CHICAGO — Many women report vulvar and vaginal symptoms during pregnancy, but little is known about the frequency, severity, and timing of complaints such as vulvar pain, burning, itching, and dyspareunia, said Dr. Colleen M. Kennedy of the University of Iowa, Iowa City, in a poster presentation at the annual meeting of the Central Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Vulvar and vaginal symptoms account for more than 10 million office visits annually and represent the most common gynecologic complaint.
To identify the prevalence rates of burning, itching, pain, and dyspareunia during pregnancy and in the 3 months post partum, and to determine how rates of vulvar and vaginal symptoms compare in pregnant and nonpregnant women, Dr. Kennedy and her colleagues evaluated 103 pregnant women recruited from the University of Iowa obstetrics clinics. Sixty-three of these participants completed the final postpartum survey. The study also included 122 nonpregnant women in a control group.
The participants had a mean age of 28 years and were mostly white (92%) and married or living with a partner (81%); most had completed some education beyond high school (86%).
The results showed that both vulvar and vaginal symptoms commonly occur in pregnancy. Pregnant women reported vulvar pain more frequently in their second and third trimesters than in the first trimester, but pregnant women and their nonpregnant controls reported the same level of severity. Vaginal discharge increased in frequency and severity in the second and third trimesters. Dyspareunia was less common in the first trimester than in subsequent trimesters, but reached its peak in the postpartum period, particularly in those women who gave birth vaginally. All other symptoms decreased during the postpartum period.
“Symptoms are dynamic and change [during pregnancy],” said Dr. Kennedy. Compared with nonpregnant controls, the pregnant women in the study did not have higher rates of vulvar pruritus and burning.