At the beginning of October, Team Tiny hopped over the border to Yorkshire for the 2019 Vulval Pain Society Conference. We were there to represent Desert Harvest at a day of lectures and exhibits for vulval pain patients, their partners, and health professionals. The event was held at Headingley Stadium, home to Leeds Rhinos Rugby Club and Yorkshire County Cricket Club, and both the hotel room and the conference room enjoyed spectacular views of the cricket pitch! Tiny doesn’t know too much about sport, but there were huge portraits of cricketers all around the venue, along with historical memorabilia – it really was a rather exciting place!
The day was a great opportunity for vulval pain patients and practitioners to hear lectures from vulvodynia clinicians and health professionals, and to get their questions answered by an expert health panel. Desert Harvest was one of the sponsors of the event and provided goody bags for delegates. It was lovely to have a chance to speak directly to patients, and was great to meet with so many practitioners who are really in a position to make a difference to vulvodynia sufferers. Although vulvodynia was the main issue of the day, many patients in attendance also had experience of other pelvic pain conditions.
TheVulval Pain Societyis a charity that provides confidential support for women who suffer from vestibulodynia and vulvodynia. It was set up in 1996 and aims to protect and promote the health of vulval pain sufferers, and educate the general public in all areas relating to vulval pain. While focusing mainly on vulvodynia and vestibulodynia, the Vulval Pain Society website contains links to information about other vulval pain conditions, including lichen planus, lichen sclerosus, and persistent genital arousal disorder (PGAD). If you suffer from any kind of vulval pain condition, I’d definitely recommend checking it out, as it is full of advice and resources. You may also wish to considermaking a donation, as the VPS is not externally funded or attached to any health organisation, and most of its services are free for patients.
As I mentioned earlier, the conference was open not only to patients, but also to their partners or family members. There were quite a few men in attendance, which was great to see. Some of them even took goody bags – as regular readers will know, theapplications of Desert Harvest skincare productsextend well beyond the vulva, so I hope they all find good uses for their sample sachets!
During the conference, a lady called Deborah Lovell spoke for a few minutes about some research that she is doing as part of a doctorate in Counselling Psychology. The bulk of research into women’s sexual pain focusses (quite logically!) on women’s experiences. However, sexual pain is an interpersonal problem – it generally affects TWO people and not just the individual in pain. Anyone with a chronic pelvic pain condition like interstitial cystitis, persistent genital arousal disorder, vulvodynia, etc. will know all too well the impact it can have on their sex life and their relationship in general. In the context of heterosexual relationships, very little is officially known about men’s perspectives and responses to women’s sexual pain. Deborah’s research aims to discover more about how men experience female sexual pain, in order to inform more effective treatment for both individuals and their partnership in the future.
I was really interested in Deborah’s study, because I actually began writing a blog post a while ago about how important it is that women in relationships try to consider their partner’s feelings when they are unable to have sexual intercourse. While many women are all too aware of their partner’s needs and worry that he will leave (which can itself impact the relationship), some come to resent or blame their partners and may remove all forms of sex from the relationship as a result. Please note that I am in no way suggesting that men should disregard women’s discomfort or be insensitive to their health conditions. However, in the context of sensitive, loving partnerships, long periods of time without intercourse can be lonely and distressing for men. I think it is important that female partners give the same consideration and empathy to their men that they hopefully receive from them and try to accommodate their needs in other ways when intercourse is not an option. Somehow, I could never make my blog post on the topic flow, so I didn’t get it finished and uploaded. Perhaps I will have another look at it soon, as I do think it is an important issue.
Deborah is looking for male volunteers to participate in her research. The pain must have been present for at least six months and to be able to take part, men must:
- be aged 18 or over;
- be resident in the UK;
- have past or present involvement in a sexual relationship with a woman who experiences pain during sex or that prevents sex.
The research is completely confidential and is being conducted at the University of the West of England. Men can participate online byclicking on this link. Deborah needs dozens of responses to her questionnaire in order to capture a wide range of men’s experiences, so if you are a qualifying male, please consider taking part, and if you’re in a relationship with a qualifying male, please ask him to take part! Deborah also would like to conduct verbal interviews with several men. There is an option to volunteer for this at the end of the survey, or you can firstname.lastname@example.org you prefer. All verbal interviews will also be completely confidential and any contact details will be stored separately from the data to preserve your privacy.
As well as some general demographic information, there are eleven open ended questions where men can write as much or as little as they want. They can also skip some of the questions if they are uncomfortable answering or just don’t find them relevant to their own situation. In case you want a heads up so that you/your man can think about what to write before starting, topics covered include things like:
- how you became aware of your partner’s pain;
- how it affects your sex life;
- how it affects your relationship;
- what has been difficult for you;
- whether there have been any positives;
- whether you’d have liked more professional support in your own right.
If any of my male readers meet the qualifying criteria for the study, it would be great if you’d complete the survey for Deborah or perhaps even volunteer for an interview. And if any of my female readers have male partners who qualify, do pass on the details to them. Also, if any of you are struggling with vulval pain conditions, do be sure to visit theVulval Pain Society websiteand, if you haven’t already, check outDesert Harvest’s skincare solutions!
I’ll end with a mention of Natracare – you might remember that I recommended their products inthis blog a few months ago. They were exhibiting on the stand next to ours and not only did they keep us company and help us with some boxes, they also gave us some free samples of Natracare products! Thank you, Elisa!
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