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Pelvic pain

Overview of pelvic pain

Pelvic pain, or lower abdominal pain, refers to discomfort in your lower abdominal region, or the area between your belly button and pubic bone. Any pelvic pain that lasts for more than six months is chronic. Pain that has lasted for less than six months is considered acute.

Over half of all women who menstruate experience pelvic pain at some point during their lives.

If you have pelvic pain, Find a Doctor and start your journey to recovery today. At Dignity Health, we can accurately diagnose and treat the causes of acute and chronic pelvic pain.


While the experience of pelvic pain varies greatly, general signs and symptoms include:

  • Sharp or dull ache in your pelvic area
  • Steady pain or discomfort that comes and goes
  • Pain during sex
  • Pain that worsens during your menstrual period


Pelvic pain is usually a symptom of another issue. Common causes of pelvic pain include:

  • Menstrual cramps during your period (menses) or ovulation
  • Endometriosis, a medical condition in which the tissue that usually lines the uterus grows outside of this area
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an infection of the reproductive organs often caused by sexually transmitted bacteria
  • Adhesions, or bands of scar tissue that can form as part of healing after injury or surgery
  • Interstitial cystitis (painful bladder syndrome), a condition associated with the sudden urge to urinate
  • Uterine fibroids, or noncancerous tumors in the uterus
  • Pelvic floor disorders, including weakened muscles that make it difficult to control urination
  • Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, a condition characterized by abdominal pain and loose stools or frequent bowel movements
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs or bladder infections), an infection causing inflammation of the urinary tract and bladder
  • Kidney stones
  • Food intolerances or other GI issues
  • Vulvodynia, or pain in the external female genitals
  • Diverticulitis, a condition marked by inflammation of parts of the colon
  • Prostatitis, inflammation of the prostate
  • Some STIs/STDs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea
  • Appendicitis, or an infection in the appendix
  • Ectopic pregnancy, in which an embryo attaches outside the uterus
  • Ovarian cysts

Because pelvic pain has so many different potential causes, healthcare providers perform a variety of tests to determine the cause before creating a treatment plan.

Risk factors

Generally speaking, anyone may experience pelvic pain. Some conditions like endometriosis are thought to have a genetic component to them, but most causes of pelvic pain stem from outside sources like bacteria or are isolated incidents.

Some of the factors that can increase the likelihood of pelvic pain include:

  • Longer menstrual cycles
  • Irregular or heavy menstrual flow
  • Cigarette smoking
  • History of PID, miscarriage, sexual assault, endometriosis, or sterilization
  • Previous diagnosis with anxiety or depression


Pelvic pain is very common and may be related to menstruation. However, you can reduce your risk for pelvic pain by:

  • Practicing safe sex and using condoms and other barrier methods to prevent STI/STD transmission
  • Visiting your doctor regularly and discussing any discomfort or other symptoms
  • Avoiding cigarettes
  • Discussing whether oral contraceptives may be an option for you

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.