For a condition that seems to affect so many, it’s surprising how little information we have on pelvic pain in Australia.
To get an idea of how many girls, women and people assigned female at birth may be affected, we can look at information from New Zealand and the USA. If Chronic Pelvic Pain (CPP) is defined as pelvic pain on most days for more than six months, it is estimated to affect 15% of American women and 25% of New Zealand women. If this is true, it is more common than asthma (10%) or back pain (14%) in Australia. (Australian Bureau of Statistics Data)
Economically, pelvic pain is a burden not only to individuals but also to government and business:
- Pelvic pain is estimated to cost Australia more than $6 billion annually.
- Simoens estimates the reduced quality of life in women with endometriosis-associated symptoms treated in referral centres at 0.809 quality-adjusted life years.
- While many women and AFAB still go to school or work with pain, their productivity at work is reduced. This is called presenteeism.
Despite this, pelvic pain is not considered a National Health Priority Area in Australia.
Why don’t we have better information on pelvic pain in Australia?
Pelvic pain has been too easy to ignore. People with pain don’t look different, and their condition is not life-threatening. They often keep their pain private so others don’t realise their problems. However, the lack of services in this area and the economic cost to our community affect all of us.
The complexity of the condition may also be a contributing factor. A woman’s pain experience may include any or all of dysmenorrhoea, bladder dysfunction, irritable bowel, pelvic muscle spasm, vulvodynia, migraine headaches, fatigue, anxiety, low mood, poor sleep, premenstrual symptoms, pudendal or other peripheral neuralgias and postsurgical pain. This makes it complex to study.
Grace VM, Zondervan KT. Chronic pelvic pain in New Zealand: prevalence, pain severity, diagnoses and use of the health services. Australian New Zealand Journal of Public Health 2004: 28, Issue 4.
Simoens S, Dunselman G, Dirksen C, Hummelshoj L, Bokor A, Brandes I et al. The burden of endometriosis: costs and quality of life of women with endometriosis and treated in referral centres. Human Reproduction Vol.27, No.5, pp.1292–1299, 2012.
Mathias SD, Kuppermann M, Liberman RF, Lipschutz RC, Steege JF. Chronic pelvic pain: prevalence, health related quality of life and economic correlates. Obstetrics & Gynecology, March, Vol.87, Issue 3: pp.321-7, 1996.