and People Assigned Female at Birth (AFAB)
Pelvic pain affects 1 in 5 Women and People Assigned Female at Birth at some time in their life, yet it is a condition that is rarely discussed.
Chronic pelvic pain is poorly understood and often not recognised because it does not show on scans or at an operation. Those with pelvic pain often suffer in silence, unsure where to go and who can help them. People with pelvic pain have a wide range of symptoms for various reasons. Pelvic pain often starts in women during the adolescent years when menstruation begins.
Pain may start in a pelvic organ such as your uterus, uterine tubes (Fallopian tubes), ovaries, endometriosis (uterine lining deposits in places it should not be), bladder, or bowels. Pelvic pain may also start in muscles or joints following an injury. Sometimes pelvic pain starts during a period of severe stress without a precipitating event. Other times no cause is found.
Period pain “dysmenorrhoea”, what is a normal period pain and what is endometriosis?
Period pain is the most common type of pelvic pain. Severe period pain in young women and people AFAB is a bigger problem now than in the past, as girls start to have their periods earlier and become pregnant later. This roughly rounds up to 300 to 400 periods in their lifetime before menopause. A study of 1000 girls aged 16-18 years in Canberra, Australia, found that 21% of the girls had severe pain with periods, and 26% had missed school because of period symptoms. Similar results have been found throughout the world.
None of us knows what another person’s pain is like for them, and you may have wondered if your bad period pain is normal.
Period pain should only be considered ‘normal’ if:
- The pain is only there on the first 1 or 2 days of your period
- It goes away if you use the Pill or take simple pain relief such as paracetamol and non-steroidal inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen, diclofenac or naproxen
If not, your pain may not be considered normal. Period pain does not have to be ‘ just part of being a woman’. Those living with pain must receive good care to live without being brought down by their pelvic pain. If simple treatments for period pain don’t help your pain, you may have endometriosis. This condition is where tissue like the lining of the uterus grows in places outside the uterus around the pelvis. Most endometriosis cannot be seen on an ultrasound.