Causes of pelvic pain

Almost one in four UK women suffer from long term pelvic pain, and yet the problem is often misdiagnosed and the symptoms left untreated.

One major reason for this misdiagnosis is that there are three main causes of pelvic pain in women of reproductive age, and their symptoms often overlap.

However, a new report by The Gut Foundation in Australia, seeks to clarify any confusion around these three conditions. The aim is to promote awareness of the different causes of pelvic pain in women, thus hopefully allowing for faster diagnosis and treatment.

The three major causes of pelvic pain in women are:

  1. Endometriosis
  2. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  3. Chronic Pelvic Pain (CPP)

Below, we’ll outline some of the key points about these three conditions.


Endometriosis occurs when small amounts of womb tissue becomes attached to organs outside of the womb, including the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder and bowel among others.

The symptoms associated with endometriosis are wide ranging but include:

  • Pelvic pain, particularly before and during menstruation
  • Irregular or heavy periods
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Bladder problems – including difficulty in fully emptying your bladder as well as leaking and painful urination
  • Bowel problems – including painful bowel movements, bleeding, nausea, constipation and bloating
  • Infertility
  • History of haemorrhoids

Treatment for endometriosis most commonly includes surgical excision of the lesions, however other options can include hormone treatments to manage the symptoms.


Endometriosis affects around ten per cent of women worldwide, so if you are suffering from any of the symptoms above, it could be worth ruling it out.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

IBS affects around 5-10% of the population and is considered to be a ‘functional disorder’, because it affects the functionality of the intestine. The physical cause of IBS varies from patient to patient and is rarely fully known.

Symptoms of IBS include:

  • Abdominal pain and bloating
  • Urgent bowel movements
  • Diarrhoea or constipation, sometimes alternating
  • Mucus in bowel movements
  • History of haemorrhoids

Treatment for IBS often focuses on managing the symptoms – avoiding certain foods and drinks that you think cause problems, minimising stress, etc – however there are also pharmaceutical treatments available.

The problem often goes away by itself but can reoccur without apparent reason.

Chronic pelvic pain (CPP)

Chronic pelvic pain is diagnosed when pain in the pelvis or lower abdomen has been present for six months or more. Sometimes it can in itself be a symptom of a disease – like endometriosis – that can then be treated.

Symptoms of chronic pelvic plain include:

  • Any kind of ongoing pelvic pain – mild or severe, spread across the whole pelvic region or in one specific spot
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Pain during bowel movements
  • Pain whilst passing urine
  • Pain when sitting down for long periods

If a specific cause of CPP can be found, such as endometriosis or IBS, then treatment will be focused on that condition. However, in many cases a root cause is never found, in which case treatments include pain relief, hormonal treatments or even anti-depressants.

How can diagnosis of these conditions be improved?

The main aim of the Gut Foundation in producing this brochure is to improve understanding, both within the medical community and among the general public about these conditions.

Once physicians understand the differences and commonalities between these three major causes of pelvic pain, diagnosis and treatment should happen faster.

If you suffer from pelvic pain and would like some expert advice, why not call us today on 07835 736627 to book an appointment.