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Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2013 Nov;209(5):422.e1-422.e10. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2013.08.020. Epub 2013 Aug 22.

The association of dysmenorrhea with noncyclic pelvic pain accounting for psychological factors.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, NorthShore University HealthSystem, Evanston, IL.



The factors that underlie pelvic pain are poorly understood. Specifically, the relative influence of dysmenorrhea and psychological factors in the etiology of noncyclic pelvic pain conditions, such as interstitial cystitis and irritable bowel syndrome, is unknown. To further characterize pelvic pain, we compared the frequency of menstrual, somatosensory, and psychological risk factors between women with and without severe noncyclic pelvic pain symptoms.


A total of 1012 reproductive-aged women completed a 112-item questionnaire with domains including mood, fatigue, physical activity, somatic complaint, and pain. Questionnaire items included existing items for menstrual distress and newly written items derived from qualitative interviews. The relationship of dysmenorrhea and noncyclic pelvic pain complaints (dyspareunia, dyschezia, or dysuria) was modeled using quantile regression.


Among women who menstruate regularly, those with dysmenorrhea had disproportionally more severe noncyclic pelvic pain (54/402, 13%) than women without dysmenorrhea (5/432, 1%; odds ratio, 13; 95% confidence interval, 5-33). In a multivariate-adjusted model, dysmenorrhea (β = .17), activity capability (β = .17), somatic complaint (β = .17), and bodily pain (β = .12) were the primary predictors of noncyclic pelvic pain. Depression (β = .03) and anxiety (β = .01) were not significantly predictive. The presence of dysmenorrhea, somatic complaint, and low activity capability predicted 90% of the cases of women with noncyclic pelvic pain.


The association between dysmenorrhea and noncyclic pelvic pain suggests that menstrual pain is an etiological factor in noncyclic pelvic pain, whereas depression and anxiety may be secondary effects. Longitudinal studies are needed to determine whether dysmenorrhea causally influences development of noncyclic pelvic pain or shares common underlying neural mechanisms.


dysmenorrhea; interstitial cystitis; irritable bowel syndrome; pelvic pain

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