence of these different pain types during pregnancy. A recent study found that 49% of women experienced genito-pelvic pain in pregnancy . For dyspareunia specifically, some research suggests that 22-30% of women experience this pain in their second trimester [2-3]. Since they can often occur at the same time or one after the other and might have different physical, psychological, and sexual consequences and/or predictors, it’s important to examine both of these types of pain separately in one sample.
This is where our lab comes in! One of our research programs examines the biological, psychological, and social factors that contribute to the development and maintenance of these pains types in pregnancy and postpartum. In our preliminary data with a sample of 320 first time mothers who were 18-24 weeks pregnant:
- 1.9% reported only genito-pelvic pain
- 57.2% reported dyspareunia only
- 8.4% reported both pain type
- 32.5% reported neither pain
Hmm, what could explain why so many more women are experiencing dyspareunia than GPP? Well, you’ll have to stay tuned for that!
For now, what we do know is that a significant number of women are experiencing pain during intercourse while pregnant, so it is important for research to take the next steps into further understanding these types of pain in pregnancy to develop interventions that will benefit the lives of women and their families during this exciting journey into parenthood!
You can find out more information about our research on the psychological and relational changes that women may experience during pregnancy here and here.
 Glowacka, M., Rosen, N., Chorney, J., Snelgrove−Clarke, E., George, R. B. (2014). Prevalence and predictors of genito‐pelvic pain in pregnancy and postpartum: The prospective impact of fear avoidance. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 11, 3021-34.
 Tennfjord, M. K., Hilde, G., Stær-Jensen, J., Engh, M. E., & Bø, K. (2014). Dyspareunia and pelvic floor muscle function before and during pregnancy and after childbirth. International Urogynecology Journal, 25, 1227-1235.
 Kennedy, C. M., Turcea, A. M., & Bradley, C. S. (2009). Prevalence of vulvar and vaginal symptoms during pregnancy and the puerperium. International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics, 105, 236-239.