Pelvic Pain... When Isn't it Normal?

April 21, 2018| Health and Wellbeing /

Women are great at supporting other women, advocating for them and fighting for their rights, and through this movement women can access a better range of medical services tailored to them and their problems than ever before.

Women’s health issues can be complex and hard to diagnose, there are many separate conditions that share the same symptoms and some that cause irreparable damage with no symptoms at all. There are more women-exclusive healthcare facilities popping up all of the time, one of the newest being Epworth Geelong’s Women’s health clinic, focusing on a range of women’s health issues and staffed by knowledgeable female doctors.

A regular concern for women is pelvic pain and other menstrual problems. Pelvic pain usually occurs in the lower abdomen area (anywhere below your belly button counts), the pain can be intermittent, steady, sharp, stabbing or dull, you may feel it all the time or just during menstruation or sex.

There’s no one way it feels or one cause for it, several conditions can cause pelvic pain and it can even be chronic.
— Dr Elizabeth Skeen, General Practitioner at Epworth HealthCare's Women’s Health Clinic in Geelong

The hardest part of treating pelvic pain is determining what condition or injury has caused it, and to give you an idea of the complexity, here is a list of just some of the possible causes:

  • Appendicitis

  • Constipation

  • Colon cancer

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Crohn’s disease (a type of inflammatory bowel disease)

  • Intestinal obstruction

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

  • Kidney stones

  • Past physical or sexual abuse

  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)

  • Ulcerative Colitis (another type of inflammatory bowel disease)

  • Pelvic floor muscle spasms

On top of all of those, there’s a huge range of possible causes exclusive to the female reproductive system and these include:

  • Ectopic pregnancy (or other pregnancy-related conditions)

  • Miscarriage (before the 20th week) or intrauterine fetal death

  • Menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea)

  • Mittelschmerz (pain associated with ovulation)

  • Ovarian cancer

  • Ovarian cysts

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) — infection of the female reproductive organs

  • Uterine fibroids

  • Vulvodynia

  • Endometriosis

As you can see, pelvic pain can be hard to treat so don’t be afraid to let your GP or local clinic if your initial treatment doesn’t take the pain away, it could be that there’s more than one cause to your pain.

Endometriosis and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome are two of the biggest menstrual concerns affecting reproduction. 

Other menstrual problems include:

  • Heavy periods – bleeding more than normal, or for longer than 7 days.

  • Absent periods – this can include not getting a period by age 16, or if you’ve had a period previously but it’s stopped. If you’ve been having unprotected sex and think you may be pregnant you can take a pregnancy test (available at pharmacies and supermarkets) otherwise check with a healthcare professional.

  • Painful periods – some discomfort and mild cramping is normal but if your period is lighter or heavier than normal or is accompanied be excruciating pain, it could be because of a condition such as fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease or endometriosis.

Even women without a diagnosed condition can experience pain and discomfort from menstruation. Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) can begin up to two weeks before your period begins and can include symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, constipation, irritability, headaches, backaches, acne, food cravings, sore breasts, fatigue, insomnia, mild stomach cramps, feelings of stress, anxiety and depression.

Some women experience none of these symptoms while others will experience all of them and both are completely normal as long as the symptoms are not severe or debilitating. If you’re ever unsure, pop in to your local clinic for advice.
— Dr Elizabeth Skeen, General Practitioner at Epworth HealthCare's Women’s Health Clinic in Geelong

If you’re ever unsure, having menstrual problems or pelvic pain it’s important that you see a health care professional as soon as possible. Epworth Geelong offers a Women’s Health Clinic ran by general practitioners who specialist in women’s health, you can find out more here.



Sarah Stanley

Contributor

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