A recent article in Vogue Singapore addressed the pelvic pain that around 1 in 6 women will experience during their lifetime
Unfortunately, chronic pelvic pain is often dismissed and misdiagnosed, and women end up suffering in silence.
The International Pelvic Pain Society states there are a “constellation of conditions” that can lead to chronic pelvic pain. They decry the stigma and pain that allows women to go undiagnosed and untreated.
According to Dr Kathryn Witzeman, past president of the IPPS, “pelvic pain is difficult for another person to ‘see’ or even understand if they have not experienced it – as compared to say – knee or shoulder pain. The pelvic region in many cultures is taboo. Many people suffer in silence with pelvic pain and related issues, such as bladder and bowel problems and pain during sex, purely because of embarrassment. They may not even seek help due to this shame.”
Defining Chronic Pelvic Pain – What is it?
Chronic pelvic pain is a general term for sharp, excruciating, sudden pain that a person feels between their belly button and hips and that lasts for six months or longer. It can come and go or be continuous. In some cases, it is a symptom of other issues.
The most common cause of chronic pelvic pain is endometriosis
This chronic disease is commonly misdiagnosed and can take between 4 and 11 years for a woman to receive the correct diagnosis and get treatment. Our own co founder, Tracey Bambrough had endometriosis which wasn’t detected for over 20 years! Other common causes of chronic pelvic pain include adenomyosis, painful bladder syndrome, adhesions, interstitial cystitis (IC), pelvic inflammatory disease, pelvic congestion syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), amongst others.
Chronic pelvic pain can lead to physical, emotional, psychological and financial distress
More than 50% of sufferers experience moderate to severe anxiety, while more than 25% report moderate to severe depression.
Dr Witzeman wants women to know that help and support are out there. She says, “feel empowered by the knowledge that you are not alone; many people experience these problems as well, and that there is power in numbers. Even feel empowered to share information you learn with your healthcare provider. Own your experience and share your story, so others may understand more deeply the extent that pelvic pain has in your life.”
The article, which is worth a read, goes on to share eight personal stories of women dealing with chronic pelvic pain
They share their feelings of helplessness and frustration:
- “I felt my body was betraying me, but I was at a loss for answers.”
- “The doctor… even told me it could be a psychological effect. I was diagnosed with depression.”
- “Endometriosis is a chronic and invalidating illness; it had a huge impact on both my physical and psychological health.”
- “I was told it’s normal and part of being a woman.”
- “I’m now 30, infertile and in surgical menopause, with an ileostomy (stoma) and a reconstructed bladder, and I still experience pelvic pain.”
- “It took six years to get diagnosed with PCOS…. Do not allow anyone to say it’s in your head because you know when something isn’t right.”
- “It has affected my life in many ways from relationships, my career, finances, fertility and day-to-day tasks.”
- “Friends and family simply couldn’t understand what I was going through because “I looked fine” and “seemed ok.” All of this meant I became increasingly isolated, depressed, and anxious. My mental health has never been worse.”
If any of this sounds familiar, please know that there is support and help out there
Doctors are finally realising that chronic pelvic pain is a symptom of more serious illnesses and not just something ‘women have to endure.’ There are also support groups on Facebook and in person – do a search in your area. Or join us in the Pineapple App community group to share your story and find others experiencing the same.
Are you dealing with chronic pelvic pain? We want to hear about your story – share your experiences and struggles with us via firstname.lastname@example.org. If you know someone dealing with this debilitating condition, share this article with them.