Chronic pelvic pain affects 1 in 7 women. Here’s how to get the help you need.
The truth about pelvic pain
If you have pelvic pain, getting a proper diagnosis is never as cut-and-dried as learning, say, that you have high blood pressure. But unlike in the past—where women had to swear off sex and tight jeans to avoid pain—today more doctors are equipped to help you figure out what’s wrong so you can get relief. What doctors now know: Chronic pelvic pain is rarely due to just one problem. “Most women have three or more conditions, each of which adds to their overall discomfort,” says Richard Marvel, MD, director of the Center for Pelvic Pain at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center and an assistant professor of gynecology and obstetrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “If you treat just one cause, the patient won’t get much better.”
Even so, you still need to be your own educator and advocate. Here’s how to identify symptoms for the most common pelvic pain problems (such as endometriosis, interstitial cystitis, and vulvodynia), and learn how they’re diagnosed, and most importantly, treated.