- Pelvic pain is often normal, related to menstrual cycles, but disruptive or new pain may indicate serious conditions needing medical attention.
- Pelvic pain can signal serious conditions, including cancers, infections, or pregnancy complications; urgent medical consultation is advised for unusual or severe symptoms.
- Urgent care clinics offer timely services for pelvic pain and women’s health exams when OB/GYN appointments are unavailable, providing diagnostics and care for non-life-threatening conditions.
Pelvic pain can be a normal part of your cycle—but it can also be a sign of a medical condition that may need medical attention. Since the pelvic region is home to many organs (including the entire reproductive system) it can be difficult to know when pelvic pain is considered normal and when you should seek care from a doctor. Read on to learn the three most important things to know about pelvic pain.
1. There are many reasons why you might experience pelvic pain
According to the NIH, for most women, pelvic pain related to their menstrual cycle is normal. In fact, 84% of women who participated in a study with the NIH reported experiencing pelvic pain during their menstrual period. However, if your period-induced pelvic pain is bad enough to disrupt your life or it is a new symptom for you, the Mayo Clinic cautions that there may be something more serious going on.
A menstrual period is not the only culprit for pelvic pain though. The Cleveland Clinic notes that pelvic pain can be caused by a number of health conditions, including:
- Urinary tract infections (UTI)
- Kidney infections or kidney stones
- Intestinal disorders like IBS, diverticulitis, or colitis
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Ovulation or ovarian cysts
- Uterine fibroids (benign tumors in the uterus)
- Endometriosis (a thickening of the lining of the uterus)
- Cervical cancer, uterine cancer, or ovarian cancer
Pelvic pain could also be related to pregnancy. Around 10-30% of women experience round ligament pain during pregnancy, according to Banner Health. Additionally, the Cleveland Clinic notes that an ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, or the onset of labor can all cause pelvic pain.
2. Pelvic pain can (sometimes) be a sign of something serious
With any new or unusual twinge of pain, the first thing that often comes to mind is the worst-case scenario—but the Cleveland Clinic notes that the most common causes of pelvic pain are due to menstrual periods, UTIs, or digestive conditions that are easily treated.
In some (far less common) cases, new-onset pelvic pain can be a warning sign of a more serious condition. If your pelvic pain is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, the Cleveland Clinic recommends you see a doctor as soon as possible:
- Sharp, severe, sudden, or unrelenting pain (especially if your pain prevents you from standing up or doing your usual activities)
- Blood in your pee or poop
- Pain during sex
- Vaginal bleeding, spotting, or discharge that is different from your normal cycle
- You are pregnant or were pregnant in the last 6 months
- A fever
One of the worst-case scenarios you may think of when experiencing pelvic pain is cancer. According to studies published in JAMA, most women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer report that they had some type of recurring symptoms before being diagnosed, including back and pelvic pain. However, you should know that the risk of ovarian cancer is quite low—around 1 in 78 according to the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance.
There are currently no routine screenings for uterine and ovarian cancer, according to the CDC. This may sound dismal, but there is some good news. Establishing care with a primary care physician is linked to better overall health (according to the Cleveland Clinic), and keeping up with your annual women’s health exams is linked to diagnosing female reproductive cancers early (according to Cancer.org). Both of these can work together to detect problems that may cause pelvic pain (including different types of cancer).
3. You can go to urgent care for pelvic pain and routine women’s health exams if your OB/GYN isn’t available
Getting in to see your OB/GYN may often take weeks (or even months in some cases). This is precious time when it comes to pelvic pain or getting your routine women’s health exams. Thankfully most urgent care clinics offer a wide range of services, including women’s health services. Urgent care clinics with laboratory and imaging services can even help diagnose the source of your pelvic pain.
While non-life-threatening conditions cause most cases of pelvic pain, the Cleveland Clinic recommends that you stay aware of subtle changes and additional symptoms that may point to something more serious. Seeing a healthcare provider is the best way to get the cause of your pelvic pain diagnosed, and if you cannot get an appointment with an OB/GYN or primary care doctor within a reasonable time urgent care is a great option.
Need to schedule a pelvic exam? Let Solv help you find an urgent care clinic near you.
Frequently asked questions
What are some common causes of pelvic pain?
Pelvic pain can be caused by a variety of health conditions. These include urinary tract infections (UTI), kidney infections or kidney stones, STDs, intestinal disorders like IBS, diverticulitis, or colitis, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), ovulation or ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, and even certain types of cancer like cervical, uterine, or ovarian cancer. Pelvic pain can also be related to pregnancy.
Is pelvic pain always a sign of a serious medical condition?
No, pelvic pain can be a normal part of the menstrual cycle and is not always indicative of a serious medical condition. However, if the pain is severe, sudden, or unrelenting, or if it's accompanied by other symptoms like blood in your urine or stool, pain during sex, unusual vaginal bleeding, spotting, or discharge, or a fever, it's recommended that you seek medical attention.
How common is pelvic pain during menstruation?
According to a study by the NIH, 84% of women reported experiencing pelvic pain during their menstrual period. However, if the pain is severe enough to disrupt your life, it is advised to seek medical attention.
Can pelvic pain be a symptom of cancer?
Yes, in some cases, pelvic pain can be a symptom of certain types of cancer, such as ovarian, uterine, or cervical cancer. However, it's important to note that these are not the most common causes of pelvic pain.
What are the chances of pelvic pain being a symptom of ovarian cancer?
The risk of ovarian cancer is quite low, with a rate of around 1 in 78 according to the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance. However, most women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer report having recurring symptoms, including back and pelvic pain, before being diagnosed.
Are there routine screenings for uterine and ovarian cancer?
No, there are currently no routine screenings for uterine and ovarian cancer according to the CDC. However, establishing care with a primary care physician and keeping up with annual women’s health exams can help detect problems that may cause pelvic pain, including different types of cancer.
Can I go to urgent care for pelvic pain if my OB/GYN isn’t available?
Yes, most urgent care clinics offer a wide range of services, including women’s health services. If you're experiencing pelvic pain and can't get an appointment with an OB/GYN or primary care doctor within a reasonable time, urgent care is a viable option.
How can I schedule a pelvic exam?
You can schedule a pelvic exam through various means, including through your primary care physician or OB/GYN. If these options are not available, urgent care clinics can also provide this service. Online platforms like Solv can also assist in finding an urgent care clinic near you.
Solv has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
- Prevalence of Menstrual Pain. (August 28, 2023)
- Menstrual Cramps. (August 28, 2023)
- Uterine Cancer Screenings. (August 28, 2023)
- Can Ovarian Cancer Be Found Early? (August 28, 2023)
- Frequency of Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer. (August 28, 2023)
- Signs and Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer. (August 28, 2023)
- Pelvic Pain Causes. (August 28, 2023)
- The Importance of Having a Primary Care Doctor. (August 28, 2023)
- Ovarian Cancer. (August 28, 2023)