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BACKGROUND: Chronic pelvic pain has often been described as a major women's health issue, but no information exists on the extent of the problem in the United Kingdom. AIM: To investigate the community prevalence of chronic pelvic pain and its effect on the lives of consulting and non-consulting women. DESIGN OF STUDY: Postal questionnaire survey. SETTING: Women aged 18 to 49 (n = 3916) randomly selected from the Oxfordshire Health Authority Register. METHOD: The questionnaire response rate (adjusted for non-deliveries) was 74% (2304/3106). Chronic pelvic pain was defined as recurrent or constant pelvic pain of at least six months' duration, unrelated to periods, intercourse, or pregnancy. Case subgroups comprised recent consulters, past consulters, and non-consulters. Women who reported dysmenorrhoea alone formed a comparison group. RESULTS: The three-month prevalence of chronic pelvic pain was 24.0% (95% CI = 22.1% to 25.8%). One-third of women reported pain that started more than five years ago. Recent consulters (32% of cases) were most affected by their symptoms in terms of pain severity, use of health care, physical and mental health scores, sleep quality, and pain-related absence from work. Non-consulters (41% of cases) did not differ from women with dysmenorrhoea in terms of symptom-related impairment. Irrespective of consulting behaviour, a high rate of symptom-related anxiety was found in women with chronic pelvic pain (31%) compared with women with dysmenorrhoea (7%). CONCLUSIONS: This study showed a high community prevalence of chronic pelvic pain in women of reproductive age. Cases varied substantially in the degree to which they were affected by their symptoms. The high symptom-related anxiety in these women emphasises the need for more information about chronic pelvic pain and its possible causes.

Type

Journal article

Journal

Br J Gen Pract

Publication Date

07/2001

Volume

51

Pages

541 - 547

Keywords

Adolescent, Adult, Analysis of Variance, Anxiety, Chronic Disease, Cross-Sectional Studies, Dyspareunia, Female, Health Services Accessibility, Health Status, Humans, Logistic Models, Middle Aged, Odds Ratio, Pain Measurement, Pelvic Pain, Prevalence, Sick Leave, Sick Role, Sleep Wake Disorders, United Kingdom