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Pelvic Pain


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Sep 2019| Content last modified Sep 2019
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The pelvis is a group of bones between your hips. These bones surround lower belly organs, such as the bladder and bowels, and female organs such as the uterus (womb) and ovaries. Pain in these organs is felt in the pelvic area and is sometimes called pelvic pain. Pelvic pain is common in women but can be very serious.

  • Pelvic pain can be mild or severe and can make your pelvic area feel tender

  • The pain may come on suddenly and may be constant or come and go

  • Many women get cramps right before or during their monthly period, which is normal

  • See a doctor right away if you feel sudden, intense pelvic pain—it can be a sign of a serious problem

What causes pelvic pain?

The most common cause of pelvic pain is:

  • Cramps from having your monthly period (menstrual cramps)

You may also have cramps between periods, when your body releases an egg (called ovulating).

The most dangerous causes of pelvic pain include:

  • Appendicitis—an infection in your appendix, a small organ located between your small and large intestines

  • Ruptured ectopic pregnancy—a pregnancy in the wrong place, such as in your fallopian tubes, which connect your ovaries to your uterus (womb)

  • A twisted ovary

  • Bleeding or tearing in a blood vessel or organ

If you have one of these causes, doctors may need to do surgery.

Other causes of pelvic pain include:

  • Problems with your ovaries—such as a cyst on an ovary

  • Problems with your fallopian tubes—such as an infection in them

  • Problems with your bladder—such as an infection or bladder stones

  • Problems with your large bowel—such as constipation, gastroenteritis, or diverticulitis

  • Pregnancy, such as a miscarriage

  • Cancer of various organs

  • Physical, mental, or sexual abuse

When should I see a doctor for pelvic pain?

See a doctor right away if you have pelvic pain and any of these warning signs:

  • Dizziness, fainting, or shock (a dangerously low drop in blood pressure)

  • Fever or chills

  • Sudden, intense pain, especially if you're also feeling sick to your stomach, throwing up, and sweating a lot

See a doctor the same day if you've never had pelvic pain before and the pain is constant and getting worse.

See a doctor within a week or so if you have new pelvic pain that goes away, or if you have pelvic pain plus vaginal bleeding after you’ve stopped having your monthly period (menopause).

If you keep having pelvic pain but have no other signs, see a doctor when you can.

What will happen when I go to the doctor for pelvic pain?

Doctors will ask you questions about your pain and do an exam. You may also have some tests:

If you have very bad or lasting pain and other tests don’t show what's causing it, you may need a surgical procedure called laparoscopy. With this procedure, doctors give you medicine to put you to sleep (anesthesia). Doctors then make a small cut just below your belly button and insert a viewing tube to see what the problem is.

How do doctors treat pelvic pain?

Doctors treat the cause of your pelvic pain, if they can. They may give you pain medicine to make you feel better until they figure out what's causing your pain. But it's important for the doctors to see what's causing your pain and not just cover up the pain with medicine.

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