The use of quality of life (QoL) instruments in chronic pelvic pain (CPP) will allow a more objective assessment of patient-centred clinical outcomes. However, there is concern that not enough emphasis is placed on clinical face validity (i.e. issues which are of importance to patients and reflect their experiences and concerns). To explore this issue, we performed a systematic review of published research. Relevant papers were identified through electronic scanning of six electronic databases and by manual searching of bibliographies of known primary and review articles. Studies were selected if they assessed women with CPP for life quality, either developing QoL instruments or applying them as an outcome measure. Selected studies were assessed for the quality of their QoL instruments using a 17-item checklist, including 10 items for clinical face validity and seven items for measurement (psychometric) properties. A total of 19 articles were eligible for inclusion in the review. The generic Short Form 36 Health Survey Questionnaire (SF-36) was used most frequently, being employed in 10/19 (53%) of the studies. Three studies developed disease-specific QoL instruments for CPP complying with 59 - 77% of the quality criteria. Overall, quality assessment showed that only 4/18 (22.2%) studies complied with more than half the criteria for face validity, whereas 12/18 (66.6%) studies complied with more than half of the criteria for measurement properties (P = 0.0001). Among existing QoL instruments, compliance with the quality criteria for measurement properties is higher than for clinical face validity. There is a need to develop disease specific QoL instruments for CPP with face validity in addition to sound measurement properties.