NIH study finds pelvic pain common among reproductive-age women

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NIH study finds pelvic pain common among reproductive-age women

According to a study by researchers from the National Institutes of Health and the University Of Utah School Of Medicine, Salt Lake City, pelvic pain that goes untreated is experienced by a high percentage of reproductive-age women.

More than 400 women who were planned to underwent surgery or imaging for various causes like infertility, menstrual irregularities, tubal sterilization or pelvic pain were surveyed. Reports of pain were highest for women diagnosed with endometriosis while 1/3rd of patients without any pelvic condition also reported a high degree of pain recurring during the menstrual cycle. The study was published online in Human Reproduction and was conducted by Karen Schliep, Ph.D., Division of Intramural Population Health Research, NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

According to Dr. Schliep, the study proposes that many reproductive-age women are experiencing pelvic pain but not reporting it. In such case, gynecologists may want to ask patients about their pain experience, type and exact location of the pain and offer treatment. Also, women should tell doctors if they're in pain.

Women (n=473) between 18 to 44 years were enrolled at 14 surgical centers in Salt Lake City and San Francisco and were set to undergo either laparoscopy (inserting a camera at the end of a tube through a tiny incision in the abdomen), or laparotomy (making a larger incision in the pelvic region). Women were asked about the type of pain they had in past 6 months, with severity before surgery. Overall, the women were asked about more than 17 specific types of pain related to sexual intercourse, their menstrual period, urination or bowel elimination, or other pain, such as muscle or joint pain or migraine headaches and they were requested to point out the area of pain in pelvic area diagram and standing female figure.

Chronic and cyclic pain coinciding with an interval during the monthly menstrual cycle in last 6 months or more was reported by more than 30% patients. Women with or without pelvic disorders were included in 30%. Only 3% reported none of the 17 types of pain, while over 60% reported 6 or more types of pain. Of total population, 40% were diagnosed with endometriosis, 31% with conditions including uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, and tumors and 29% had no pelvic problems. Most chronic pain was experienced by more than 44% of women diagnosed with endometriosis as compared to about 30% of women without any pelvic condition. Also, women with endometriosis were expected to experience pain during intercourse, menstrual cramping and pain with bowel elimination, vaginal pain and pain in the pelvic-abdominal area.

According to study author, future research should focus on the type and location of pain associated with endometriosis. Outcomes of such studies might show better diagnosis and treatment of the disorder. The authors also called for additional research on the causes of pain in women, not diagnosed with any pelvic condition.

National Institute of Health
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