Why You Shouldn't Ignore Pelvic Pain

If you put your hand on a hot stove, you know right away that you must remove it. That’s because pain is your body’s signal that you’re in danger. Either something in your environment isn’t right or something in your body isn’t quite right.

When you experience pain in your pelvis or lower abdomen, you might be tempted to dismiss it as just menstrual cramps. Or indigestion. But pelvic pain and menstrual cramps could be a sign of damage or disease that could get worse if you don’t address it.

Sharon Smith, MD, our caring and expert OB/GYN at OBGYN Care of Houston, encourages you to get an evaluation if you suffer from pelvic pain. Here we outline some of the conditions that could be behind your pain.

Endometriosis or adenomyosis

Normally, a tissue called the endometrium lines your uterus, becomes enriched with blood when your body releases an egg, and then sheds through your vagina if the egg isn't fertilized. If the endometrium grows outside of your uterus, you have a condition called endometriosis

If the endometrium stays in the uterus but grows into the muscles of the uterine wall, you have adenomyosis. Both conditions cause heavy periods and can be painful, because the lining can’t shed normally during menstruation.

Uterine fibroids

Uterine fibroids are benign tumors made of muscle tissue. They grow inside or outside your uterus and sometimes grow within the uterine wall. Fibroids can cause painful heavy periods, pelvic pressure and pain, and increased urination.

Ovarian cysts

Each month, your ovaries release an egg for potential fertilization. Sometimes, the egg is encapsulated in a fluid-filled cyst before it’s released. You might feel a pinch or pain when the egg leaves the cyst.

The cysts may remain on your ovaries and grow over time. If they rupture or twist, you could experience extreme pain. Ovarian cysts might also make you feel bloated or heavy.

Ectopic pregnancy

If a fertilized egg doesn’t make it to the safety and nourishment of your uterine lining, you could develop a life-threatening type of pregnancy called an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy often lodges in your fallopian tubes, where it can’t grow properly.

A fetus will never survive an ectopic pregnancy. The fallopian tube may rupture and could cause bleeding so severe that you could die. If you feel faint, have sharp abdominal pain, shoulder pain, or heavy bleeding, go to the emergency room right away.


Pain or cramping in your abdomen or lower back accompanied by bleeding or spotting could be a sign that you’re having a miscarriage. Your body sometimes spontaneously aborts a fetus that has chromosomal abnormalities.

Almost all miscarriages occur before you’re 12 weeks pregnant. You might not even know that you were pregnant when you have a miscarriage. Contact Dr. Smith right away if you think you’re having or had a miscarriage.

Scar tissue

If you ever had pelvic surgery or an infection in your pelvis or urogenital organs, you may have scar tissue that’s causing pain. Sometimes scar tissue grows on organs or attaches organs to one another. This type of scarring is known as adhesions and can be painful.

Ovarian cancer

Unfortunately, ovarian cancer doesn’t usually cause symptoms until late in the disease. If you have abdominal bloating, pelvic discomfort, or changes in your bowel or urinary habits, contact us. Bleeding or spotting after menopause could also be a sign of ovarian cancer.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)

A number of STDs cause pelvic pain. If you’re sexually active, you should have an STD test during your annual exam. Even if you’re monogamous, your partner might not be. Pain, foul-smelling discharge, or fever could be signs of an STD.

Pelvic inflammatory disease

A consequence of a pelvic infection or an STD can be a condition called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). You can also develop PID if your partner transfers bacteria into your vagina during sexual activity. You may have pain, unusual discharge, or fever with chills.

Urinary tract infection

A urinary tract infection (UTI) usually manifests with an increased urge to urinate, and other urine-related symptoms, such as cloudy or foul-smelling urine and pain during urination. If you see blood in your urine or have other symptoms of a UTI, contact us right away.

Other causes

Your pelvis houses your reproductive organs, but also your digestive tract and elimination system. Some other causes of pelvic pain could be:

An infected or burst appendix can be life-threatening. Go straight to the emergency room if you experience sharp pain in your lower right abdomen.

To be evaluated for pelvic pain or to schedule an annual exam, contact our Houston, Texas, office today. Dr. Smith also offers virtual visits for current patients.

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