Pelvic Floor Dysfunction: Women's Sexual Concerns Unraveled

A.M. Roos*, R. Thakar, A.H. Sultan, C.W. Burger, A.T.G. Paulus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


IntroductionSexual function of women suffering from pelvic organ prolapse (POP) and/or urinary incontinence (UI) is adversely affected. However, our current understanding of the exact relationship between female sexual dysfunction and POP and/or UI is incomplete. A qualitative study can improve our understanding by describing what women themselves perceive as the real problem.

AimTo gain a more in-depth understanding of the impact of POP and/or UI on the different categories of female sexual dysfunction by way of a qualitative study.

MethodsQualitative semistructured interviews were conducted in 37 women scheduled for pelvic floor surgery, and one was excluded from analysis due to incomplete recordings.

Main Outcome MeasuresThe impact of POP and/or UI on female sexual function.

ResultsOnly 17% of women were completely positive about their sex life. Both POP and UI had a negative effect on body image. Women with POP had a negative image of their vagina, which caused them to be insecure about their partner's sexual experience, while women with UI were embarrassed about their incontinence and pad use, and feared smelling of urine. Worries about the presence of POP during sexual activity, discomfort from POP, and reduced genital sensations were the most important reasons for decreased desire, arousal, and difficulty reaching an orgasm in women with POP. Fear of incontinence during intercourse affected desire, arousal, and orgasm and could be a cause for dyspareunia in women with UI. Desire was divided into two main elements: drive and motivation. Although drive, i.e., spontaneous sexual interest, was not commonly affected by POP and/or UI, a decrease in motivation or the willingness to engage in sexual activity was the most common sexual dysfunction mentioned.

ConclusionsBody image plays a key role in the sexual functioning of women with POP and/or UI with the biggest impact on women's motivation. Roos A-M, Thakar R, Sultan AH, Burger CW, and Paulus ATG. Pelvic floor dysfunction: Women's sexual concerns unraveled. J Sex Med 2014;11:743-752.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)743-752
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of sexual medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014


  • Female Sexual Dysfunction
  • Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
  • Qualitative Analysis
  • Pelvic Organ Prolapse
  • Urinary Incontinence

Cite this