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)
  • Endometriosis (presence of uterine lining tissue outside the uterus)
  • Ovarian cyst
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID, infection of a woman’s reproductive organs)
  • Polycystic ovary disease
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Uterine fibroids or benign tumors

Other causes of pelvic pain

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

  • Colon cancer
  • Colon disease or disorder
  • Digestive disorders
  • Emotional trauma related to sexual abuse
  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Sexual assault
  • Urinary tract infections

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
  • Infertility
  • Sepsis (life-threatening bacterial blood infection)
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Spread of cancer
  • Spread of infection

References:

Vulvodynia. ACOG American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/publications/patient_education/bp127.cfm. Accessed May 18, 2011.

Chronic pelvic pain. ACOG American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/publications/patient_education/bp099.cfm. Accessed May 18, 2011.

INTRODUCTION

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... Read more about pelvic painintroduction

SYMPTOMS

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.... Read more about pelvic painsymptoms

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.