One in six women of childbearing age have experienced pelvic pain in the last few months, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). It’s a very common condition and not just a minor inconvenience, it can interfere with daily activities such as work and exercise, but it can also be a sign that something is wrong.
Pelvic pain affects the lowest part of the abdomen, between the belly button and groin. The pain is considered chronic if it continues to occur for more than four to six months. It may be a sign of menstrual cramps, ovulation, or a gastrointestinal issue such as a food intolerance. In some women, pelvic pain can indicate an infection or issue with the reproductive system or other organs in the area.
The following conditions can cause pain or cramps when not on your period:
- Ovulation – In the middle of the menstrual cycle, or about 10-14 days before your period, ovulation occurs. This is the release of an egg from a follicle within the ovary. Symptoms can include mild cramping that may be sharp or dull, lasting a few minutes to hours. It typically occurs on one side of the abdomen only.
- Endometriosis – This is a condition in which tissue, similar to that found inside the uterus, grows in other locations outside of the uterus. It is a very common condition. It can cause painful menstrual cramping during the menstrual period and at other times of the month as well. In some cases it can cause infertility, painful bowel movements, or pain during sex in some women.
- Ovarian cyst – This is an enclosed tissue sac filled with fluid. The ovary is a common location for cyst development. A small ovarian cyst typically does not cause symptoms, but if the cyst ruptures, it can cause sudden, sharp pains or cramps on one side of the lower abdomen. An enlarging cyst may cause dull pain or a feeling of fullness or heaviness in the lower abdomen or back.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) – Inflammation of the internal sex organs that can result from spread of a sexually transmitted disease. It is usually caused by bacteria that spread from the vagina and cervix upward into the uterus, tubes and ovaries. PID causes lower abdominal pain on both sides of the body, often accompanied by fever, vaginal discharge, nauseas, vomiting, and pain or burning with urination.
- Interstitial cystitis or painful bladder syndrome – This is a condition that results from chronic inflammation of the bladder. It can cause pain at any time of the month. Symptoms typically get worse when the bladder is full (when you have to urinate). It can cause pain and tenderness in the low abdomen or pelvic area. Other possible symptoms are painful urination and feeling an urgent need to urinate.
- Urinary stones – These usually consist of salts and minerals, such as calcium, that the body has trouble getting rid of in the urine. These minerals can build up and form crystals in the bladder or kidneys that often cause pain in the pelvis or lower back. Stones may also cause the urine to change colour, often turning it pink or reddish with blood.
- Uterine fibroids – Lumps of muscle and fibrous tissue within the uterus. While they are noncancerous and do not tend to cause symptoms, these growths can be a source of pain. They may cause discomfort in the pelvis or lower back or pain during sex. Fibroids may also cause excessive bleeding or cramping during menstruation.
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – Chronic (long-term) inflammation in the bowels (intestines). Both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are forms of IBD. Symptoms depend on the severity and exact type of IBD but usually include some type of abdominal pain. Other symptoms can include diarrhoea, bloody stool, weight loss, fatigue, fever, and feeling an urgent need to have a bowel movement.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – Affects the large intestine. Signs and symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhoea or constipation, or both. IBS is a chronic condition that you’ll need to manage long term. Only a small number of people with IBS have severe signs and symptoms. Some people can control their symptoms by managing diet, lifestyle and stress.
When to see a doctor
Anyone suffering from new, severe pain should seek medical advice. You should also speak to your GP if you experience any of the following:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Sudden, severe, or worsening abdominal or pelvic pain
- Pain in the chest, arm, neck, or jaw
- Frequent vomiting
- High fever
- Blood in vomit or stool
- Black or tarry stools
- Shortness of breath
- Yellowing of the skin or eyes
- Unexplained weight loss
At Private GP Extra, patients are able to access highly experienced female and male GPs across the North West of England, at a time to suit them. Our doctors can also provide an onward referral to a pelvic pain specialist, if required. To book an appointment with one of our GPs, please visit https://www.privategpextra.com/appointments/ or call 0161 428 4464.