Causes of Pelvic Pain in Women and When to See a Doctor

Woman stands in her kitchen and holds her pelvis in pain

Pelvic pain refers to any pain above your legs and below your belly button. There are several pelvic pain causes — some are minor and others are serious. It’s important to be aware of pelvic pain and to talk with your doctor if its intensity, frequency, or duration becomes concerning. 

What Is the Most Common Reason for Pelvic Pain?

The most common cause of pelvic pain is menstrual cramps. These are normal, and while they’re unpleasant, they aren’t a cause for concern. 

If you’re familiar with the discomfort from cramps or painful ovulation and you experience it during each menstrual cycle, you don’t need to talk with your doctor unless you want to discuss strategies for minimizing it. The same is true for a normal pregnancy. 

However, pelvic pain can be different or more intense. If it is, it may be caused by one of the issues below, and you should talk with your doctor. 

Pelvic inflammatory disease 

Also referred to as PID, pelvic inflammatory disease is typically due to complications from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like gonorrhea and chlamydia. PID can damage tissue in the uterus and cause fertility issues, so early diagnosis and treatment are important. 

Cysts and fibroids

Uterine cysts and fibroids are noncancerous growths. Cysts form when an egg follicle fails to release the egg. In many cases, cysts resolve on their own. Fibroids tend to cause pain if they grow to a certain size. They may also cause increased cramping and heavier menstrual flow. 

Endometriosis

In this disorder, uterine tissue grows outside of the uterus. It most often involves the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the tissue lining the pelvis. Endometriosis can cause pain that is sometimes severe, particularly during menstruation.

Cancer

Cancer involves abnormal cell growth in the body. It may cause pelvic pain if it occurs in the ovaries, uterus, or cervix. 

Ectopic pregnancy  

In a normal pregnancy, a fertilized egg implants and grows in the main section of the uterus. In an ectopic pregnancy, a fertilized egg implants in some other area, most often in a fallopian tube. Ectopic pregnancy pain is an indicator that the pregnancy won’t continue normally and the fertilized egg won’t survive. 

Miscarriage

A miscarriage is the spontaneous loss of a pregnancy before the 20th week. Up to 20% of pregnancies end in a miscarriage. Most miscarriages occur because the fetus didn’t develop normally.

Pelvic Pain Diagnosis

Pelvic pain can cover the spectrum from dull pain in the uterus area to sharp pain in the pubic area. If you experience unusual or intense pelvic pain, you should talk with your doctor. 

They can order any of several tests to determine pelvic pain causes in women. These include:

  • Pregnancy test
  • Vaginal culture to check for sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Pelvic or abdominal X-ray
  • Ultrasound imaging
  • Diagnostic laparoscopy to view structures in the abdomen and pelvis
  • Hysteroscopy to examine the uterus 
  • Colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy to view parts of the colon and rectum
  • Stool guaiac test to check for blood in the stool

Awareness and Pelvic Pain Diagnosis are Key

Pelvic pain can have both minor and serious causes. Being aware of unusual pelvic pain and contacting your doctor to have the issue diagnosed is the best way to get proper treatment and relief. 

Baptist Health Offers Comprehensive Women’s Services

Don’t suffer needlessly from pelvic pain. Learn about Baptist Health women’s services. If you need to see a doctor and don’t have one yet, find one using our online directory


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