Endometriosis-associated dyspareunia: the impact on women's lives
- Elaine Denny, PhD, Head of Health Policy and Public Health Division1 and
- Christopher H Mann, MD, Senior Lecturer in Gynaecological Oncology2
- Faculty of Health, University of Central England, Birmingham, UK
- Birmingham Women's Hospital, Birmingham, UK
- Correspondence to Professor Elaine Denny, Department of Community Health and Social Work, Health Policy and Public Health Division, University of Central England, Perry Barr, Birmingham B42 2SU, UK. E-mail:
Background and methodology Endometriosis is a chronic condition in which endometrial glands and stroma are present outside of the uterus. Whereas chronic pelvic pain is the most commonly experienced pain of endometriosis, many women also suffer from deep dyspareunia. In order to determine how much of an impact endometriosis-associated dyspareunia has on the lives and relationships of women a qualitative study using semi-structured interviews, supplemented with quantitative data on the extent of dyspareunia, was conducted in a dedicated endometriosis clinic in the West Midlands, UK with 30 women aged from 19 to 44 years.
Results The main outcome measures were the extent of dyspareunia within the sample of women, and the impact of dyspareunia on quality of life. The experience of dyspareunia was found to be higher than in previous research. Three main themes emerged. The experience of pain was found to limit sexual activity for the majority of the sample, with a minority ceasing to be sexually active. Lack of sexual activity resulted in a lowering of self-esteem and a negative effect on relationships with partners, although the experience differed between younger and older women.
Discussion and conclusions The experience of dyspareunia is a significant factor in the quality of life and relationships for women living with endometriosis. For most of the women in the study it was very severe and resulted in their reducing or curtailing sexual activity. Qualitative research can produce salient data that highlight the impact of dyspareunia on self-esteem and sexual relationships.
- Accepted October 12, 2006.
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