Women's Health USA 2007
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Health Status > Health Indicators

Gynecological and Reproductive Disorders

Gynecological disorders affect the internal and external organs in a woman’s pelvic and abdominal areas and may affect a woman’s fertility. These disorders include vulvodynia—unexplained chronic discomfort or pain of the vulva—and chronic pelvic pain, which is a consistent and severe pain occurring mostly in the lower abdomen for at least 6 months. While the causes of vulvodynia are unknown, recent evidence suggests that it may occur in up to 16 percent of women, usually beginning before age 25, and that Hispanic women are at greater risk for this disorder.1 Chronic pelvic pain may be symptomatic of an infection or indicate a problem with one of the organs in the pelvic area.2

Reproductive disorders may affect a woman’s ability to get pregnant. Examples of these disorders include polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, and uterine fibroids. PCOS occurs when immature follicles in the ovaries form together to create a large cyst, preventing mature eggs from being released. In most cases, the failure of the follicles to release the eggs results in a woman’s inability to become pregnant. An estimated 5–10 percent of women in the United States are affected by PCOS. Endometriosis, in which tissue resembling that of the uterine lining grows outside of the uterus, is estimated to affect nearly 5.5 million women in North America. Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that grow underneath the lining, between the muscles, or on the outside of the uterus. A hysterectomy—abdominal surgery to remove the uterus—is one option to treat certain conditions including chronic pelvic pain, uterine fibroids, PCOS, and endometriosis when symptoms are severe.2

In 2004, 8.1 percent of women aged 20–54 years had endometriosis and 15.6 percent had uterine fibroids, but the prevalence of both disorders varied with age. Of women aged 20–54 years, endometriosis was most common among the 35- to 44-year-old age group (12.4 percent), while uterine fibroids were most common among 45- to 54-year-olds (27.6 percent). Women aged 20–34 years were least likely to have either disorder (4.1 and 2.1 percent, respectively).

1 Harlow et al A Population-Based Assessment of Chronic Unexplained Vulvar Pain: Have we underestimated the prevalence of vulvodynia? JAMWA. 2003; 58: 82-88.

2 National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. www.nichd.nih.gov. Viewed 4/16/07.


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Women's Health USA 2007 is not copyrighted. Readers are free to duplicate and use all or part of the information contained on this page. Suggested Citation: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Women's Health USA 2007. Rockville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2007.