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J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol. 1996 Mar;17(1):39-46.

Chronic pelvic pain and gynecological symptoms in women with irritable bowel syndrome.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Division of Consultation-Liaison, University of Washington, Seattle 98195, USA.


Chronic pelvic pain and irritable bowel syndrome are common disorders, yet very little is known about their comorbidity. As part of an epidemiological study of patients with irritable bowel syndrome or irritable bowel disease we inquired about a history of chronic pelvic pain and related gynecological problems, and hypothesized that distress associated with either of these conditions was additive in women with both syndromes. A medically trained interviewer evaluated a sequential sample of 60 women with irritable bowel syndrome and 26 women with inflammatory bowel disease in an urban gastroenterology clinic using the National Institute of Mental Health Diagnostic Interview Schedule, the Briere Child Maltreatment Interview (emotional, physical and sexual abuse), and a structured interview to elicit a lifetime history of chronic pelvic pain that was distinct from the history of bowel distress. Chronic pelvic pain was reported in 21 (35.0%) of the irritable bowel syndrome patients vs. 4 (13.8%) of the inflammatory bowel disease group (p < 0.05). Compared to women with irritable bowel syndrome alone, those with both irritable bowel syndrome and chronic pelvic pain were significantly more likely to have a lifetime history of dysthymic disorder, current and lifetime panic disorder, somatization disorder, childhood sexual abuse and hysterectomy. Logistic regression showed that mean number of somatization symptoms was the best predictor of a history of both irritable bowel syndrome and chronic pelvic pain compared either to inflammatory bowel disease or irritable bowel syndrome alone. Many women with irritable bowel syndrome may have a history of chronic pelvic pain as well. The high rates of psychopathology associated with irritable bowel syndrome and chronic pelvic pain independently are even higher in women with both syndromes, and women who present with either irritable bowel syndrome or chronic pelvic pain should probably be evaluated for both disorders.

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