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Papers of the Week

Papers: 9 May 2020 - 15 May 2020

Human Studies

2020 May 08

Scand J Pain

Raising awareness about chronic pain and dyspareunia among women – a Swedish survey 8 months after childbirth.



Background and aims Although several studies have been conducted, knowledge about chronic pain and dyspareunia after childbirth is still limited. The aim of this study was to explore the prevalence of chronic pain 8 months after childbirth in a cohort of Swedish women. The characteristics of chronic pain, such as, pain intensity, localization and frequency as well as pain interference with daily activities were examined. An additional aim was to describe the prevalence and intensity of dyspareunia. Methods Data were obtained through two self-administered questionnaires and the patient record system, Obstetrix. The first questionnaire was distributed on the maternity ward, 24-36 h after labour, to Swedish-speaking women who had given birth to a living child (n = 1,507). The second questionnaire was sent by post 8 months after childbirth. We collected data about demographic and social characteristics, pain presence and its onset, as well as pain intensity, frequency, bodily localization and pain interference with activities of women's daily life. Results In total, 1,171 (77.7%) responded to both questionnaires and were included in the analysis. Eight months after giving birth, totally 16.7% (195/1,171) of the women reported chronic pain related to childbirth. Of these, 9.1% (106/1,171) of women reported chronic pain with onset during pregnancy, 4.5% (53/1,171) experienced chronic pain with onset following labour and 3.1% (36/1,171) of women had both chronic pain with onset during pregnancy and chronic pain with onset following labour (each participant could only appear in one of the groups). Women reported a lower prevalence of chronic pain after vaginal delivery than caesarean section (61/916, 6.7% vs. 28/255, 11%, p = 0.021, OR 1.73, 95% CI 1.1-2.8). Moreover, 19.2% (211/1,098) of women experienced dyspareunia. There was no difference regarding prevalence of dyspareunia and the mode of delivery. Of those women who had a vaginal delivery, 19.5% (167/858) experienced pain during intercourse and the corresponding number for women after caesarean section was 18.3% (44/240) (p = 0.694, OR 0.929, CI 0.6-1.3). Approximately 80% of women with chronic pain, and 60% of women that experienced dyspareunia, rated their worst pain as moderate or severe (NRS 4-10). The corresponding number regarding average chronic pain was between 50 and 70%. More than 35% of the women with chronic pain scored pain interference with daily activities as ≥4 on a 0-10 NRS. Conclusions In our study, chronic pain 8 months after childbirth was reported by one in six women and one in five of the women experienced dyspareunia. The intensity of both chronic pain and dyspareunia was reported as moderate to severe in a significant proportion of women and chronic pain interfered considerably with daily activities. Implications There is a need to raise awareness among healthcare providers of this clinical problem as well as to revise and upgrade education regarding pain after childbirth to prevent potential long-term health problems, women's suffering and increased need for health care. The development of strategies for prevention, follow-up and treatment of pain is warranted. More research, including women's experiences of pain as well as intervention studies, are also needed.