Given the wide range of gynecological conditions and problems that can cause pelvic pain, it’s not surprising that it ranks as one of the most common complaints among women of all ages.
Pelvic pain is any unmistakable sensation of discomfort that affects your lower belly, or the area below your belly button and between your hips. Some women experience sharp, cramp-like pain that comes and goes intermittently, while others feel an ongoing ache accompanied by deep pressure.
Oftentimes, pelvic pain follows a noticeable pattern: It may occur before your menstrual cycle, for example, or it may emerge after you eat, when you urinate, or during sexual intercourse. Some women experience pelvic pain after long periods of sitting.
Pelvic pain may be common, but it’s also complex. It can be caused by a single underlying problem, or it can be the result of two or more co-existing problems. Because it can be difficult to diagnose, three in five women with ongoing pelvic pain don’t know what’s causing their problem.
Here at Tahoe Women’s Care, we’ve helped countless women overcome chronic pelvic pain, and we can help you, too. Read on to learn some of the most common causes of chronic pelvic pain, and when pelvic pain should prompt a visit.
Common causes of pelvic pain
Pelvic pain can be a symptom of a variety of gynecological conditions, ranging from severe menstrual cramps to inflammatory infections. Common causes include:
Fibroids, which are noncancerous growths that develop within or on the uterine wall, are one of the most common causes of long-term pelvic pain and pressure. Although they usually first emerge during your childbearing years, they’re diagnosed most often in women who are in their forties or fifties.
It’s thought that up to four in five women have fibroids, although not all women experience symptoms. That’s because fibroids can be small and virtually undetectable, or they can be large, bulky masses that distend your uterus.
Endometriosis, which affects more than 10% of women of reproductive age in the United States, causes the tissues that normally line the uterus to grow outside the organ itself. Endometrial tissue may form on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, the outer surface of the uterus, or on other pelvic tissues, which can lead to scar tissue and adhesions.
Endometriosis is a frequent cause of pelvic pain, especially during menstruation. Although it can occur in girls as young as 15, it’s most common among women in their 30s and 40s.
Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that form in or on the ovaries, typically during your childbearing years or after menopause. These harmless growths are relatively common, largely because they’re a byproduct of the normal function of your menstrual cycle.
Although most cysts don’t cause symptoms and eventually go away on their own, larger cysts can cause pelvic pressure or pain. They may cause persistent pelvic pain that radiates into your lower back, or you may have discomfort just before or after your period.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
Pelvic pain is the most common symptom of PID, which is caused by an infection in your reproductive organs. Although PID can result from any bacteria that travels from your vagina or cervix into your uterus, ovaries, or fallopian tubes, it’s usually brought on by a gonorrhea or chlamydia infection.
In addition to fibroids, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, and PID, there are other gynecological problems — ranging from severe menstrual cramps to ovarian cancer — that may generate pelvic pain. Or it may even stem from a urinary tract problem, a digestive disorder, or a musculoskeletal condition.
Deciding when to see a gynecologist
So what’s the takeaway? You should make an appointment to see a gynecologist for a comprehensive exam if you’re experiencing any kind of pelvic pain. Period.
If you’re still not sure your whether your pelvic pain warrants medical evaluation, follow these simple guidelines, and see your gynecologist if your pain:
- Is new, has changed, or worries you
- Is accompanied by other symptoms
- Disrupts your daily life
- Is worse during your period
- Is worse when you have sex
- Lasts six months or longer
You should also let us know if you have blood in your urine or your stool. And last but not least, if you ever experience sudden, severe pelvic pain, seek prompt medical attention because you may be experiencing a medical emergency.
If you’ve been living with pelvic pain, our team at Tahoe Women’s Care is ready to help. Call our Carson City office today, or book an appointment online any time.