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Airing Pain 87: Vulvodynia

From diag­no­sis dif­fi­cul­ties to defin­ing gen­der: the effects of Vul­vo­dy­nia on women today

This edi­tion has been fund­ed by a grant from the Womens Fund For Scot­land.

Vul­vo­dy­nia is a nerve-based pain, often described as a burn­ing or sting­ing sen­sa­tion, which affects the vul­va. 1 in 7 sev­en women are esti­mat­ed to expe­ri­ence Vul­vo­dy­nia at some stage dur­ing their life and the con­di­tion can be very dis­tress­ing to live with, impact­ing on every­thing from cloth­ing choic­es to relationships.

Dr Win­ston de Mel­lo explains why many women with Vul­vo­dy­nia expe­ri­ence dif­fi­cul­ties on the path to diag­no­sis and why GPs under pres­sure cre­ate a “post­code lot­tery” for those in pain with­out any vis­i­ble symptoms.

Dr Rebekah Shall­cross describes what she found in her research into women’s expe­ri­ences of Vul­vo­dy­nia, includ­ing instances of sex­ism on the part of some health­care pro­fes­sion­als, a lack of aware­ness of the con­di­tion with­in the med­ical com­mu­ni­ty and the stig­ma asso­ci­at­ed with gen­i­tal pain.

The role played by pen­e­tra­tive sex in social con­struc­tions of female iden­ti­ty can cre­ate com­plex feel­ings of guilt in patients with Vul­vo­dy­nia where phys­i­cal inti­ma­cy is prob­lema­tised by pain, feel­ings which Dr Shall­cross links with his­tor­i­cal gen­der inequal­i­ty and patri­ar­chal atti­tudes towards sex.

Gynae­col­o­gy con­sul­tant Dr David Nunns dis­cuss­es the impor­tance of the “four Ps” in patient treat­ment and improv­ing the lives of those with Vul­vo­dy­nia: patient edu­ca­tion, pain mod­i­fi­ca­tion, phys­io­ther­a­py and psy­cho­log­i­cal sup­port. Plus the impor­tance of dis­course in rais­ing aware­ness and reduc­ing pain and asso­ci­at­ed stress.

Issues cov­ered in this pro­gramme include: CBT: cog­ni­tive behav­iour­al ther­a­py, edu­cat­ing health­care pro­fes­sion­als, the Four ‘P’s, mis­con­cep­tions, pelvic pain, the psy­cho­sex­u­al approach, rela­tion­ships, sex, stig­ma, rais­ing aware­ness, Vul­val Pain Soci­ety, vul­vo­dy­nia, uro­gen­i­tal pain and wom­en’s pain.


  • Dr Win­ston de Mel­lo, Con­sul­tant in Anaes­the­sia and Pain Med­i­cine, Uni­ver­si­ty Hos­pi­tal of South Manchester
  • Dr Rebekah Shall­cross, trainee clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist and a research asso­ciate at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Manchester
  • Dr David Nunns, gynae­col­o­gy con­sul­tant at Not­ting­ham City Hos­pi­tal. He is a trustee of the Vul­val Pain Society.

More infor­ma­tion:


A bit more detail about caus­es, inter­re­lat­ed­ness to fibromyal­gia, autoim­mu­ni­ty, would be help­ful and also why and how Phys­io­ther­a­py might help, per­haps you should do a fol­low up?

Broadcast Assistant

Thanks for the feed­back, we would cer­tain­ly con­sid­er a fol­low-up for next series!
In the mean­time the sec­ond of these Wom­en’s Fund pro­grammes will be broad­cast next Tues­day at 8pm, with the pod­cast and tran­script avail­able short­ly after. It focus­es specif­i­cal­ly on inter­sti­tial cys­ti­tis and what it’s like to live with per­sis­tent blad­der pain. Phys­io­ther­a­py is not focused on specif­i­cal­ly, but yoga and exer­cise are dis­cussed as ways of man­ag­ing pelvic pain which may be of interest.
Thanks again and kind regards,

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