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Women's Health

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Women's Pelvic Pain Not Taken Seriously

Most Women Told Their Pain is "Normal"

WebMD Health News

Oct. 17, 2002 -- Women who suffer from persistent pelvic pain may have a hard time getting their point (and their pain) across to their doctors as well as their families and friends. A new survey of women who suffer from chronic pelvic pain found that 40% of them have been told they exaggerate their pain.

The two major causes of chronic pelvic pain are endometriosis and the buildup of scar tissue after surgery, called adhesions.

Endometriosis affects about 5 million women in the U.S. and it is caused by abnormal growth of uterine lining tissue outside the uterus. Pelvic pain can also be caused by adhesions, which are bands of excess scar tissue that usually appear following common gynecological surgeries. Adhesions can develop in about 90% of the 3 million women who undergo pelvic surgery each year

The survey of 968 women ages 15 through 59 with endometriosis or post-surgical scar tissue found nearly 40% of these women were told that they exaggerate their pain. Of these, two-thirds were told their pain is "normal," even though more than half perceive it as severe and debilitating. At this level of pain the majority (80%) were unable to work at times and a significant number say they have been debilitated two or more days a month.

"The results of this survey are concerning given the impact pelvic pain can have on a woman's life," says Mary Lou Ballweg, president and executive director of the Endometriosis Association, which conducted the study, in a press release.

The survey was presented this week at the 58th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

Of the women who were told they were exaggerating their pain, more than half (52%) were told that by their obstetrician/gynecologist, while 43% were told the same thing by a friend or family member.

Experts say it's important for women to speak up about their pelvic pain with their healthcare providers to receive prompt and effective treatment. They say new treatments are available that can stop the repeated cycles of pain. Doctors also have tools that can be used to reduce the risk of adhesions that occur after surgery. If left untreated, the underlying condition could cause serious complications such as infertility.

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