As one of the top reasons for an acute care visit to the gynecologist, pelvic pain is a common complaint among women of all ages. It’s so common that having to deal with periodic — or even frequent — pelvic discomfort is widely considered a normal part of being female.
Female pelvic pain has been relatively normalized simply because it can be normal, coming and going with your monthly menstrual period or occurring with constipation. Still, there are times when pelvic pain isn’t “routine” but a sign of something more serious.
At New Beginnings OB/GYN in Shenandoah, Texas, our seasoned team can help you get to the bottom of unexplained pelvic pain to get the care you need to protect your health and attain long-lasting relief.
Pelvic pain is the sensation of discomfort, achiness, or tenderness in your lower belly or the area below your navel and between your hip bones. It can emerge as a sharp, cramp-like pain that comes and goes intermittently or take the form of an ongoing ache accompanied by deep pressure.
Many cases of pelvic pain follow a noticeable pattern. You may find that it usually appears before or during your menstrual cycle, for example, or that it mostly happens after you eat when you urinate, or during sexual intercourse. For some women, pelvic pain only seems to come on following long periods of sitting or standing.
Acute pelvic pain is sudden and severe, while pelvic pain that’s either constant or recurrent and persists for six months or longer is classified as chronic. The nature and intensity of pelvic pain may also fluctuate over time, making it harder to intuit a possible cause on your own.
Recurrent, short-lived bouts of manageable pelvic pain are often related to the menstrual cycle: Ovulation, uterine contractions (period cramping), and temporary digestive changes (i.e., constipation) can all make your lower abdomen feel achy, sore, and uncomfortable.
Many women know what to expect with this “usual” pelvic pain. But there’s nothing normal about severe or persistent pelvic pain — especially when it occurs with other symptoms.
You should always take unusual pelvic pain seriously, and here are five reasons why:
If you’re sexually active and don’t use condoms, chronic pelvic pain may be a sign that you’ve been infected with a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Pelvic pain is a frequent symptom of two common STDs, chlamydia and gonorrhea.
Infections of both these STDs have been on the rise for several years, and some strains of each have started becoming more resistant to treatment. Untreated STD infections can set the stage for pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a serious complication that’s associated with persistent pelvic pain and irreversible scarring to pelvic organs.
Urinary tract problems — from bladder and kidney stones to infections — are a common cause of both acute and chronic pelvic pain. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are especially common in women, as is a chronic bladder condition called interstitial cystitis (IC). IC causes inflammation and irritation within the bladder's walls, leading to persistent pain in the pelvic region.
Abnormal growths on, within, or around reproductive organs are a leading cause of chronic pelvic pain in women of all ages; noncancerous uterine fibroids, large ovarian cysts, and pelvic adhesions (scar tissue) from a previous infection or surgery are a few possible reasons.
Endometriosis is another possible reason. This condition occurs when the tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the organ. When these endometrial "implants" form on the outer surface of your uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes — or on any of the tissues that line your pelvic area — it can cause severe pelvic pain, especially during menstruation.
Your pelvic floor is a strong "sling" of muscles and connective tissues that supports your pelvic organs and keeps them in place. When something weakens this sling — for many women, it's pregnancy and vaginal childbirth — you might experience pelvic pressure and pain caused by muscle spasms or a related problem like pelvic organ prolapse.
Less commonly, persistent pelvic pain, pressure, or ongoing discomfort can be a sign of cervical, uterine, or ovarian cancer.
For as common as it is, pelvic pain is also complex in the sense that a single underlying problem can cause it — or it can be the result of two or more co-existing conditions. It can be reproductive, urinary, digestive, or musculoskeletal, and getting to the bottom of the problem is essential.
The bottom line? See our team anytime you're having unusual pelvic pain. An evaluation is critical if you have blood in your urine or your stool or if your pain:
If you ever experience sudden, severe pelvic pain, seek prompt medical attention because you may be experiencing a medical emergency.
Do you have questions about pelvic pain? We're here to help. Call or click online to schedule a visit with our women's wellness team at New Beginnings OB/GYN in Shenandoah, Texas, today.