Vulvodynia is the experience of idiopathic pain characterized by burning, soreness, or throbbing in the external female genitalia or vulva and is estimated to be experienced by 4–16% of the female population, yet only half of women seek help regarding their symptoms. Of the women who do seek help, only around 2% obtain a diagnosis. Therefore, the aim of the current study was to explore the experiences of women with vulvodynia on their journey toward diagnosis, by using semi-structured interviews and an interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) methodology. Eight women were interviewed, and their experiences were analyzed and interpreted into three master themes, each with constituent sub-themes: (1) The Journey Is a Battle, (2) “What Is Vulvodynia?”: Ambivalence Toward Diagnosis, and (3) Patriarchy, Women, and Sex. Overall, women perceived a healthcare system which was dismissive and shaming, with an inadequate knowledge of vulvodynia. This in turn impacted on women’s psychological well-being. Psychological understanding, one-to-one therapy, and consultation and training for healthcare professionals may help to improve the psychological well-being of women with vulvodynia.
- Interpretative phenomenological analysis
- Vulval/vulvar pain