Sensory processing in women diagnosed with genito-pelvic pain/penetration disorder

Labuschagne, Elsie Susanna
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Introduction: The role of sexual functioning is often ignored in occupational therapy and literature regarding sensory integration and processing and female sexual dysfunction is virtually non-existent. Current multi-disciplinary intervention approaches for female sexual dysfunction do not include occupational therapy and intervention may be rendered ineffective, or actually worsen the condition if the person has sensory processing dysfunction (SPD). Aim: The study objectives were to describe the sensory processing patterns of women diagnosed with genito-pelvic pain/penetration disorder (GPPPD), to explore the level of anxiety when both GPPPD and SPD are present and to investigate participants’ experience of participating in a sensory-based home program (SBHP). Methods: A descriptive two-phased study design was used. Phase one consisted of a quantitative, cross sectional nonexperimental descriptive study, using the Adolescent/Adult Sensory History (ASH) and Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scales (HADS) to obtain data from purposive sampling. Phase two consisted of an exploratory qualitative study involving participants who were identified with SPD in Phase one. They participated in a SBHP and their experience thereof were established during semi-structured interviews. Results: Phase one: Quantitative descriptive analyses indicated that the majority (79.5%; n=35) of participants presented with SPD requiring further investigation and/or intervention for SPD. Phase two: Two themes emerged from the qualitative data: “Changes experienced after participating in a SBHP”; and “Coping strategies employed by women with SPD & GPPPD”. The study identified SPD as an alternative factor in female sexual dysfunction, specifically GPPPD. Participants found a SBHP, catering to specific needs/personalities beneficial as a non-invasive, non-pharmacological intervention approach for women who suffer from both SPD and GPPPD. The study further emphasises the role of the occupational therapist in sexuality. Ethical clearance was obtained from the Human Research Ethics Committee (Medical) at the University of the Witwatersrand with clearance certificate number: M170829 (Appendix A
A research report submitted in fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Master of Science in Occupational Therapy to the Faculty of Health Sciences, School of Therapeutic Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2020