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The Painful, Little-Known Condition That Messes with Women's Sex Lives

Refinery 29

While "vulvodynia" might not be a word you recognize, you may be familiar with its symptoms. According to a 2011 study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, up to one in 12 women experience the condition's sharp, burning pain at the opening of the vagina, which can be chronic or occur because of contact, at least once in her lifetime. Eight (heterosexual) women with vulvodynia have just shared how the condition affects their lives via a small new qualitative study from researchers at Oslo and Akershus University College and the University of Oslo. The top concern among the women, six of whom are in relationships, and who range in age from 23 to 32: sex.

One woman, married for 12 years, had never been able to have intercourse with her partner, while another reported breaking up with hers because the pressure to have sex was too great. The two single women in the group, meanwhile, expressed their unwillingness to date.

"They really want to have sex; they feel that they're missing out on something that they hear others talk about, something they've rarely or never experienced themselves," said Karen Synne Groven, PhD, one of the study's researchers.

"These women are young, and [at] the age when you are expected to experience big things sexually, and so much is written about how fantastic this is," added Gro Killi Haugstad, PhD, another researcher. "They are extremely disappointed; it is such an enormous disappointment to realize that they can barely be touched." [For the full story, head to Refinery 29!]

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