Many women brush off pelvic pain as something that’s just ‘part of being a woman’. However, chronic or extreme pelvic pain could be a sign of an underlying medical issue.
Pelvic pain affects up to 1 in 5 women, and 1 in 12 men in Australia. It can be associated with a range of conditions related to the gastric, reproductive or urinary system. For women, pelvic pain can present in symptoms such as period pain, muscle spasms, and painful intercourse. Left untreated, pelvic pain can worsen and affect quality of life.
If you’re experiencing pain in your lower abdomen or pelvis, don’t ignore it – your body is trying to tell you something. Keep reading to learn about some common conditions that cause pelvic pain, and find out when to see a gynaecologist.
Is it normal to have pelvic pain?
Many women experience some pain during their periods. The pain is often mild, only lasts for 1-3 days, and doesn’t cause a major issue with their daily life.
However, when pelvic pain is chronic (lasts more than 6 months), is extreme, or otherwise falls outside the category of mild menstrual pain, it’s important to investigate the cause. In women, it may be an indication of a problem with reproductive organs such as the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix, or vagina.
Common pelvic issues and their causes
There are many different types of pelvic pain, each related to particular organs within the abdomen. Below are some common causes of pelvic pain that are related to gynaecological issues.
Sharp pain or abdominal discomfort
Sharp pelvic pain can be a sign of an infection, a ruptured ovarian cyst, or an ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy growing outside the uterus). More constant pain could be caused by uterine fibroids, which are non-cancerous tumours that can grow within the uterus.
Period pain involving cramping, a continuous ache or sharp pains can become debilitating. Yet many women don’t address the issue and suffer needlessly – there are treatment options you can explore to treat the cause and reduce your symptoms.
Bleeding between periods
Occasional spotting between periods is not necessarily reason for alarm. But when the bleeding is painful and lasts for a few days, it’s time to seek medical advice.
Some women experience a sharp pain during ovulation when an egg is released. Known as mittelschmerz, this pain only lasts a few hours and may occur on different sides each month depending on which ovary is releasing the egg.
Chronic pelvic pain
You may be diagnosed with chronic pelvic pain if you have experienced pain for at least 6 months. It is a complex condition as there are many contributing factors ranging from physiological to psychological.
When to see a gynaecologist
If you suddenly develop severe pelvic pain, it could be an emergency and you should seek medical attention immediately.
Additionally, get any new, unusual or disruptive pain checked by a medical professional. The sooner a problem is found, the sooner it can be treated.
It’s also recommended that women over 18 see a gynaecologist for a yearly check up. Book an appointment at our Kedron, North Lakes or Caboolture gynaecological practice locations to schedule your next routine examination. Prevention is better than cure!
Pelvic pain diagnosis and treatment
When diagnosing the cause of pelvic pain, a number of examinations may be necessary depending on the nature of the pain. In addition to a review of your symptoms and medical history, some investigations may include:
- Blood and urine tests
- Pelvic X-rays or ultrasounds
- Taking vaginal cultures
Diagnostic laparoscopy is the gold standard to rule out any causes and to treat at the same time. Treatment depends on the cause, and may include medication, physical therapy, or sometimes surgery if your pelvic organs are affected. At Northside Gynaecology, we offer a range of minimally invasive treatments to reduce disruption of your daily life. Your gynaecologist will discuss and recommend a treatment plan based on your individual circumstances.
Where to get further advice
If you’re experiencing pelvic pain, don’t ignore it – it could be a sign of a larger issue. Pay attention to what your body is telling you, and seek advice from a gynaecologist who will investigate the source of your pain and treat the problem.
Northside Gynaecology is an all-women practice offering advice, treatment and support for a wide range of gynaecological issues including pelvic pain. Book an appointment at one of our convenient Brisbane locations by calling us on 07 3088 9005.