Persistent Genital and Pelvic Pain after Childbirth

Sex and Couple Therapy Service, McGill University Health Center, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Journal of Sexual Medicine (Impact Factor: 3.15). 12/2008; 6(1):215 - 221. DOI: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2008.01063.x

ABSTRACT Introduction.  Although genital pain and pelvic pain are common and well-documented problems in the early postpartum period, little is known about their course. The few published studies of such pain beyond 1 year postpartum have focused primarily on the perineum and have not assessed pain onset.Aim.  To investigate the prevalence and characteristics of all types of genital and pelvic pain in the second year postpartum, and to explore risk factors for their persistence.Methods.  Over a 6-month period, a questionnaire on genital/pelvic pain, sociodemographic and childbirth variables, breastfeeding, and chronic pain history was mailed to patients of the collaborating obstetrician at 12 months postpartum.Main Outcome Measures.  The prevalence, characteristics, and correlates of persistent genital/pelvic pain with postpartum onset.Results.  Almost half of the 114 participants (82% response rate; M = 14 months postpartum) reported a current (18%) or resolved (26%) episode of genital or pelvic pain lasting 3 or more months. Just under one in 10 (9%) mothers continued to experience pain that had begun after they last gave birth. This pain was described at various locations (e.g., vaginal opening and pelvic area), as moderate in intensity and unpleasantness, and most often as burning, cutting, or radiating. Although it was triggered by both sexual and nonsexual activities, none of the mothers affected were receiving treatment. Univariate analyses revealed that only past diagnosis with a nongenital chronic pain condition (e.g., migraine headache) was significantly correlated with (i) any history of chronic genital/pelvic pain or (ii) the persistence of pregnancy- or postpartum-onset genital or pelvic pain.Conclusions.  Postpartum genital and pelvic pain persists for longer than a year for a significant percentage of mothers. Women with a history of other chronic pain appear to be particularly vulnerable to developing persistent genital or pelvic pain. Paterson LQP, Davis SNP, Khalifé S, Amsel R, and Binik YM. Persistent genital and pelvic pain after childbirth. J Sex Med 2009;6:215–221.

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