Pelvic pain is a common complaint among women. Its frequency and intensity may change, and its cause is best diagnosed by an experienced medical provider.
Pelvic pain can be categorized as either acute, meaning the pain is sudden and severe, or chronic (pain that either comes and goes or is constant), lasting over a period of months or longer. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pelvic pain lasting longer than six months and showing no improvement with treatment is known as chronic pelvic pain.
North Shore-LIJ Health System gynecologists are experienced in diagnosing and treating sudden and chronic pelvic pain.
Pelvic pain may have multiple causes, including:
- inflammation or direct irritation of nerves caused by acute or chronic trauma, fibrosis, pressure, or intraperitoneal inflammation,
- muscular contractions or cramps of both smooth and skeletal muscles, and
- psychogenic factors, which can cause or aggravate pain.
Some of the more common sources of acute pelvic pain, or pain that occurs very suddenly, may include:
- ectopic pregnancy - a pregnancy that occurs outside the uterus,
- pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) - an infection of the reproductive organs,
- twisted or ruptured ovarian cyst,
- miscarriage or threatened miscarriage,
- urinary tract infection,
- appendicitis, or
- a ruptured fallopian tube.
Some of the conditions which can lead to chronic pelvic pain, pain that may last for several months or longer, may include:
- menstrual cramps,
- abnormal growths on or in the uterine wall,
- adhesions - scar tissue between the internal organs in the pelvic cavity,
- endometrial polyps - protrusions attached by a small stem in the uterine cavity, and
- cancers of the reproductive tract.
This long-term and often unrelenting pain may cause a woman's defenses to break down, resulting in emotional and behavioral changes. This occurrence is often termed "chronic pelvic pain syndrome."