Abdominal Cramping - Pelvic Pain in Females
- Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
- Symptoms & Signs
- Diagnosis & Tests
- Prevention & Expectations
- Treatment & Monitoring
Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
A woman's pelvis contains the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, vagina, bladder, and rectum. Pelvic pain refers to any pain or discomfort in this area of the body.
What is going on in the body?
Pelvic pain is a common symptom in women. It is frequently, but not always, related to the reproductive system. Other causes of pelvic pain are related to the intestines or urinary tract. Psychological factors can make the pain seem worse, or even cause a sensation of pain where no physical problem exists.
Pelvic pain can range from mild discomfort or cramping, to severe, intense pain. This pain may be acute, when it occurs suddenly, or chronic, when the pain lasts for a long period of time.
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
Pelvic pain in females has many causes including:
Other causes are also possible. In some cases, the cause is never found.
Symptoms & Signs
What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?
When a woman has pelvic pain, the healthcare provider will want more information. Questions may be asked about the pain, including:
Other questions may also be asked in some cases.
Diagnosis & Tests
How is the condition diagnosed?
Diagnosis of pelvic pain begins with a history and physical exam. The healthcare provider may order tests, including:
Prevention & Expectations
What can be done to prevent the condition?
Prevention of pelvic pain may or may not be possible, depending on the cause. Some ways to decrease the risk of pelvic pain include:
Many of the causes of pelvic pain cannot be prevented.
What are the long-term effects of the condition?
Long-term effects are related to the cause of the pelvic pain. For example, irritable bowel syndrome may make a person uncomfortable and even depressed, but poses no serious long-term health risks. A small kidney stone may pass by itself and have no long-term effects. A large kidney stone may require surgery to remove. Cancer may lead to death if treatment is unsuccessful. A woman with an ectopic pregnancy may need surgery, and in some cases, may have to have the fallopian tube removed.
What are the risks to others?
Pelvic pain itself is not contagious and poses no risk to others. However, if the pain is caused by a sexually transmitted disease, that infection is contagious.
Treatment & Monitoring
What are the treatments for the condition?
Specific treatment for pelvic pain depends on the cause of the pain. Treatment may include:
What are the side effects of the treatments?
Side effects to treatment will depend on the treatment used. There may be stomach upset, diarrhea, or allergic reaction to antibiotics. There may be stomach upset, ulcers and bleeding, or allergic reaction to NSAIDs. NSAIDs may also affect the liver and kidneys. Treatments that require surgery pose a risk of bleeding, infection, and allergic reaction to anesthesia.
What happens after treatment for the condition?
What happens after treatment depends on the success of the treatment and the cause of the pain. For example, those who pass a kidney stone on their own or have it removed may not need any further treatment. Those with cancer may need long-term treatment for the cancer and may die if treatment is unsuccessful.
How is the condition monitored?
Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider.
Author:Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
Editor:Smith, Mary Ellen, BS
Reviewer:Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 1998, Fauci et al.
The Merck Manual of Medical Information, 1997
Professional Guide to Diseases: 6th edition, 1998