The other day I was watching TV and a striking ad came on that made me sit up and take notice. Featuring dramatic music and numerous women with no dialogue, the ad ended with the following words on the screen: Don’t suffer in silence—Vulvodynia—It’s not in her head.
I mentioned vulvodynia in my last post “When Sex Hurts.” Vulvodynia is the term for chronic pain in the vulva that has no identifiable cause. For some women, the pain is provoked—it only occurs when the area is touched, as during intercourse. For other women, the pain may occur at any time. The pain may only be present at the entrance of the vagina, referred to as vestibulodynia or vulvar vesitbulitis. Or the pain may occur over a larger area of the vulva, the external genitals.
What I liked about the ad is that it showed women of different ages and it demonstrated the impact vulvodynia may have on a woman and her partner. While vulvodynia has been briefly mentioned on a few popular television shows, it is a condition that has received very little media attention. In fact many doctors are not aware of vulvodynia, and women are often told that the pain is all in their head. As a sex therapist, I often see women whose self-esteem, relationships and sex lives have been negatively impacted by the pain and frustration of this puzzling condition. Kudos to the Canadian Foundation for Women’s Health for raising awareness about vulvodynia through their public service advertisement.