Perceived Stereotyping and Seeking Care for Chronic Vulvar Pain

Ruby H Nguyen, Rachael M. Turner, Sarah A. Rydell, Richard F Maclehose, Bernard L Harlow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Objectives: We examined stereotyping of chronic pain sufferers among women aged 18-40 years and determined whether perceived stereotyping affects seeking care for women with chronic vulvar pain. Design: Cross-sectional study using a community-based survey of vulvodynia asking if "Doctors think that people with chronic pain exaggerate their pain," and if "People believe that vulvar pain is used as an excuse to avoid having sex". Setting and Participants: Twelve thousand eight hundred thirty-four women aged 18-40 years in metropolitan Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota. Outcome Measures: Women were considered to have a history of chronic vulvar pain if they reported vulvar burning lasting more than 3 months or vulvar pain on contact. Results: Four thousand nine hundred eighty-seven (38.9%) women reported a chronic pain condition; 1,651 had chronic vulvar pain. Women experiencing chronic pain were more likely than those without to perceive stereotyping from both doctors and others; a dose-response with the number of pain conditions existed. Women with chronic vulvar pain were more likely to believe that people think vulvar pain is an excuse to avoid intercourse. Half of the women with chronic vulvar pain did not seek medical care for it; of these, 40.4% perceived stereotyping from doctors. However, it was women who actually sought care (45.1%) who were more likely to feel stigmatized by doctors (adjusted relative risk=1.11, 95% confidence interval: 1.01-1.23). Conclusions: Perceived negative stereotyping among chronic pain sufferers is common, particularly negative perceptions about physicians. In fact, chronic vulvar pain sufferers who felt stigmatized were more likely to have sought care than those who did not feel stigmatized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1461-1467
Number of pages7
JournalPain Medicine (United States)
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by NIH/NICHD R01-HD058608 (PI: Harlow). The results of this study were presented in part at the Third North American Congress of Epidemiology, Montreal, Canada, June 21–24, 2011.

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Chronic Pain
  • Seeking Care
  • Stereotype
  • Stigma
  • Vulvodynia


Dive into the research topics of 'Perceived Stereotyping and Seeking Care for Chronic Vulvar Pain'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this