Pelvic Pain: Possible Causes + When to See Your Doctor

pelvic pain

Pelvic pain, or pain that you’re experiencing in your pelvic area, can be extremely uncomfortable. The key is knowing whether or not it’s “normal” or if you need to seek the help of a medical professional. If you’re experiencing discomfort or aches and pains in your pelvic area, there can be a variety of causes. Some are harmless, some are warning signs you shouldn’t ignore. Here are eight possible causes of pelvic pain and when you need to see a doctor.

Why Do I Have Pelvic Pain? Possible Causes to Be Aware Of 

1. Menstrual cramps

For women who menstruate, it’s quite common for them to experience one to two days of cramping during their period. Menstrual cramping will typically occur immediately before a woman starts her period, as the uterus contracts and sheds its lining. The pain may feel similar to a muscle spasm or a jabbing pain. It can range from mild to very painful. If your pain is extremely painful during your period every month, be sure to tell your doctor so you can get some help.

2. Ovulation

If you feel a painful sensation on one side of your pelvis in the middle of your menstrual cycle, you may be experiencing something called “mittelschmerz”. Doctors use this German word to describe painful ovulation.

The discomfort may last for minutes or hours, and it may switch sides of the body, depending on which ovary released the egg. The pain is temporary and requires no specific treatment.

3. Interstitial cystitis

This can cause pelvic pain and symptoms such as painful urination, needing to urinate frequently, and pain during sex. Interstitial cystitis is persistent pain caused by bladder inflammation and there are several treatment options available.

4. Cystitis or urinary tract infection

Other possible causes of pelvic pain could include cystitis or a urinary tract infection, both of which are pretty common with women. Cystitis refers to inflammation in the bladder due to a bacterial infection. This happens because vaginal, rectal, or skin bacteria can enter the urethra and make their way to the bladder.

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is one that can occur anywhere in the urinary system, while cystitis occurs only in the bladder.

Occasionally, both types of infections may clear up on their own, but you may also need a short course of antibiotics. Either way, it’s a good idea to visit the doctor if you think you’re experiencing either of these infections.

5. Sexually transmitted infection

Pelvic pain may indicate the presence of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) such as gonorrhea or chlamydia. Along with pelvic pain, other symptoms of STIs may include painful urination, bleeding between periods, and changes in vaginal discharge.

If you have any or all of these symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor right away and abstain from sexual contact until you’ve been diagnosed.

6. Endometriosis

Another possible cause of pelvic pain could be endometriosis. Endometriosis occurs when endometrium, or tissue that lines the inside of the uterus, grows outside of the uterus instead.

Endometriosis may be a source of chronic, long-lasting pelvic pain in some women. If you think you may have endometriosis, seek help from a medical professional. Treatment can vary, but it’s important to be aware of your diagnosis, especially if you plan on trying to get pregnant one day.

7. Ectopic pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancy could be a cause of your pelvic pain. You may feel very sharp pain, and cramps in your pelvis, which are usually focused on one side. Other symptoms include nausea, vaginal bleeding, and dizziness.

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when an embryo implants itself anywhere outside of the uterus and starts growing. In an ectopic pregnancy, patients will have a positive pregnancy test and may have nausea and vomiting and other pregnancy symptoms. Anyone who suspects that they have an ectopic pregnancy should seek immediate medical care, as this is a life-threatening condition.

8. Ovarian cyst

Pelvic pain can also be caused by ovarian cysts. Ovarian cysts are a normal finding in a functional ovary.  Every month multiple follicles containing eggs will grow in preparation for ovulation. One follicle will grow larger and form a cyst that ovulates.

All of this is normal and not a problem. However, ovarian cysts are a problem when they become larger than normal and take longer to go away than usual – in this case, they can be painful. Occasionally, the release of an egg with ovulation can occur close to a small blood vessel and there can be bleeding inside the ovary. This is usually harmless and will resolve over time but can also be painful.

Essentially, persistent pain on one side of the pelvis that lasts from the time of ovulation to the next period and beyond may indicate an ovarian cyst that should be evaluated. If you think you have an ovarian cyst, see your doctor as they can identify them via an ultrasound and recommend a possible treatment plan.

Pelvic Pain Warning Signs: When You Should See a Doctor

If your pelvic pain becomes severe or is accompanied by any additional symptoms, you should absolutely see your doctor. While some infections could possibly clear up on their own, the risks of waiting and potential complications aren’t worth it. Also, anytime pelvic pain occurs in conjunction with a positive pregnancy test, you should be evaluated right away.

If your pelvic pain is mild and you suspect (based on when it occurs) that it’s just menstruation or ovulation, there’s probably no need to see your doctor, but don’t be afraid to ask about it at your annual well woman visit.

Are you looking for an OB/Gyn you can trust? Do you live in the Tucson area? Let us partner with you to help you achieve true health. Book an appointment today!