Pelvic pain

Pelvic pain is felt below your bellybutton. It may come on suddenly and severely, or could be mild and last for months.

Introduction

Pelvic pain is felt below your bellybutton. It may come on suddenly and severely, or could be mild and last for months. In either case, see your doctor as soon as possible to find out the cause and, if necessary, to be referred to a gynaecologist.

The following information is about pelvic pain in women, as men are rarely affected. It covers the possible causes of:

  • sudden, unexpected (acute) pelvic pain
  • persistent or recurrent (chronic) pelvic pain

This information doesn't focus on pregnancy-related causes.

The information on this page aims to give you a better idea of the cause of your pelvic pain, but do not use it to self-diagnose your condition. Always see your doctor for a proper diagnosis.

Sudden, unexpected pelvic pain

Pelvic pain that comes on suddenly for the first time is called acute pelvic pain. If you have acute pelvic pain, see your doctor immediately to find out the cause and to get any necessary treatment.

Common causes of acute pelvic pain

The most common causes of acute pelvic pain in women who are not pregnant are:

  • pelvic inflammatory disease – a bacterial infection of the womb, fallopian tubes or ovaries, which often follows a chlamydia or gonorrhoea infection and needs immediate treatment with antibiotics
  • a urinary tract infection – you'll probably also have pain or a burning sensation when you urinate and you may need to urinate more often
  • an ovarian cyst – a fluid-filled sac that develops on an ovary and causes pelvic pain when it becomes twisted or bursts (it will probably need to be removed)

The above links will give you more information on these conditions.

Less common reasons for acute pelvic pain

Less common causes of acute pelvic pain include:

  • a pelvic abscess – a collection of pus between the womb and vagina that needs urgent treatment in hospital
  • endometriosis – a long-term condition where small pieces of womb lining are found outside the womb (such as on the ovaries)
  • pelvic congestion – pain caused by varicose veins in the pelvic region

Persistent or recurrent pelvic pain

If you've had pelvic pain for six months or more that either comes and goes or is continuous, it is known as chronic pelvic pain. Chronic pelvic pain is more intense than ordinary period pain, and lasts for longer. It affects around one in six women.

If you have chronic pelvic pain, see your doctor to find out the cause and to get any necessary treatment.

Common causes of chronic pelvic pain

The most common causes of chronic pelvic pain are:

  • endometriosis – a long-term condition where small pieces of womb lining are found outside the womb (such as on the ovaries)
  • pelvic inflammatory disease – a bacterial infection of the womb, fallopian tubes or ovaries, which often follows a chlamydia or gonorrhoea infection and needs immediate treatment with antibiotics
  • pelvic congestion – pain caused by varicose veins in the pelvic region
  • irritable bowel syndrome – a common condition of the digestive system that can cause stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation

The above links will give you more information on these conditions.

Less common reasons for chronic pelvic pain

Less common causes of chronic pelvic pain include:

Content supplied by NHS Choices