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What are the causes of pelvic pain in women?

In women, pelvic pain can occur due to pregnancy-related causes or problems with the reproductive organs in women who are not pregnant. Causes of pelvic pain in women include:

  • Menstrual cramps or problems. The medical term for menstrual pain is dysmenorrhea. Many women experience mild menstrual pain, but for some women the pain is severe and disrupts their participation in day-to-day activities.
  • Ovarian cysts can cause pain if they become large, rupture (burst), or become twisted (known as torsion of an ovarian cyst). Most ovarian cysts are small, benign (non-cancerous) and do not cause symptoms.
  • Fibroid tumors are benign growths of muscle tissue (a fibroid is also known as a leiomyoma) that are common in the uterus (womb). These do not usually cause pain or symptoms, but if they are very large, they may cause heavy menstrual bleeding or swelling of the abdomen. Pelvic pain can arise if there is degeneration (death of tumor cells) within a large fibroid tumor. This happens when a fibroid tumor outgrows its blood supply and starts to shrink.
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a condition in which there is widespread inflammation within the reproductive organs, usually due to an infection. The infection is typically a sexually-transmitted disease like gonorrhea or chlamydia. Fever, vaginal bleeding, and vaginal discharge usually accompany the pelvic pain of PID.
  • Endometriosis is the presence of tissue like the lining of the uterus in other areas of the reproductive organs or elsewhere in the body. It is most common in women in their 30s and can cause heavy periods, severe menstrual cramps, and pelvic pain during sex. A similar condition is adenomyosis, in which areas of uterine lining tissue are located abnormally in the muscle wall of the uterus.
  • Ovulation can cause pelvic pain. This occurs when the ovary releases an egg at the midpoint of the menstrual cycle. Typically, it is felt on the right or left side, depending upon which ovary the egg has come from. The term "Mittelschmerz" has been used to refer to this kind of pain.
  • Pelvic congestion syndrome refers to a buildup of blood in the veins of the pelvis. This can cause pain in some women.
  • Vulvodynia is pain in the vulva that occurs for unknown reasons. It may be accompanied by burning or stinging sensations, or pain during sex.
  • Rarely, cancers, including cervical cancer, uterine cancer, or ovarian cancer are the cause of pelvic pain in women.
Return to Pelvic Pain (in Women and Men)

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