Salivary cortisol concentrations, stress and quality of life in women with endometriosis and chronic pelvic pain

Stress. 2008 Sep;11(5):390-7. doi: 10.1080/10253890701840610.


The objective of this study was to evaluate the perceived stress index, quality of life, and hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis activity in women with endometriosis and chronic pelvic pain. For the study, 93 women with endometriosis and 82 healthy women volunteered. The visual analogue scale (VAS) (0=no pain; 10=severe pain) was used to determine pain intensity; the perceived stress questionnaire (PSQ) defined stress index, and the health-related quality-of-life (HRQOL)-SF-36 questionnaire was used to evaluate quality of life. Salivary cortisol was measured at 0800, 1600, and 2000 h and the awakening cortisol response was assessed to evaluate the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis activity. The results show that women with endometriosis and chronic pelvic pain of moderate intensity (4.1+/-0.58, mean+/-SEM) have higher levels of perceived stress (0.55+/-0.01 versus 0.42+/-0.01, p<0.05), a poorer quality of life expressed as lower scores for all items of the inventory and hypocortisolism. Lower levels of salivary cortisol were observed in all three samples collected, as well as in the awakening cortisol response, for women with endometriosis (0.19+/-0.09 microg/dl) when compared with controls (0.78+/-0.08 microg/dl, p<0.05 l), and it was independent of pain intensity and Mental health (MH) scores in SF-36. We concluded that women with endometriosis and chronic pelvic pain show low concentrations of salivary cortisol and a high level of perceived stress, associated with a poor quality of life. Whether the hypocortisolism was an adaptive response to the aversive symptoms of the disorder or a feature related to the etiology of endometriosis remains to be elucidated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease
  • Endometriosis / physiopathology*
  • Endometriosis / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism*
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiology
  • Pelvic Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pelvic Pain / psychology*
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiology
  • Quality of Life*
  • Saliva / chemistry*
  • Stress, Physiological / physiopathology*
  • Stress, Physiological / psychology


  • Hydrocortisone