Most women will experience at least one form of pelvic pain in their lifetime.
Ranging from dull to sharp, occasional to constant, or sudden to chronic,
pelvic pain can be caused by something as simple as ovulation or as serious
as gynecologic cancer.
Two of the most common causes of pelvic pain for women are ovulation and
menstruation. Pain during ovulation is temporary, often lasting only a
few hours and occurring as a sharp pain on one side of the pelvis. It’s
brought on by the release of an egg from the ovary.
Menstrual pain and cramps are also temporary but may last for a few days.
This pain may feel more like a jabbing or throbbing sensation and is caused
by the uterus contracting as it sheds its lining. Ovulation and menstrual
pain can usually be controlled with over-the-counter pain medication.
More Serious Causes of Pelvic Pain
When pelvic pain is not associated with the normal reproductive cycle,
it’s time to seek medical help. There are many reasons for abnormal
pelvic pain, and it takes an experienced gynecologist, sometimes working
with other medical professionals, to uncover the cause.
One of the main reasons for abnormal pelvic pain in women is a condition
called endometriosis. This occurs when the tissue that normally lines
the inside of the uterus, grows on the outside of the uterus, usually
on the ovaries, fallopian tubes and tissue lining the pelvis. This causes
pain that ranges from mild to severe. Endometriosis can also create scar
tissue and may make it difficult for a woman to become pregnant.
“Endometriosis is a really difficult diagnosis to make,” says
Dr. Kurian Thott, Chief of Women’s and Children’s Services
at Stafford Hospital and Medical Director for Stafford Hospital’s
Center of Excellence in Minimally Invasive Gynecology (COEMIG) designation.
“In fact, many women spend 7-10 years in a healthcare system before
getting a true diagnosis because the only way to diagnose endometriosis
is through laparoscopic surgery to assess the inside of the pelvis.”
Some other common sources of pelvic pain for women are:
pelvic inflammatory disease – a complication of sexually transmitted diseases
ovarian cysts – where a follicle doesn’t release an egg or swells with fluid
after releasing an egg
uterine fibroids – noncancerous growths inside the uterus
For women of child-bearing age, ectopic pregnancy can be a source of pain
occurring on one side of the pelvis. Ectopic pregnancy occurs when an
embryo attaches itself to the fallopian tube rather than the uterus. It
is often accompanied by vaginal bleeding, nausea and dizziness. Ectopic
pregnancy can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention.
Pelvic pain can also be related to a host of other conditions including:
appendicitis – inflammation of the appendix which may cause it to rupture
irritable bowel syndrome – a group of symptoms that occur together and cause changes in bowel movements
pelvic organ prolapse – a collapse of the pelvic floor, causing the bladder or uterus
to fall out of place
bladder stones – hard masses of minerals that form in your bladder
urinary tract infection – a bacterial infection affecting the kidneys, bladder, ureters and urethra
- sexually transmitted diseases
- gynecologic cancers
Knowing When it’s Time to Seek Help
If you are experiencing chronic pelvic pain, speak with your doctor or
gynecologist to get a proper diagnosis. Many conditions can be resolved
with medication or minimally invasive surgery. If you experience sudden,
sharp persistent pain, seek medical attention immediately.
Mary Washington Healthcare’s Advanced Gynecologic Program is equipped to provide the latest diagnostic and treatment options for
women experiencing pelvic pain. These range from simple lifestyle changes
to medications. In some cases, surgery is the best option. Stafford Hospital
is one of only six Virginia hospitals certified as a Center of Excellence
in Minimally Invasive Gynecology (COEMIG) by the Surgical Review Corporation.
Programs that earn this designation must adhere to the highest standards
in minimally invasive gynecological surgery and meet stringent safety,
education, and quality requirements.
At Stafford Hospital, the safety and comfort of our patients is a top priority.
We offer treatment for women of all ages in a quiet, clean, and soothing
environment that is conducive to healing.
To find a COEMIG-certified physician, call MWHC Health Link at 540.741.1404.