Pelvic pain 

Introduction 

Pregnancy

This information doesn't focus on pelvic or abdominal pain during pregnancy.

Find out more about:

Pelvic pain in pregnancy

How to cope with pelvic pain in pregnancy, and tips on managing the condition

Pelvic pain is felt below your bellybutton. It may come on suddenly and severely, or could be mild and last for months.

See your GP as soon as possible if you are experiencing pelvic pain. If necessary, you may be referred to a gynaecologist. In some cases, the cause cannot be identified.

The following information is about pelvic pain in women, as men are rarely affected. It covers the possible causes of:

  • sudden, unexpected (acute) pelvic pain 
  • persistent or recurrent (chronic) pelvic pain

The information on this page aims to give you a better idea of the cause of your pelvic pain, but do not use it to self-diagnose your condition. Always see your GP for a proper diagnosis.

Sudden, unexpected pelvic pain

Pelvic pain that comes on suddenly for the first time is called acute pelvic pain. If you have acute pelvic pain, see your GP immediately to find out the cause and to get any necessary treatment.

Common causes of acute pelvic pain

The most common causes of acute pelvic pain in women who are not pregnant are:

  • an ovarian cyst – a fluid-filled sac that develops on an ovary and causes pelvic pain when it becomes twisted or bursts (it will probably need to be removed)
  • acute pelvic inflammatory disease – a bacterial infection of the womb, fallopian tubes or ovaries, which often follows a chlamydia or gonorrhoea infection and needs immediate treatment with antibiotics
  • appendicitis – a painful swelling of the appendix, a finger-like pouch connected to the large intestine, which usually leads to pain on the lower right-hand side of your abdomen (tummy)
  • urinary tract infection – you'll probably also have pain or a burning sensation when you urinate and you may need to urinate more often
  • constipation or bowel spasm – this may be brought on by changes in diet, medication or, in rare cases, an obstruction of the bowel

The above links will give you more information on these conditions.

Less common reasons for acute pelvic pain

Less common causes of acute pelvic pain include:

  • a pelvic abscess – a collection of pus between the womb and vagina that needs urgent treatment in hospital 
  • endometriosis – a long-term condition where small pieces of womb lining are found outside the womb (such as on the ovaries), leading to painful periods

Persistent or recurrent pelvic pain

If you've had pelvic pain for six months or more that either comes and goes or is continuous, it is known as chronic pelvic pain. Chronic pelvic pain is more intense than ordinary period pain and lasts for longer. It affects around one in six women.

If you have chronic pelvic pain, see your GP to find out the cause and to get any necessary treatment.

Common causes of chronic pelvic pain

The most common causes of chronic pelvic pain are:

  • endometriosis – a long-term condition where small pieces of womb lining are found outside the womb (such as on the ovaries)
  • chronic pelvic inflammatory disease – a bacterial infection of the womb, fallopian tubes or ovaries, which often follows a chlamydia or gonorrhoea infection and needs immediate treatment with antibiotics
  • irritable bowel syndrome – a common condition of the digestive system that can cause stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation

The above links will give you more information on these conditions.

Less common reasons for chronic pelvic pain

Less common causes of chronic pelvic pain include:

  • recurrent ovarian cysts – fluid or blood-filled sacs that develop on the ovaries   
  • a recurrent urinary tract infection
  • lower back pain
  • prolapse of the womb – the womb slips down from its normal position and usually causes a "dragging" pain
  • adenomyosis – endometriosis that affects the muscle of the womb, causing painful, heavy periods
  • fibroids – non-cancerous tumours that grow in or around the womb
  • chronic interstitial cystitis – long-term inflammation of the bladder
  • inflammatory bowel disease – a term used to describe two chronic diseases, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, which affect the gut
  • hernia – where an internal part of the body pushes through a weakness in the surrounding muscle or tissue wall
  • trapped or damaged nerves in the pelvic area – these may cause sharp, stabbing or aching pain in a specific area, which often gets worse with certain movements

Page last reviewed: 30/04/2014

Next review due: 30/04/2016

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Comments

The 2 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

ses101 said on 05 September 2013

Hi Helenlegs11, I totally agree. I have been suffering with suspected pudendal neuralgia for over 13 years, and did receive injections through the NHS in 2004-05, but unfortunately they didn't help. I am sure there are many more people like me who are suffering and who have had very little help or encouragement from the NHS, government or society in general.

Pain control should be made as high a priority as cancer research, as it destroys people's lives in a different, but just as deadly way. The fact that many pain sufferers are now losing their benefits will only exacerbate the desperate state of their lives.

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helenlegs11 said on 17 August 2012

It would be great if there could be a link mentioning pelvic nerve pain. Which can effect men as well as women. There are many pelvic nerves that can be compromised within the pelvic area including the pudendal, cluneal, posterior cutaneous,ilionguinal and more. Typical nerve pain would be burning, tingling and/or shooting sometimes with numbness.
Pudendal neuralgia is the better known of these problems but it very difficult to find treatment although there are a couple of Doctors who do have the speciality to diagnose and treat the problem.

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