Pelvic Pain and Associated Characteristics among Women in Northern Mexico

By Garcia-Perez, Hilda; Harlow, Sioban D. et al. | International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, June 2010 | Go to article overview

Pelvic Pain and Associated Characteristics among Women in Northern Mexico


Garcia-Perez, Hilda, Harlow, Sioban D., Erdmann, Christine A., Denman, Catalina, International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health


CONTEXT: Until recently, the reproductive health agenda has focused on a restricted number of morbidity indicators, particularly those associated with life-threatening diseases. However, gynecologic morbidities that are a source of pelvic pain, although not life-threatening, do impose a substantial burden because of their potential to reduce women's overall well-being.

METHODS: In 2005, a cross-sectional population-based study was conducted in Hermosillo, Mexico, to assess self-reported pelvic pain conditions in a random sample of 1,307 women aged 25-54. The 12-month prevalence of each condition was calculated, and logistic regression was used to assess the association between pelvic pain and social, demographic, anthropometric and reproductive characteristics, and other medical conditions.

RESULTS: The 12-month prevalence of pelvic pain during menstruation among 1,007 menstruating women was 40%. Pelvic pain during or after sexual intercourse was reported by 12% of the 1,183 sexually active respondents. Among 1,201 nonpregnant women, 6% reported chronic pelvic pain. In adjusted analyses, younger age (25-34 years) and having a history of STIs or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) were associated with an increased risk of pain during menstruation and chronic pelvic pain (odds ratios, 1.6-3.1). An interaction term for younger age and history of STIs or PID was associated with an elevated risk of intercourse-related pelvic pain (6.4). Chronic pelvic pain and pain during menstruation were more frequently reported as interfering with daily activities than was intercourse-related pelvic pain. The proportion of women who had talked with a physician about their condition was highest among those with chronic pelvic pain (40%).

CONCLUSION: Pelvic pain associated with menstruation, pelvic pain during or after sexual intercourse, and chronic pelvic pain are common complaints among Mexican women of reproductive age. Health care providers should pay greater attention to these conditions.

International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2010, 36(2):90-98

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Policymakers and researchers have highlighted the urgency of developing a broader approach to addressing women's reproductive health needs and to identifying health policy priorities, especially in less-developed nations. (1) Although the existing concept of reproductive health calls for identifying women's health needs, the organizing principle of current health policies and research in this area continues to emphasize illness over health, which reinforces a narrow conceptualization of women's health needs. (1) Until recently, reproductive health advocates have focused on a restricted number of morbidity indicators, particularly those associated with life-threatening diseases. Few studies have paid attention to life-enhancing aspects of sexual and reproductive health, such as enjoyable sex, or health-related quality of life among women of childbearing age. (2) Yet, the concept of reproductive health extends beyond mortality and should explicitly include a lack of reproductive morbidity and associated disabilities, as well as the full range of conditions, experiences and circumstances that affect women's quality of life across their reproductive life cycle.

Because, in part, of this emphasis on life-threatening diseases, the gynecologic conditions that cause pelvic pain traditionally have been neglected in research and service delivery programs in Mexico. (3) Reproductive health programs and research have focused mainly on maternal and child health, contraception, STIs, and cervical and breast cancer. (3) However, pelvic pain is a major gynecologic complaint among women of reproductive age; (4-7) some women begin experiencing it as soon as they begin menstruating. Chronic pelvic pain and painful sexual intercourse have been associated with impairments in women's sexual and social functioning. (5) Occurrence of multiple pelvic pain conditions has been reported in some studies. …

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