Attention Women: Push for a Correct Diagnosis for Pelvic Pain

Sometimes it can be very difficult to get your doctor to actually hear what you are telling them. They are the ones with the years of experience and training, we are simply the ones with the problem and there is no reason why we should know better than them. Well throw that idea out the window. Pelvic pain in women is commonly diagnosed as menstruation related. If you are experiencing severe pain, then it is important to force a diagnosis from your doctor.

Over four years ago, the pelvic pain I experienced was so debilitating that it interfered with my job and every day life. I was afraid to leave the house for fear that the pain would suddenly come on and there was nothing I could do about it. My life was suffering and so was my husband’s. I was eventually laid off from my job although they claimed it was due to lack of work. I am sure my illness had something to do with it but I was in too much pain to care.

The pain I was experiencing is unfortunately not uncommon. Neither are the steps I was forced to go through on the way to a correct diagnosis. It is quite interesting that many doctors will first question your bowels before they question your female anatomy. It is understandable in some ways because the bowels are directly behind the female organs. The first step on my journey began with a gastroenterologist. I was poked and prodded and given the diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Irritable Bowel Syndrome is very common, especially in women. It is also the most frequent diagnosis for pelvic pain. I was given medication and sent on my way. No such luck. I was back at the gastroenterologist shortly thereafter and was set up for a colonoscopy. At the age of twenty-one, a colonoscopy is a little surprising. Not surprising was the fact that nothing was discovered and it was one of the worst experiences of my life. IBS is a diagnosis that is handed out like candy. There is no real way of determining IBS, and so a list of symptoms, including pelvic pain generally leads to the IBS diagnosis. Sadly, many women will take this diagnosis when it is ultimately incorrect. There are definitely women who have IBS and who experience pelvic pain, my advice is about when you “know” that is not what it is and forcing your doctor to listen to you.

Since many women need a referral to see a gynecologist except for yearly pap visits, it is important to keep your primary care physician (PCP) involved. Luckily, my PCP referred me right away. Even though I repeatedly described my pelvic pain, it took several visits to the gyn and several uncomfortable minutes of poking and prodding before the doctor gave me the option to have an exploratory laparoscopy. She thought that I might be dealing with endometriosis. I quickly agreed to the surgery.

A laparoscopy is a simple procedure that involves entering through the belly button with a camera and then making several smaller incisions in the abdomen to insert the instruments. This surgery because it was exploratory could have just involved the camera and no tools if nothing was found. This is an outpatient surgery.

The surgery went quite well for me. I was lucky to not have endometriosis but I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). My pelvic pain was due to a hemorrhaging cyst on my left ovary. Once she removed it, I was left without any pain.
The important concept I am trying to push here is to push your doctor to listen to you when you are having pelvic pain. If you are given the diagnosis of IBS or some other bowel problem and you don’t feel that is accurate, then push further. There is no need to wait in pain. While the story I shared seems like it went quickly, it was actually close to a year before I was diagnosed. That was a very long year. Some women I have spoken with have dealt with pelvic pain for several years in search of an answer. My diagnosis was PCOS, but there are so many potential problems that it is important to be checked thoroughly. An exploratory laparoscopy sounds a little extreme, but it is well worth the minor discomfort after the surgery to have peace of mind about your pain. If you are experiencing pelvic pain then push for the correct diagnosis and don’t stop until you are comfortable and the pelvic pain subsides.

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