Pelvic Pain

Pelvic pain refers to a pain below your tummy button. There are many types of pelvic pain ranging from mild to severe. The pain can arise suddenly or be continual.

Recurrent (chronic) pain should be investigated by a doctor or gynaecologist to determine the cause and see if treatment is necessary. 

 

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There are many causes of acute and chronic pelvic pain, so don’t suffer in silence or feel too embarrassed to talk to a specialist doctor.

  • SEEK HELP – Seek help from a gynaecologist that provides a calm, unhurried environment.
  • DIAGNOSIS – Prompt diagnosis will help undercover what might be causing your symptoms.
  • TREATMENT – Knowing your treatment options allows you to make informed decisions about your women’s health.
  • DON’T DELAY – Prompt treatment of gynaecology conditions often results in a greater chance of success.

Symptoms

Pelvic pain can be sudden or long-term, continuous or intermittent, severe or mild. If the pain comes on suddenly, it is normally called acute pelvic pain. If it is persistent or recurrent, it is called chronic pelvic pain.

Chronic pelvic pain affects around one in six women. This type of pain is more intense than ordinary period pain.

Acute Pelvic Pain: Causes

Some of the causes of acute pelvic pain are:

  • Acute pelvic inflammatory disease – this is a bacterial infection of the womb, fallopian tubes or ovaries that requires immediate treatment with antibiotics. It often follows chlamydia or gonorrhoea.
  • Ovarian cyst – these are normally painless unless they burst or become twisted.
  • Urinary tract infection – this normally causes an urge to wee more often and, often, a burning sensation when you wee.
  • Appendicitis – this is characterised by pain on the lower right hand side of your tummy. It is caused by a swelling of the appendix, which is connected to the large intestine.
  • Peritonitis – this causes sudden pain in your abdomen that gradually becomes more severe and requires immediate medical treatment. It is caused by an inflammation of the peritoneum which is the tissue lining the abdomen.
  • Constipation or bowel spasm – this can be linked to Irritable Bowel Syndrome as well as changes in diet. Rarely it may be caused by something more serious such as a bowel obstruction.
  • Pelvic abscess – this is a collection of pus between the vagina and womb. It requires immediate hospital treatment.
  • Endometriosis – where small pieces of the womb lining are found outside the womb, such as on the ovaries, vagina or fallopian tubes.

Chronic Pelvic Pain Causes

Some of the causes of chronic pelvic pain are:

  • Endometriosis – where small pieces of the womb lining are found outside the womb, such as on the ovaries, vagina or fallopian tubes.
  • Chronic pelvic inflammatory disease – a bacterial infection of the womb, fallopian tubes or ovaries that often follows chlamydia or gonorrhoea.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome – a condition of the digestive system that can cause stomach cramps, diarrhoea, constipation and bloating.
  • Lower back pain.
  • Prolapse of the womb, where the womb slips down from its normal position producing a characteristic dragging pain.
  • Adenomyosis – a condition affecting the muscles of the womb causing painful, heavy periods.
  • Recurrent ovarian cysts
  • Ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
  • Hernia
  • Recurrent urinary tract infection or chronic interstertial cystitis (long-term inflammation of the bladder)
  • Fibroids – non cancerous tumours that grow in and around the womb.
  • Nerve damage

Diagnosis

It is important to see a doctor or specialist gynaecologist if you have acute or chronic pelvic pain.

There are many different potential causes. Your specialist doctor will talk to you about the pain you are experiencing and run tests to determine what is causing it.

Treatment

The recommended course of treatment will depend on your diagnosis but typically there are options that can help alleviate the pain and discomfort you are experiencing.

FAQs

During pregnancy, you may develop pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain (PPGP), which is caused by stiffness in your pelvic joints or the joints moving unevenly. If you develop PPGP you may experience:

  • pain at the front of your pelvis, above the pelvic bone
  • pain across one or both sides of your lower back
  • pain in your perineum (the bit between your vagina and your bottom)
    you may also develop pain in your thighs

Treatments for PPGP include:

  • exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor, stomach, back and hip muscles
  • pain relief such as TENS
  • a pelvic support belt or crutches
  • physiotherapy

You may also be able to relieve some of the pain by:

  • Resting when you can but making sure you remain active as much as possible without exacerbating the pain.
  • Wearing flat, supportive shoes.
  • Keeping your knees together when you get out of the car – if you sit on a plastic bag it can help you to swivel in your seat.
  • Sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees.
  • Taking things slowly and asking for help from those around you.

It is important to talk to your GP or gynaecologist if you experience pelvic pain during pregnancy as it can also be caused by ectopic pregnancy, which can occur in the early stages of pregnancy (at 6 or 7 weeks). This can be serious and requires urgent treatment.

Pelvic pain can vary in intensity and can be constant or intermittent. If you are experiencing pain on a regular basis, even if it is fairly mild, it is a good idea to see your doctor.

Endometriosis occurs when small pieces of the womb lining are found outside the womb, such as on the ovaries, vagina or fallopian tubes. You can read more about the condition here