Pelvic Pain

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What is pelvic pain?

Pelvic pain is pain or discomfort in the pelvic region, the area below your belly button. Some women describe the pain as a stabbing, burning or heavy feeling. The pain may be constant or variable and may range in intensity from mild to severe. Pain caused by injury often has a sudden onset, while pelvic pain resulting from an infectious or disease process may develop slowly and persist or worsen over time.

Pelvic pain is often experienced as cramping during a normal menstrual cycle. Pelvic pain may also be caused by reproductive, digestive, or urinary system diseases and disorders in which pain occurs during sexual intercourse, menstruation, bowel movements, or urination. Symptoms of pelvic pain can result from damage or injury to any of the structures within the female reproductive system, including the outer genitalia, clitoris, vagina, ovaries, or fallopian tubes.

Pain in the pelvis may be associated with cancer or disease in the bladder or colon. Sometimes perceived pelvic pain is actually a psychological symptom following sexual abuse, rape, or trauma.

Pain and discomfort in the vulva (vulvodynia) is often linked to pelvic pain. Other causes include pelvic inflammatory disease, polycystic ovary disease, sexually transmitted infections, and cancers. Further, pelvic pain may be related to a chronic underlying disease that affects other regions of the body.

Pelvic pain alone is rarely a serious medical condition; however, it may be associated with symptoms of a serious or life-threatening condition. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you have high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit), severe pain, chills, severe or uncontrollable vaginal bleeding, or rapid heart rate (tachycardia).

If your pelvic pain is persistent or causes you concern, seek prompt medical care.

What other symptoms might occur with pelvic pain?

Pelvic pain may accompany other symptoms that vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the pelvic region may also involve other body systems.

Reproductive system symptoms that may occur along with pelvic pain

Pelvic pain may accompany other symptoms affecting the reproductive system including:

  • Dysmenorrhea (painful menstrual cramps)
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Endometriosis (presence of uterine lining tissue outside the uterus)
  • Midcycle ovulation (Middelschmerz)
  • Ovarian cyst
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID, infection of a woman’s reproductive organs)
  • Polycystic ovary disease
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Uterine fibroids or benign tumors
  • Vaginitis

    Other symptoms that may occur along with pelvic pain

    Pelvic pain may accompany symptoms related to other body systems including:

    Symptoms that might indicate a serious condition

    In some cases, pelvic pain may indicate a serious condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have pelvic pain along with other serious symptoms including:

    • Abdominal, pelvic ,or lower back pain that can be severe
    • Chills
    • High fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit)
    • Rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
    • Severe or uncontrollable vaginal bleeding

    What causes pelvic pain?

    Pelvic pain may accompany other symptoms that vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the pelvic region may also involve other body systems.

    Reproductive organ causes of pelvic pain

    Pelvic pain may be caused by reproductive organ disorders including:

    • Dysmenorrhea (painful menstrual cramps)
    • Ectopic pregnancy
    • Endometriosis (presence of uterine lining tissue outside the uterus)
    • Midcycle ovulation (Middelschmerz)
    • Ovarian cyst
    • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID, infection of a woman’s reproductive organs)
    • Polycystic ovary disease
    • Sexually transmitted infections
    • Uterine fibroids or benign tumors
    • Vaginitis

    Other causes of pelvic pain

    Pelvic pain can also be caused by disorders or conditions involving systems other than the reproductive system including:

    Serious or life-threatening causes of pelvic pain

    In some cases, pelvic pain may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated by a health care provider. These include:

    • Cervical cancer
    • Colon cancer
    • Ectopic pregnancy (life-threatening pregnancy growing outside the uterus)
    • Ovarian cancer
    • Ovarian torsion (compromise of the blood supply to an ovary)
    • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID, infection of a woman’s reproductive organs)
    • Pelvic or abdominal trauma
    • Uterine cancer
    • Vaginal cancer
    • Vulvar cancer

    Questions for diagnosing the cause of pelvic pain

    To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your pelvic pain including:

    • Do you have any other symptoms?
    • How long have you felt pain in your pelvis?
    • What medications are you taking?
    • When do you feel pelvic pain?
    • Are you experiencing abnormal bleeding?
    • Could you be pregnant?

    What are the potential complications of pelvic pain?

    The potential complications of pelvic pain depend on their cause. Pelvic pain associated with serious medical conditions may have long-term and even potentially life-threatening complications. Getting prompt treatment of injuries or infections can help you avoid serious complications, such as deformity or widespread infection. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential problems. Left untreated, conditions that cause pelvic pain may lead to the following complications:

    • Abscess
    • Adverse effects of treatment
    • Infertility
    • Sepsis (life-threatening bacterial blood infection)
    • Sexual dysfunction
    • Spread of cancer
    • Spread of infection
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    Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
    Last Review Date: 2021 Jan 8
    THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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    2. Chronic pelvic pain. ACOG American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. https://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq099.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20140530T1106551074.
    3. Lamvu G, Steege JF. The anatomy and neurophysiology of pelvic pain. J Minim Invasive Gynecol 2006; 13:516.
    4. Kahan S, Miller R, Smith EG (Eds.). In A Page Signs & Symptoms, 2d ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams & Williams, 2009.