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Case study: Mother on drugs trial for chronic pelvic pain

Buckinghamshire’s Samantha Russell was sterilised because of lifelong pelvic pain and chose to take part in an NHS research trial at Milton Keynes University Hospital into her condition.

The NIHR-supported study is looking at whether painkiller gabapentin is an effective treatment for chronic pelvic pain.

Mrs Russell said: “My surgeon told me about the drug trial and at first I felt quite sceptical because I’ve taken so much medication that doesn’t manage the pain that I don’t want to be taking it anymore.

“I eventually decided to take part because nothing else I had been offered was working and life is pretty miserable being in a lot of pain.”

Mrs Russell has been experiencing chronic pelvic pain since she started her menstrual cycle in 1998 aged 13.

Chronic pelvic pain is commonly caused by endometriosis, a long-term condition where pieces of womb lining are found outside the womb, leading to painful periods.

The mother-of-two said: “I would have a week off of school per month and used to pass out with pain, it was that severe.

“That went on for a few years with doctors telling me that it was just a woman thing and to put up with it. They put me on different pills and painkillers to help with the pain, but none of them worked.”

Mrs Russell’s pains stopped in 2004 when she became pregnant with her first child at 19 and her pains returned in 2008 at 23 when she was diagnosed with endometriosis. She said: “When the pain came back, it was no longer monthly when I was on my period, I was constantly suffering.”

After her diagnosis, she experienced five miscarriages over 18 months before eventually becoming pregnant with her second child in 2010.

Mrs Russell said: “The miscarriages obviously affected me quite a bit. I was distraught when I was having them. I was never really career minded; I always wanted to have children. Because my first pregnancy was healthy, I was shocked that I kept miscarrying.

“My health during my second pregnancy was pretty awful, I spent a lot of my pregnancy in and out of hospital.

“I decided to be sterilised because I didn’t feel that I could emotionally cope with that again. I couldn’t put myself or children through any more miscarriages or stays in hospital.

“Since then my symptoms had got steadily worse. My periods are horrendous, I have to schedule my plans around them. Sometimes I can’t even leave the house because the bleeding is that bad.

“Without these research projects, what hope is there for everyone else? I’ve got two girls who could potentially have this problem, and without these research projects, nobody’s going to find a cause or way to treat it.”