The pelvis houses the reproductive organs. It’s located at the lower abdomen, where your abdomen meets your legs. Pelvic pain can radiate up into the lower abdomen, making it hard to differentiate from abdominal pain.
If you have pain below your belly button and above your legs, it counts as pelvic pain. It can be caused by a lot of things. It may be a harmless sign that you’re fertile, a digestive disorder, or a red flag that you need to go to the hospital.
There are many causes of both acute and chronic pelvic pain. Acute pelvic pain refers to sudden or new pain. Chronic pain refers to a long-lasting condition, which may remain constant or come and go.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the female reproductive organs. It’s typically caused by an untreated sexually transmitted infection, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea. Women often experience no symptoms when they’re first infected. If left untreated, PID can cause serious complications, including chronic, severe pain in the pelvis or abdomen.
Other symptoms can include:
- bleeding during intercourse
- heavy vaginal discharge and odor
- difficulty or pain during urination
PID requires immediate medical attention to avoid additional complications, including:
- ectopic pregnancy
- scarring on the reproductive organs
Pelvic pain can be caused by a wide range of additional conditions in both men and women. These include:
- enlarged spleen
- chronic constipation
- femoral and inguinal hernias
- pelvic floor muscle spasm
- ulcerative colitis
- kidney stones
Your doctor will take an oral history to learn about the type of pain you have, and about your other symptoms and overall health history. They may also recommend a pap smear if you have not had one within the past three years.
There are several standard tests you can expect. These include:
- Physical exam, to look for areas of tenderness in your abdomen and pelvis.
- Pelvic (transvaginal) ultrasound, so that your doctor can view your uterus, fallopian tubes, vagina, ovaries, and other organs within your reproductive system. This test uses a wand inserted into the vagina, which transmits sound waves to a computer screen.
- Blood and urine tests, to look for signs of infection.
If the cause of the pain isn’t discovered from these initial tests, you may need additional tests, such as:
- CT scan
- pelvic MRI
- pelvic laparoscopy