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Pelvic pain


Definition

Pelvic pain is pain in the lowest part of the stomach area and pelvis. It can refer to symptoms that come from the:

  • Reproductive system, which includes the organs and tissues involved in pregnancy and giving birth.
  • Urinary system, which removes waste from the body through urine.
  • Digestive system, which takes in, digests and absorbs nutrients from food and drink.

Pelvic pain also can refer to symptoms that come from muscles and connective tissue called ligaments in the pelvis.

Depending on its source, the pain can be:

  • Dull or sharp.
  • Constant or off and on.
  • Mild to severe.

The pain can spread to the lower back, buttocks or thighs. You might notice it only at certain times, such as when you use the bathroom or have sex.

Pelvic pain can come on suddenly. It may be sharp and last for a short time, also known as acute pain. Or it can last a long time and happen over and over again. This is called chronic pain. Chronic pelvic pain is any constant or off-and-on pelvic pain that lasts six months or more.

Causes

Many types of diseases and other health conditions can cause pelvic pain. Chronic pelvic pain can be due to more than one condition.

Pelvic pain can start in the digestive, reproductive or urinary systems. Some pelvic pain also can come from certain muscles or ligaments — for example, by pulling a muscle in the hip or the pelvic floor.

Pelvic pain also might be caused by irritation of nerves in the pelvis.

Female reproductive system

Pelvic pain might be caused by problems linked with organs in the female reproductive system. These problems include:

  • Adenomyosis
  • Endometriosis
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Vulvodynia

Pregnancy complications might lead to pelvic pain, including:

  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Intrauterine fetal death, or the loss of a pregnancy after 20 weeks.
  • Miscarriage
  • Placental abruption
  • Preterm labor

Pelvic pain also may be caused by symptoms tied to the menstrual cycle, such as:

  • Menstrual cramps
  • Mittelschmerz

Other causes in women or men

Other health conditions may cause pelvic pain. Many of these problems start in or affect the digestive system:

  • Appendicitis
  • Colon cancer
  • Constipation
  • Crohn's disease
  • Diverticulitis
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Ulcerative colitis (a type of inflammatory bowel disease)

Some problems in the urinary system that may cause pelvic pain are:

  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Kidney infection
  • Kidney stones (Hard objects that form inside the kidneys and are made of chemicals in urine.)
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI) (An infection in any part of the urinary system.)

Pelvic pain also might be due to health issues such as:

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Inguinal hernia (Tissue that bulges through a weak spot in the muscles of the abdomen.)
  • Past physical or sexual abuse.
  • Pelvic floor muscle spasms.
  • Prostatitis (A prostate condition that often is linked with inflammation.)

When to see a doctor

Sudden and severe pelvic pain could be an emergency. Get medical care right away.

Be sure to get pelvic pain checked by your doctor or other health care professional if it's new, it disrupts your daily life or it gets worse over time.

Content Last Updated: 23-Jun-2023
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