• Understanding perineal pain: Women's descriptions

      Steen, Mary; Royal College of Midwives/University of Central Lancashire (Mark Allen Publishing, 2008-06-01)
      Women perceive, describe and react to pain differently; it cannot be easily quantified. Pain is a private and personal experience to the individual. It is, therefore, impossible for another person to know exactly what someone else’s pain feels like. When measuring pain there is a need to assess both the intensity and the quality of the pain to gain an insight into a person’s experience of pain. Therefore during a PhD Study which involved the investigation of the effectiveness of localised cooling treatments to alleviate perineal pain, women were asked to describe the pain as well as the intensity (Steen & Marchant, 2007). The quality of pain was measured by asking the woman to describe the pain in her own words. These words were analysed as pain descriptors under the themes of sensory, affective, evaluative and miscellaneous as described by the McGill Pain Scale. In addition, intensity, discomfort, physical symptoms, metaphors used and links to the expectations of the woman were considered. (Melzack & Wall, 1996). This article will give an overview of the pain syndrome, discuss measurement of pain methods and the use of word descriptors to assess the quality of pain. The assessment of perineal pain and women’s descriptions will be further explored. This insight will give an understanding of the pain experience of women who have perineal trauma following childbirth and this may lead to further research and the development of a specific evaluating tool.