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Most Common Causes of Pelvic Pain

Women experience pelvic pain in the area under the navel and above the groin, in the front portion of the lower abdomen. While pelvic pain often originates from common issues related to menstruation or digestive problems, it can also indicate conditions that require emergency treatment.

The first step in relieving pelvic pain involves identifying the source of your symptoms. Gary Willen, MD, of Tahoe Women’s Care in Carson City, Nevada, has the expertise necessary to accurately assess and diagnose your pelvic pain. Dr. Willen can also recommend the best treatment for relief, with options that include lifestyle changes, medication, or surgery.

Intense, worsening, or unfamiliar pelvic pain requires a medical evaluation. Some of the most common causes of pelvic pain include the following conditions. 


Appendicitis occurs when your appendix, a small organ in the lower right-hand side of your abdomen, becomes infected or inflamed. Pain typically begins around your navel and moves to produce a sharp, severe pain along your lower right abdomen. You may also experience vomiting, nausea, and fever. 

Appendicitis requires immediate medical attention. If your appendix bursts, it could spread the infection into your abdominal cavity and the rest of your body. 

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

IBS appears without evidence of structural or biochemical abnormalities in common diagnostic tests. It may involve genetics, stress, prior infection, or trauma. Symptoms of IBS can include painful pelvic cramps, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. Over-the-counter and prescription medications can help control symptoms and regulate bowel movements. 

Menstrual cramps

Menstrual cramps typically occur just before the start of menstruation when the level of prostaglandins increases in the lining of the uterus. The levels decrease as the lining sheds. Treatment can involve non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), target prostaglandins, and some forms of birth control that contain estrogen and progestin. 


Ovulation occurs when your ovary releases a mature egg along with fluid during menstruation. You can experience pelvic pain that feels like a pang or mild ache when the fluid spreads in the pelvic area and causes irritation. The pain may switch sides of your body each month to match the ovary that released the egg. It may last for minutes or hours and requires no treatment or intervention.

Interstitial cystitis

Interstitial cystitis is bladder inflammation without an apparent cause. Along with pelvic pain, you may feel pressure in your bladder area. This condition can also cause pain between the vagina and anus, painful and/or frequent urination, and painful sex. Treatment options include physical therapy, oral medications, nerve stimulation, and surgery.


Endometriosis results when uterine tissue grows outside the uterus on your ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, or bowel. These cells respond to uterine hormonal changes, causing them to bleed and become inflamed during your period. The result can produce pain much more intense than menstrual cramps. 

Treatments for endometriosis include hormonal contraceptives, pain medication, or surgical removal of the endometrial lesions or the entire uterus.

Uterine fibroids

Uterine fibroids appear as noncancerous muscular tumors that grow in your uterus, on the wall of your uterus, or on its surface. In addition to pelvic pain, uterine fibroids can cause discomfort in your lower back and painful sex. They may also cause extreme bleeding or menstrual cramping. When fibroid symptoms become severe, treatments can include medications, noninvasive procedures, or surgery. 

Ovarian cysts

Ovarian cysts are created by fluid that gathers when a follicle doesn’t release an egg or recloses after releasing one. Symptoms include pelvic pressure, sharp pelvic pain, irregular periods, and pain after sex. While most ovarian cysts disappear without treatment, some may bleed or burst, causing severe pelvic pain that requires immediate medical attention. 

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) 

PID occurs when bacteria from the vagina or cervix enter the uterus. PID often results from a sexually transmitted infection (STI) such as chlamydia or gonorrhea. Pelvic pain, abnormal vaginal discharge, and painful sex or urination may occur. Treatment requires antibiotics. Early intervention can prevent uterine scarring, which can cause miscarriage and infertility.  

Ectopic pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancy results when an embryo implants outside the uterus and begins to grow there. Symptoms include sharp pelvic pain or intense cramps on one side. You may also experience nausea, vaginal bleeding, and dizziness. Ectopic pregnancy is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate medical treatment.

Don’t suffer another day with debilitating pelvic pain. Schedule an appointment or call our office for an examination to begin your journey toward relief. 

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