Pelvic pain is the pain experienced internally in the reproductive region in both men and women. It is a symptom that is commonly associated with infections in reproductive organs, pain in the pelvic bone or infections in other internal organs such as colon or bladder. The disorders associated with pelvic pain can range from menstrual cramps to cancerous diseases in your reproductive organs. This kind of pain is however commonly noticed in women due to several reproductive ailments and diseases. Before we delve into the ways in which pelvic pain could affect women, following are some of the top reasons that may cause pelvic pain in women:
Common Causes of Pelvic Pain in Women
Some of the common causes of pelvic pain experienced by women can be as follows:
1. Menstrual Cramps
Most women experience painful menstrual cycle every month. While menstruation occurs on a monthly basis in women, they might experience painful cramps which cause a lot of discomfort while menstruating. Severe pelvic pain might also be a symptom of hormonal disorders if you have missed your periods. Most women prefer to take pain-killers to deal with menstrual cramps. While some pelvic pain is normal in all women, if you experience severe pain, it is advised that you consult a doctor immediately.
It is common to see women experience mild to intense pain when they are pregnant. But if you are experiencing intense pain, you should definitely get it checked by your obstetrician. When women are in the early stages of the pregnancy, the uterus expands in size to accommodate the growing fetus. Miscarriages that take place during this phase lead to severe pain in the pelvic area along with heavy bleeding. Women may also experience a lot of discomfort and mild pelvic pain as the uterus returns to its normal size post pregnancy. It is important to have a doctor who can guide you through the entire process of pregnancy so that any health complications can be avoided.
In some cases, women tend to experience various symptoms when ovulating. While not every woman experience these symptoms, some experience lower abdominal pain or pelvic pain. Apart from this, they may also experience mild discomfort in any specific part of the pelvic or abdominal region, which varies based on the side of the ovary that releases the egg. Such pain is also known as Mittelschmerz, which translates to “middle pain” in German. As long as this pain is in control, it should not be a cause for worry. However, if at any point, it gets too severe, it is recommended to immediately seek medical assistance.
Fibroids are the non-cancerous form of tumors that generally grow in the lining of the uterus. While most women may have a uterine fibroid at some point in their lives, they might not necessarily recognize it, since it does not usually have renounced symptoms. However, a severe case of fibroids might lead to a lot of pain and discomfort for women, often resulting in heavy vaginal discharge or menstrual bleeding. The intensity of pain usually varies based on the location, size, and number of fibroids in the uterus, and is usually accompanied by a feeling of bloating or pain during sex or menstruation. The extent of pelvic pain that a woman is likely to experience is dependent upon the aggravation of the fibroid in the uterus.
5. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
All the key reproductive organs in women such as the uterus, fallopian tubes, cervix, and ovaries are located in the pelvic region. Inflammation in any of these reproductive organs is referred to as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which is considered as a common disorder in women around the world. This condition is severe and requires immediate medical attention because if not treated on time it can be fatal. PIDs are usually caused as a result of bacteria that tend to be sexually transmitted. One of the common symptoms of PID is pelvic pain along with pain in the upper abdomen, painful sexual intercourse, abnormal vaginal discharge, fever, and pain while urinating.
6. Ectopic Pregnancy
For a woman to get pregnant, the fertilized egg or embryo needs to travel and attach to the uterus. In an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg does not attach to the uterus but instead gets attached outside the uterus. In such a condition, women experience a lot of pelvic pain or pain in the neck, abdomen, or shoulder along with other symptoms such as rectal pain, unusual and heavy vaginal discharge and bleeding. Extreme cases of ectopic pregnancy can cause severe bruising of the fallopian tubes and could also lead to internal bleeding. In such cases, the doctor might perform emergency surgery.
In this condition, the tissue that forms the uterus lining starts growing outside the uterine cavity. This lining of the uterus is called the endometrium. Endometriosis is a condition that causes the tissue to grow over the bowels, pelvis or ovaries. While pelvic pain is one of the predominant symptoms that women with endometriosis face, the other symptoms may include irritation, problems in fertility as well as severe pain during the menstrual cycle. While this disorder can cause a lot of discomfort and pain for women, it is a common gynecological problem affecting at least 10% of women across the world. The symptoms of endometriosis are similar to PID and ovarian cysts, and hence it is important to get tested for proper diagnosis. Usually, a targeted treatment rendered by your gynecologist should help in relieving the symptoms of the disorder.
8. Uterine Cancer
Uterine cancer is a form of cancer that is more prominent in postmenopausal women. Any kind of vaginal bleeding post menopause indicates possible health complications for women. Pelvic pain is one of the major symptoms in patients suffering from uterine cancer. Other symptoms seen in these patients include unusual vaginal bleeding, pain during sexual intercourse and difficulty or pain during urination. If you are experiencing a combination of these symptoms, then it is imperative that you seek medical assistance immediately.
9. Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is generally observed in women who are sexually active, as almost all forms of cervical cancer are caused by HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) which is a sexually transmitted infection. The early symptoms of cervical cancer can include abnormal vaginal discharge or bleeding after sex or between menstrual cycles. However, at an advanced stage, women having cervical cancer can experience intense pelvic pain, swelling in the legs, weight loss or difficulties in urinating or defecating. Since pelvic pain is a late symptom, you can strike out the possibility of cervical cancer if you have not experienced any of the early symptoms. While it used to be considered as a fatal form of cancer in women, it is now considered as one of the easiest forms of cancer to prevent due to HPV vaccination.
There could be several disorders that can cause pelvic pain in women. The diagnosis for the pain is likely to be dependant on the other symptoms that you are experiencing. While mild pelvic pain is normal when women go through menstruation, it is important to go for medical assistance if the pain is severe. Once the symptoms are narrowed down to a specific condition, the diagnosis might include a physical exam, blood test, urine/bowel test, and ultrasound to name a few. Remember that the correct diagnosis of pelvic pain can only be done if you seek medical assistance on time.
(The article is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)
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