What Can Cause Pelvic Pain in a Woman?

Reviewed on 2/12/2021

What is pelvic pain?

Pelvic pain is common in women and can have a variety of causes. Some of the possibilites include inflammation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and endometriosis.
Pelvic pain is common in women and can have a variety of causes. Some of the possibilities include inflammation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and endometriosis.

Pelvic pain is common in women and can have a variety of causes. The pain may originate from your genitals or be caused by problems in your surrounding organs. Sometimes pelvic pain can also be related to psychological issues.

The pain can be acute and happen suddenly or it can be chronic and last for months. Sometimes pelvic pain can go away before the specific cause is diagnosed. If you experience severe pain that lasts, you may need to consult your gynecologist

Variations in pain level range from sharp to dull aches. It’s also possible that your abdomen is sensitive to the touch. In some cases, pelvic pain in a woman may be accompanied by abnormal vaginal bleeding or vaginal discharge.

Signs and symptoms of pelvic pain

You may experience different symptoms of pelvic pain. Your pelvic pain will vary in severity and location. Some symptoms to look for include:  

Pain in your pelvic region can be worsened by activities like using the bathroom or having intercourse. Some women have had pain worsen during menstruation.

Types of pelvic pain

Pelvic pain can be experienced in many ways. There are five types of pain that you should be aware of to help your doctor make a proper diagnosis. They include: 

Localized pain

If you have localized pain, it may be caused by inflammation in your organs. 

Cramping pain

This kind of pain can be caused by spasms in your intestine, ureter, or appendix

Sudden onset of pain

You may experience sudden pain due to a deficiency of blood supply to your organs. This may be caused by an obstruction in the circulation of your blood and is usually temporary. 

Slow developing pain

This may happen because of inflammation in your appendix. It could also happen because of intestinal obstruction

Aggravated pain

You may experience this pain when you move or put pressure on your lower abdomen or groin region. This can be caused by irritation in your abdominal cavity lining. 

SLIDESHOW

Pelvic Pain: What's Causing Your Pelvic Pain? See Slideshow

Causes of pelvic pain in women

Pelvic pain in a woman can have many causes. It may be hard to pinpoint where your pain is coming from on your own. To determine where your pelvic pain could be coming from, you need to know the causes. Here are some possibilities: 

Inflammation

Inflammation is a common issue your body has to fight off. If you have a pelvic inflammatory disease, you may need to go on antibiotics to fight off potential infections. 

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

IBS causes your gastro-intestines to be uneasy which can lead to pelvic pain. This condition can also cause stomach cramps and bloating

Endometriosis

This is a painful condition that makes you feel like you are having menstrual cramps, but will persist past your period. Diagnosis of this condition often starts with a physical examination that includes your pelvis.

When to see the doctor for pelvic pain

Severe, sudden pelvic pain should be a cause for concern. See your doctor as it may be a sign of ovarian torsion or appendicitis. If you are pregnant, it could be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy. You will need to seek emergency medical treatment. 

Consider going to a doctor if you experience chronic pelvic pain for six months or more. Whether it’s persistent or it comes and goes, medical treatment may ease the pain once your doctor determines the cause.

Diagnosing pelvic pain in a woman

Your doctor can diagnose the root cause of your pelvic pain if it becomes overwhelming. 

They will ask about your medical history and perform a physical exam. Your doctor may also order blood work and urine tests. To determine the exact location of your pelvic pain, the doctor may recommend a pelvic ultrasound, laparoscopy, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A cystoscopy might be requested to get footage inside.

Treatments for pelvic pain

Most mild cases of pelvic pain do not require medical attention as they may come and go. You may take medications like pain relievers or muscle relaxants. 

If your pain is caused by issues in your reproductive system like endometriosis or menstruation, your doctor may prescribe hormone treatment. Hormone treatment includes birth control pills, progestin-releasing intrauterine devices, or other methods. 

Chronic pelvic pain that appears to have no root cause may be treated by “talk therapy.” You will be able to discuss the root of your feelings and find where you are holding pain related to mental health issues.

QUESTION

What is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)? See Answer

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References
American Family Physician: "Evaluation of Acute Pelvic Pain in Women."

Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: "How is pelvic pain diagnosed?"

Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: "How is pelvic pain treated?"

Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: "What are the symptoms of pelvic pain?"

Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Endometriosis."

Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Pelvic Pain."

NHS: "Pelvic pain."

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