Sexual Health
Laboratory

Sophie Bergeron  Ph.D

News

Did you know that on days when sex is difficult, reducing the variety in sexual behaviour may contribute to lowering a couple’s sexual satisfaction?

A recent study performed by our lab in collaboration with the Katholieke Universiteit (KU) Leuven in Belgium, focused on how everyday sexual difficulties predict a couples’ behaviour in bed, and their overall sexual satisfaction after sex.

We worked with newlywed mixed-sex couples, asking them to complete a diary everyday for 5 weeks about their couple and their sexuality.

What were the results?

We found that even in newlywed couples, sexual difficulties were common. Women reported at least some sexual difficulty two-thirds of the times they had sex, and men, one-third of the time; of these, most were difficulties with sexual desire and arousal.

The couple’s sexual difficulties also tended to predict other aspects of their sexuality. On days when sex was even a little difficult for one participant, sexual satisfaction was lower for both partners. It was not very surprising that the participant reporting the difficulty was less sexually satisfied; for the other partner, it may be that they felt less desired when sex was difficult, and that this affected their own sexual satisfaction.

We also found that on days when sex was difficult, the couples’ sexual behaviour tended to be less varied. This more restricted sexual repertoire may be an indication that in such cases, one or both partners tended to “just get on with it”, and this may have compounded the couples’ lower sexual satisfaction.

Studies such as this one, which seek to better understand couples in their everyday sexuality, can give us clues as to how couples can maintain their sexual health over time. This study’s findings highlight how difficulties in one partner affect the couple as a whole. This has implications for treatment, and underscores the importance of including both partners when addressing sexual difficulties.

If you would like to know more about this study, we invite you to read the full paper:

Jodouin, J.-F., Bergeron, S., & Janssen, E. (2018). The mediating role of sexual behavior in event-level associations between sexual difficulties and sexual satisfaction in newlywed couples. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 15(10), 9.

Did you know that the reasons why we have sex can predict our sexual satisfaction?

A recent study from our lab, in collaboration with the Katholieke Universiteit (KU) Leuven in Belgium, examined the reasons why we have sex and how these motivations predict not only our behaviour in bed, but also how intimate and sexually satisfied we feel.

We worked with newlywed mixed-sex couples, asking them to complete a diary everyday for 5 weeks about their relationship and their sexuality.

What were the results?

We found that on average, when the participants’ motives for having sex included wanting to please themselves, their behaviour in bed tended to be more genitally-focused (i.e., include more behaviours such as vaginal intercourse, oral sex), and their sexual satisfaction was higher. This was true for both men and women.

In contrast, men and women tended to differ about their feelings of intimacy: When men’s sexual motives included to please their partner, both partners in the couple felt a greater sense of intimacy in the relationship. One reason for this may be that the men’s greater focus on their partner resulted in them paying more attention to her needs, leading both partners to feel closer to each other.

For women, it was their motivation to please themselves that predicted greater intimacy in the couple. Indeed, in these couples, it is possible that when women were motivated by their own pleasure, they communicated their sexual needs more clearly, leading both partners to feel closer to each other.

Studies such as this one, which seek to better understand couples in their everyday sexuality, can give us clues as to how couples can maintain their sexual health over time. What this study suggests is that part of the answer may be in paying attention to our own sexual desires and needs, and in expressing them to our partners.

If you would like to know more about this study, we invite you to read the full paper:

Jodouin, J.-F., Bergeron, S., Desjardins, F., & Janssen, E. (2018). Sexual behavior mediates the relationship between sexual motives and sexual outcomes: A daily diary study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 1(12), 11.

Did you know that self-compassion could help couples coping with painful intercourse?

A recent study conducted in our laboratory examined the associations between self-compassion and the well-being of couples coping with pain during sexual intercourse. Self-compassion means having compassion toward oneself, as we would have toward a good friend, and entails qualities such as kindness toward oneself in instances of pain or failure. Because many women with pain during intercourse have a negative image of themselves in the context of sexuality, self-compassion may be especially relevant for this population. In this study, we wanted to answer the following question: Is self-compassion associated with pain intensity as well as psychological, sexual, and relationship well-being of both partners?

To answer this question, data were gathered from 48 women diagnosed with provoked vestibulodynia—the most common subtype of pain during intercourse, characterized by pain at the entrance of the vagina—and their partners, using self-report questionnaires pertaining to anxiety, depression, sexual distress, relationship satisfaction, and pain intensity during sexual intercourse.

What did we find?

Results showed that for both women and their partners, higher levels of self-compassion were associated with their own lower anxiety and depression. Also, when partners reported higher levels of self-compassion, they were more satisfied with their relationship, and both partners and women reported lower sexual distress. No significant association was found for pain during intercourse.
Findings suggest that self-compassion may help couples coping with painful intercourse by decreasing its impact on their psychological, sexual and relational well-being. Interventions aimed at increasing self-compassion could enhance the efficacy of psychological treatments for these women and their partners. Further studies are needed to better understand the role of self-compassion among this population.

For more details, we invite you to read the full paper:

Santerre-Baillargeon, M., Rosen, N.O., Steben, M., Pâquet, M., Macabena Perez, R., Bergeron, S. (2018). Does self-compassion benefit couples coping with vulvodynia? Associations with psychological, sexual and relationship adjustment. The Clinical Journal of Pain, 34(7), 629-637. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0000000000000579

Did you know that victims of sexual abuse are more likely to experience higher anxiety levels, which could contribute to the emergence of painful intercourse at adolescence?

A recent study conducted in our laboratory examined the relationship between child sexual abuse and pain during sexual intercourse. Although child sexual abuse has been identified as a risk factor for the development of genito-pelvic pain, we still know very little about what could explain this relationship. In this study, we wanted to know whether higher levels of anxiety among victims of child sexual abuse would explain why they are more likely of experiencing painful intercourse. To answer this question, data were gathered from 218 sexually active adolescent girls recruited from seven metropolitan high schools, who completed questionnaires pertaining to anxiety, history of child sexual abuse as well as pain during intercourse.

What did we find?

Results showed that adolescent girls who reported being victims of sexual abuse reported being more anxious, which in turn increased their risk of reporting genito-pelvic pain. Therefore, findings suggest that anxiety may be one of the mechanisms by which child sexual abuse leads to an increased risk of developing pain during intercourse in this population.

Health professionals must be aware that a history of sexual abuse among teenage girls can contribute to the development of pain during sexual intercourse, a condition that can have a significant impact on their developing sexual life. Also, interventions specifically targeting anxiety could be an avenue to help these adolescents cope with this sexual problem.

For more details, we invite you to read the full paper:

Santerre-Baillargeon, M., Vézina-Gagnon, P., Daigneault, I., Landry, T., & Bergeron, S. (2017). Anxiety mediates the relation between childhood sexual abuse and genito-pelvic pain in adolescent girls. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 43(8), 774-785. doi: 10.1080/0092623X.2016.1266539

Recipient of a CIHR research grant on adolescent sexual health

Sophie Bergeron (Université de Montréal) and Jacinthe Dion (Université du Québec à Chicoutimi), co-principal investigators of the project, have received a grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to conduct a longitudinal study on 3000 adolescents from two large regions of Quebec (Montréal and the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean).

The main objective of the “Precursors of youth’s sexual and romantic relationships study” (PRESAJ) is to better understand young people's sexuality and dating relationships and the challenges they entail. The results will help us take action and empower young people during their romantic and sexual relationship development.

Our team is composed of researchers and partners from: the Université de Montréal (Sophie Bergeron and Isabelle Daigneault), the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (Jacinthe Dion), the Université du Quebec à Montreal (Martine Hébert, Martin Blais, Natacha Godbout), the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec (Dr Marc Steben), the University of New Brunswick (Lucia O’Sullivan) and the University of Zagreb, Croatia (Aleksandar Stulhofer).

Did you know that your daily mood may influence your pain and your sexuality?

A recent study conducted in our laboratory examined the daily mood of couples in which women were diagnosed with provoked vestibulodynia (PVD) (pain at the entrance of the vagina during sexual intercourse). We wanted to know if both partners’ daily anxiety or depressive symptoms influenced women’s pain and couples’ sexual well-being. To do so, 127 women with PVD and their partners independently completed daily electronic diaries with questions regarding mood, pain during sexual intercourse, sexual function and sexual distress.

What did we find?

Results showed that on sexual activity days, when women reported feeling more anxious and depressed, they perceived their pain during sexual intercourse to be greater, they reported lower sexual function and they experienced more distress regarding their sexuality. On the partners’ side, on sexual activity days when they reported feeling more anxious or depressed, they experienced more sexual distress and so did women.

Therefore, finding ways to reduce both partners’ daily anxious and depressed feelings may be beneficial for the pain, your sexuality and your relationship!

For more details we invite you to read the full paper:

Pâquet, M., Rosen, N.O., Mayrand, M. H., Steben, M. Santerre-Baillargeon, M., & Bergeron, S. (2018). Daily anxiety and depressive symptoms in couples coping with vulvodynia: Associations with women's pain, women's sexual function and both partners' sexual distress. Journal of Pain.
doi : 10.1016/j.jpain.2017.12.264


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