Did you know that 1 in 6 women live with persistent pelvic pain? This can encompass anything from Bladder Pain, Vaginismus, Pelvic Pain, Vulvodynia, Pain during sex, vulvar pain, endometriosis.

Whilst more people have heard of endometriosis or generic pelvic pain, Vulvodynia (pain in the vulva characterized by burning, stinging and stabbing sensations) is not as well known. And yet 16% of women are estimated to suffer from at it at some point in their lives (the highest incidence is between 18-25). With words used to describe it like: “having acid poured on my skin” and “feeling a constant knife-like pain.” – one would think it would be better known.  And yet, according to an NIH-funded Harvard study, 60 % of affected women consult 3+ doctors before receiving a diagnosis of vulvodynia.

40 %of women seeking treatment for vulvodynia are not accurately diagnosed after seeing as many as three doctors. 

The exact cause of vulvodynia is unknown, because there is a general lack of research funding for benign gynecological disorders.

So what are the treatment options? 

Many treatments used to treat vulvodynia are the same ones used for other chronic pain conditions. Although the long-standing first-line of treatment of low-dose tricyclic antidepressants has been put into question because an NIH-funded study found that this medication is no more effective than a placebo in vulvodynia patients. If conservative measures fail, surgery (vestibulectomy) is often recommended. The success rate of surgery ranges from 60-90%.

What is the societal Impact of Vulvodynia?

To determine the social and economic impact of vulvodynia, the National Vulvodynia Association created a web-based survey, which asked respondents to enter vulvodynia – related costs over a 6-month period. 303 women completed the survey. Using conservative prevalence estimates of 3 to 7% (up to 16% has been reported), Xie and colleagues (2012) estimated the economic impact of vulvodynia at 31 to 72 billion dollars, 70 percent of which represents direct health care costs. Vulvodynia is associated with a huge economic burden to society and the individual, and that the quality of life for women with vulvodynia is substantially impaired.

Which is why Femtech Startups like Femspace are so important. Femspace’s programs are based on a biopsychosocial approach aka it tackles your body, mind and relationships at the same time. The result is a truly comprehensive approach. Some of her research into this space can be found below:

The above was a conversation between Oriana Kraft, Founder of FemTechnology Summit and Claudia Chisari, Founder + CEO of FemSpace, an internationally recognised expert in persistent pelvic pain. She carried out the UK’s first PhD focused on Vulvodynia at King’s College London, funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR).

Exploring psychosocial processes and treatment development in women with Vulvodynia

Psychosocial factors associated with pain and sexual function in women with Vulvodynia: A systematic review

Psychosocial factors associated with pain and health-related quality of life in Endometriosis: A systematic review

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for women living with Vulvodynia: A single-case experimental design study of a treatment delivered online


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