Prevalence and correlates of three types of pelvic pain in a nationally representative sample of Australian women

Marian K Pitts, Jason A Ferris, Anthony M A Smith, Julia M Shelley and Juliet Richters
Med J Aust 2008; 189 (3): 138-143.


Objective: To identify the prevalence and correlates of three types of pelvic pain (dysmenorrhoea, dyspareunia, and other chronic pelvic pain [CPP]) in a nationally representative sample of Australian women.

Design and setting: The CPP survey was part of a broader national study of health and relationships. Computer-assisted telephone interviews were administered to a random sample of 8656 Australian households; 4366 women aged between 16 and 64 years were interviewed in 2004 and 2005. Eighteen of the more than 200 potential survey questions related to pelvic pain.

Main outcome measures: Self-reports of dysmenorrhoea, dyspareunia, and any other CPP not associated with sexual intercourse or menstruation.

Results: Data on 1983 women aged 16–49 years who were still menstruating and sexually active were analysed. Prevalences were 71.7% for dysmenorrhoea, 14.1% for dyspareunia and 21.5% for other CPP; 23.3% of women reported no pelvic pain of any kind. Severe pain was reported by 15.0% (95% CI, 13.0%–17.1%) of women with dysmenorrhoea, 7.8% (95% CI, 5.0%–11.9%) of women with dyspareunia and 20.0% (95% CI, 16.1%–24.6%) of women with other CPP. Just over a third (34.2%) of women who reported any pain had sought advice from a health professional. Women reporting CPP were also likely to report other health conditions, most notably depression and anxiety. There were clear associations between CPP and sexual difficulties, pregnancy and pregnancy outcomes.

Conclusions: Rates of pelvic pain in Australian women are high. General practitioners need to be ready to discuss these issues with patients, particularly in relation to underlying anxiety and depression.

  • Marian K Pitts1
  • Jason A Ferris1
  • Anthony M A Smith1
  • Julia M Shelley1
  • Juliet Richters2

  • 1 Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University, Melbourne, VIC.
  • 2 School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW.



Our study was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Competing interests:

None identified.

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