What causes pelvic pain? Unfortunately, many conditions—including fibroids—can trigger this symptom. Equally troubling? Lots of women, especially women of color, don’t get enough time with or information from their doctors. And that’s why a new survey from the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology reveals that some of these women are seeking answers in unexpected places. Let’s take a closer look.
What Causes Pelvic Pain? The Search for Answers
Several different conditions can lead to chronic pelvic pain. Among the top culprits? Fibroids, endometriosis and adenomyosis. But what else do these conditions have in common? They often come with delayed diagnoses. And women who discuss their symptoms with doctors are often dismissed or ignored.
Maybe that’s why this new survey revealed that patients with chronic pelvic pain were twice as likely to use social media to understand or manage their condition than those without pain. In fact, 37.8% of women with pelvic pain sought health answers online compared to 19.7% of women living without this disruptive symptom.
The survey authors explain, “Social media is increasingly becoming a health resource for people suffering from complex and debilitating health conditions.” And that’s a problem because the internet doesn’t have all the answers.
Who’s Researching Pelvic Pain Online?
Who were the women involved in this research? Well, the study followed 517 women who presented with a new complaint of pelvic pain between February 2018 and April 2019. Each participant visited a gynecologist at either the Cleveland Clinic Florida, Legacy Health, Oregon Health & Science University, Scripps San Diego, Vanderbilt or the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. (Each of these hospitals offers minimally invasive gynecologic treatments.)
Now, you already know that women with pelvic pain hit the internet for answers at a higher rate. But that wasn’t the survey’s only important finding. In fact, it turns out that women in the pelvic pain group were more likely to become highly engaged with social media.
First, almost 40% of women with pain used social media as a way to cope with their discomfort. They had more trust for information they found on social media. They were also motivated by interpersonal engagement when they were online, while preferring interactive elements to their searches.
Likewise, these women had more trust for other women with similar symptoms, and they were less likely to trust doctors and formal health resources. All in all, this suggests that hearing and asking questions about other women’s treatment journeys could really matter to women who want to know, what causes pelvic pain.
As interventional radiologists offering minimally invasive fibroid treatments, that last fact matters a lot. Because, we can shout about UFE from the rooftops. But we know you’ll hear it better from women who have lived through your experience. And that’s why we highlight our #WCW series whenever possible. Which, as it turns out, goes right along with what the study authors recommend.
Giving Women Answers Online and in the Office
The study revealed how hard it still is for women to answer, what causes pelvic pain? In fact, women in the pain group saw an average of just under 3 physicians before getting a diagnosis. And that means we all have more work to do.
So, what do the study authors suggest? Here’s their takeaway message. “Our study suggests that higher social media use and engagement stems from medical needs unmet by the formal health care system.” And, to close that needs gap, doctors must create “a patient care environment in which both social media and formal care can exist together.” This, they say, will lead to better patient outcomes.
Luckily, this is nothing new to our Houston area fibroid experts. We want to help you find out what causes pelvic pain for you, so we meet you on Facebook and Pinterest to share medical answers alongside other women’s fibroid journey stories. Then, because we know you’ll still have questions, we always invite you into the office—or onto our Telehealth platform—for a comprehensive consultation.