Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 46, Issue 7, pp 2021–2031 | Cite as

Maintaining Affection Despite Pain: Daily Associations Between Physical Affection and Sexual and Relationship Well-Being in Women with Genito-Pelvic Pain

  • Sarah A. VannierEmail author
  • Natalie O. Rosen
  • Sean P. Mackinnon
  • Sophie Bergeron
Original Paper


Provoked vestibulodynia (PVD) is a recurrent, genito-pelvic pain condition that affects 8–12 % of women and has negative implications for sexual and relationship functioning. Many women with PVD report avoiding physical affection because they are concerned that affectionate behavior will lead to painful sexual activity. In community samples, physical affection is associated with improved sexual and relational well-being; however, no research has assessed the influence of physical affection on well-being in women with PVD. The current study examined day-to-day, within-person associations between affectionate behavior (hugging/kissing, cuddling) and sexual satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, sexual functioning, and pain intensity in women with PVD. Seventy women diagnosed with PVD completed an 8-week daily survey. Data were analyzed using multilevel modeling. All outcomes were assessed on days involving sexual activity (n = 401 days). Physical affection was assessed on days with and without sexual activity. Hugging/kissing was positively associated with sexual satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, and sexual functioning within any given day and when predicting the next day. Hugging/kissing was unrelated to pain intensity. Cuddling was not associated with any outcomes. Results persisted for affection that occurred on days with and without sexual activity. Findings suggest physical affection is beneficial for the sexual and relationship well-being of women with PVD. These results may inform interventions that encourage women coping with PVD to engage in more daily physical affection with their partners.


Affection Provoked vestibulodynia Genito-pelvic pain Sexual satisfaction Relationship satisfaction Sexual functioning 



This research was supported by a postdoctoral fellowship awarded to the second author from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and by grants awarded to the second and fourth author from the CIHR and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah A. Vannier
    • 1
    Email author
  • Natalie O. Rosen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sean P. Mackinnon
    • 1
  • Sophie Bergeron
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Psychology and NeuroscienceLife Sciences Centre, Dalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.Department of Obstetrics and GynaecologyIWK Health CentreHalifaxCanada
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversité de MontréalMontrealCanada

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