Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) could help alleviate pain during sex, a new study has suggested.
Researchers from the Université de Montréal, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, and the University of Ottawa found that the condition, called provoked vestibulodynia, could be helped by psychological intervention.
Around eight per cent of women in the U.S. suffer from the condition, and symptoms include severe pain during sexual intercourse or when inserting tampons.
And it's thought around one in five women experience pain during intercourse.
To help alleviate provoked vestibulodynia, an anaesthetic cream called lidocaine can be used, but experts have found that CBT could be just as beneficial.
More than 100 couples participated in the study and attended acceptance and commitment therapy sessions for 12 weeks.
Therapy was found to be more effective than lidocaine in reducing women's fear of pain, sexual distress and alarm, and in improving their sexual experience.
And after six months, the women were twice more satisfied with their sex lives.
Sophie Bergeron, one of the study leaders, said having the partner understanding the condition and its effects through therapy "helps alleviate the woman's pain because she is no longer alone with her pain."
"Psychological intervention is recommended because once pain sets in, it has such a negative impact on sexuality and on the relationship that it becomes very important to break the vicious cycle of fear and avoidance," she continued. "The pain often leads to loss of desire in women and frustration in both partners. This is a real problem; it's not imaginary."