What are the use patterns and factors associated with combined hormonal contraception (CHC) ineffectiveness or discontinuation due to side-effects in patients with endometriosis and pelvic pain?
Worse chronic pelvic pain (CPP) severity and pelvic floor myalgia were associated with continuous CHC ineffectiveness, while poorer quality-of-life was associated with continuous CHC discontinuation due to side-effects.
CHC is a first line of therapy for endometriosis-associated pelvic pain in women. However, some patients state that CHC is ineffective for their pain, while others have to discontinue CHC due to side-effects.
Analysis of a prospective patient database from a tertiary care referral center for patients with endometriosis and pelvic pain between December 2013 and April 2015 was carried out.
A total of 373 patients of reproductive age with endometriosis from the database were included in the study. Data included patient self-reported questionnaires, physical examination findings and validated instruments. There were four variables of interest: history of cyclical CHC ineffectiveness (yes/no), history of cyclical CHC discontinuation due to side-effects (yes/no), history of continuous CHC ineffectiveness (yes/no) and history of continuous CHC discontinuation due to side-effects (yes/no). The primary outcome was CPP severity for the past 3 months (score of 0-10), and secondary outcomes were other pelvic pain scores, quality-of-life on the Endometriosis Health Profile 30 (EHP-30) and underlying conditions including irritable bowel syndrome, painful bladder syndrome, abdominal wall pain, pelvic floor myalgia and depression, anxiety and pain catastrophizing.
Among the 373 cases in the dataset, prior cyclical CHC use was reported by 228 (61.1%) women, of which 103 (27.6%) stated it was ineffective for their pain and 94 (25.2%) stated they discontinued CHC due to side-effects. Previous continuous CHC use was reported by 175 (46.9%) women, of which 67 (18.0%) stated it was ineffective and 59 (15.8%) stated they discontinued due to side-effects. Worse CPP severity in the last 3 months was associated with a history of continuous CHC ineffectiveness ( < 0.001). Poorer quality-of-life was present in women who reported a history of continuous CHC discontinuation due to side-effects ( = 0.005). Among the underlying conditions, pelvic floor tenderness (as a marker of pelvic floor myalgia) was associated with CHC ineffectiveness.
This study involved patient recall and no longitudinal follow-up. Also, we do not have data on the type of side-effect that led to discontinuation. Medication ineffectiveness was reported subjectively by the patient rather than using standardized criteria. Finally, the diagnosis of endometriosis was based on previous surgery or a current nodule or endometrioma on examination/ultrasound; without prospective surgical data on all the patients, it was not possible to do a sub-analysis by current surgical features (e.g. stage).
In women with endometriosis, CHC ineffectiveness was associated with worse CPP and pelvic floor myalgia, which suggests myofascial or nervous system contributors to CPP that does not respond to hormonal suppression. A tender pelvic floor, as a sign of pelvic floor myalgia, may be a clinical marker of patients with endometriosis who are less likely to have an optimal response to hormonal suppression. For women who discontinue CHC due to side-effects, research is needed to help alleviate these side-effects as these patients report worse quality-of-life.
This work was supported by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Transitional Open Operating Grant (MOP-142273) as well as BC Women’s Hospital and the Women’s Health Research Institute. PY is also supported by a Health Professional Investigator Award from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research. MB/CA has financial affiliations with Abbvie and Allergan; the other authors have no conflicts of interest.

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