Nearly one in two Australian women have experienced pelvic pain in the last five years, according to a new report, launched by Health Minister Ged Kearney.
The Jean Hailes’ 2023 National Women’s Health Survey is a random sample, representative of Australian residents who identify as women, aged 18 and over.
Notably, the survey shows that 28 per cent of Australian women report pelvic pain impacts their daily activities. And close to half (45 per cent) of women experiencing pelvic pain in the last five years– equating to one in five– reported needing to take leave or an extended break from work or study due to the issue.
Approximately one in three Australian women report pelvic pain has impaired their mental and emotional wellbeing or relationships with their partner.
Relationships with friends and family were also reported to be impaired by one in five women.
A common condition that can affect anyone, Jean Hailes says pelvic pain can be short term (acute), lasting a few days to a few weeks, or it can be persistent (chronic).
Looking into whether women reached out for support with their pelvic pain, the report found approximately half discussed their symptoms with a doctor. Among the other half- those who didn’t seek support– two in three reported not feeling like their symptoms were bad enough to justify going to a doctor and one in three felt nothing could be done for the pain.
Filling the gap of pelvic pain research in Australia
While the prevalence of pelvic pain in women is estimated internationally at between 15 per cent and 25 per cent, there hasn’t been previously published data on the prevalence of acute or persistent pelvic pain in Australian women.
In a national first and just ahead of Women’s Health Week (September 4-8), Jean Hailes, Australia’s leading women’s health not-for-profit, launched the new report, Pelvic Pain in Australian Women, in Melbourne.
Recommendations for improving health outcomes
For general practitioners (and other relevant health professionals), the report recommends proactively asking women whether they’re experiencing pelvic pain. This is opposed to waiting for women to raise the issue themselves, which according to the survey’s results, approximately half are reluctant to do.
Targeting women who may not realise that having pelvic pain symptoms impact daily living, the report also recommends the creation of a public awareness campaign.
Along with its broader national recommendations, the report also notes that priority populations still need further research into the effects of pelvic pain. This is especially the case for women from culturally or linguistically diverse communities; women with disability; lesbian, bisexual or queer women; people assigned or presumed female at birth; and Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander women.
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