Pelvic pain refers to pain occurring between the belly button and the groin. In both men and women, this can be caused by gastrointestinal issues or irritable bowel syndrome.
For women, however, pelvic pain could signify anything from menstrual cramps to a more serious issue.
Let’s look at five common reasons why women experience pain in the pelvic area and how to treat them.
Menstrual Pain and Cramping
The most common causes of pelvic pain for women are menstrual pain and cramping. This happens as a woman starts her period. The uterine wall contracts to shed itself, thus causing unpleasant physical sensations.
In most cases, menstrual pain and cramps are not dangerous and can be treated at home. Over-the-counter pain medication may alleviate symptoms. Pressing a hot water bottle or compress to the pelvic area might also help. Some women report that exercising during their periods minimizes menstrual pain.
If your symptoms persist, consult your doctor.
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause pelvic pain. Untreated, chlamydia and gonorrhea lead to pelvic inflammatory disease. This causes internal scarring, chronic pain, and infertility among other complications.
Severe untreated gonorrhea creates disseminated gonococcal infection. This condition causes arthritis and dermatitis and is life-threatening.
Both chlamydia and gonorrhea can be effectively cured with antibiotics. If you think you might have an STI, get tested and speak to your doctor as soon as possible.
Endometriosis is caused by the tissue that lines the uterus growing outside the womb. This often occurs when a woman is starting her period. Endometriosis causes tremendous pelvic pain and makes it difficult to get pregnant.
Researchers are still not certain what causes the condition to occur. Hormonal imbalances and genetics may be factors. The condition primarily affects women in their 30s and 40s.
If you are not trying to get pregnant, hormonal birth control is an effective way to treat endometriosis.
If you are trying to get pregnant, your doctor can prescribe you a hormonal medicine designed to temporarily stop the menstrual cycle. Once you stop taking the medication, your period will return. It is more likely that you will then be able to conceive. Over-the-counter pain medications may help alleviate symptoms as well.
When an ovary fails to release an egg, the follicle becomes clogged with fluid. This creates a cyst that can cause pelvic pain.
Most ovarian cysts are non-cancerous. Many go away on their own. Your doctor will be able to identify and assess your cysts with an ultrasound. Surgery is necessary only in rare cases.
Unfortunately, there is no known way to prevent ovarian cysts short of stopping ovulation. If you get frequent ovarian cysts, talk to your doctor about hormonal birth control.
Female Reproductive Cancer
Pelvic pain is a key symptom of female reproductive cancer. It is often accompanied by pain during sex, vaginal discharge, spotting between periods, and weight loss.
Vaginal, cervical, uterine, and ovarian cancers do not produce symptoms in the early stages. By the time symptoms present, the cancer is usually advanced.
Female reproductive cancers are treated through a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. As with all cancers, the more quickly it is caught, the more easily it can be contained.
Menstrual pain and cramping are far more common than female reproductive cancer. However, the threat of the latter means that pelvic pain in women should be taken seriously.
If you have persistent pelvic pain, speak to your doctor. Your body will thank you.
For more information on outpatient medical care and specialty surgery, contact BASS Medical Group at (925) 350-4044.