Pelvic problems? Leeds researchers aim to raise awareness of chronic pelvic pain


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 TEAMWORK: Dr Zoe Darwin, Dr Kuldip Kaur Bharj, Dr Jill Edwards and Linda McGowen (all pictured) are leading the study alongside Ansa Ahmed

TEAMWORK: Dr Zoe Darwin, Dr Kuldip Kaur Bharj, Dr Jill Edwards and Linda McGowen (all pictured) are leading the study alongside Ansa Ahmed

Almost one in five people across the UK suffer from either back pain or asthma– two of the most commonly discussed health issues in today’s society.

However, what many people are not aware of is that this same prevalence rate, of 15 to 20 per cent, exists for a much less openly discussed issue – chronic pelvic pain.

These figures have been accessed from community surveys in both the US and UK, for example,  the Oxford’s Women’s Survey, reveals a worrying trend in women aged over 18.

Building on this work, and that of chronic pelvic research across the UK, a team at the University of Leeds are exploring whether a self-management package can be tailored to suit women with chronic pelvic pain  and potentially provide support for GPs to use when managing  cases of pelvic pain amongst South Asian women.

Dr Kuldip Bharj has nearly forty years education, research and practice experience in the field of midwifery and is one of five women leading the project.

She explained how around 75 per cent of women who suffer from pelvic pain don’t get a working diagnosis by simply visiting their local doctor.

DETERMINED: Dr Kuldip Bharj is hopeful that the group can identify a prevalence rate of pelvic pain amongst South Asian women and develop management styles for GPs

DETERMINED: Dr Kuldip Bharj is hopeful that the group can identify a prevalence rate of pelvic pain amongst South Asian women and develop management styles for GPs

“The study is around women from the South Asian community who have chronic pelvic pain,” she said.

“How we define pelvic pain can be quite difficult really because it can be one of several diagnoses. Sometimes doctors call it an umbrella diagnoses because so many things can cause the pain, said Professor McGowan

“We hope to develop a factual learning of lower abdomen pain which is based on solid evidence not just anecdotal notes.”

A previous study, carried out by Linda McGowan, Professor of Applied Health Research at the University of Leeds and member of the latest project, helped to develop a self-management package for doctors with help from health professionals, over 150 women took part in the study which enabled  GPs to be trained up following the subsequently developed management guide, based on what women’s needs were.

Professor McGowan added that the results proved positive to an extent, with a wider scope of communities needed for a fairer reflection.

“We had about 160 women in the trial but only nine were from South Asian communities,” she said.

“All the evidence that exists for these communities are anecdotal, things that have been said by GPs, but there is no hardcore evidence out there.

“In order to gain funding, to adapt what we already know to be culturally sensitive, we need to gather information about these women by speaking with them directly. We need to know how women experience the pain, how it affects their daily lives and that of their families and whether they have sought help from their doctors.  Women often develop their own coping strategies so it would be good to find out what they find most helpful to manage their symptoms.

“This way, we can publish data and adapt the package so it works for different groups.”

The research team are undertaking this small scale pilot study with around six or seven women from each of the community groups that is, Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani Muslim.  Information will be  collected  via face-to-face meetings.

Dr Bharj added: “With conditions such as pelvic pain, which are difficult to diagnose and where there is often no quick cure, women get frustrated and disengage from medical services.  

“I know some women within my own community who complain of pelvic pain; they experience difficulties and challenges and it is evident that this disorder affects their quality of life and personal relationships.

“What we need to do is find out how to keep South Asian women engaged with the healthcare professionals and the best way to manage their symptoms.”

Professor McGowan confirmed that “Currently, no work has been undertaken on the prevalence of pelvic pain in Asian communities in the UK.

“A previous study in India found there was a high prevalence rate amongst women yet treatment pathways were not developed. We hope to find out this data and develop an appropriate management package.”

If you have suffered from chronic pelvic pain (pain in the lower abdominal region not directly related to the menstrual period) for three months or more, are not pregnant or given birth in the past six month, and are from Bangladesh, India or Pakistani background, you could qualify to take part in this vital study.

Women interested in taking part in the study will receive a £10 high street voucher plus up to £25 in expenses for parking and travel.

If you think you qualify for the study and would like to get involved, please contact Dr Bharj or Dr Edwrads on 07738 856706 or 0113 343 1235. Alternatively, email k.k.bharj@leeds.ac.uk

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