Pain in your pelvis could be caused by a variety of conditions, including urinary tract infection, kidney stones, hernia, or digestive issues. Pain in the right side may indicate appendicitis, which is a medical emergency.

Your pelvis is the area below your belly button and above your thighs. Anyone can experience pain in this part of the body.

Pain in your pelvis is often a sign or symptom of an issue related to your:

  • urinary tract
  • reproductive organs
  • digestive tract
  • nerves or soft tissue in your pelvis

Some causes of pelvic pain, like menstrual cramps, are normal and nothing to worry about. Other causes of pelvic pain may be more serious and require a visit to a doctor or the hospital.

Check your symptoms against this guide to help figure out what’s causing your pelvic pain. Then see a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment.

We will often use “women” and “men” in this article to reflect the terms that have been historically used to gender people. But your gender identity may not align with why your body is having pelvic pain. Your doctor can better help you understand how your specific circumstances will translate into diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment.

A wide variety of conditions can cause pelvic pain. Some conditions can affect anyone, while other conditions are specific to male or female-related issues.

Let’s take a closer look at some general conditions that may cause pain in the pelvis.

an illustration depicting possible causes of pelvic pain for anyoneShare on Pinterest
Illustration by Sophia Smith

1. Urinary tract infection (UTI)

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a bacterial infection in your urinary tract. This includes your urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys. UTIs are very common, especially in people with a female reproductive system. About 50 percent of women will experience a UTI in their lifetime, often in the bladder.

You’ll typically have pelvic pain with a UTI. The pain is usually in the middle of the pelvis and in the area around the pubic bone.

Other symptoms of a UTI often include:

2. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

Gonorrhea and chlamydia are bacterial infections that are transmitted through sexual activity.

In 2019, more than 616,000 cases of gonorrhea were diagnosed in the United States. In the same year, more than 1.8 million people contracted chlamydia in the United States. Most cases of these STIs affect people ages 15 to 24.

In many cases, gonorrhea and chlamydia won’t cause symptoms. Women may have pain in their pelvis, especially when they urinate or have a bowel movement. In men, the pain can be in the testicles.

Other symptoms of gonorrhea may include:

Other symptoms of chlamydia may include:

  • discharge from the vagina or penis
  • pus in the urine
  • urinating more often than usual
  • pain or burning when you urinate
  • pain during sex
  • tenderness and swelling of the testicles
  • discharge, pain, or bleeding from the rectum

3. Hernia

A hernia occurs when an organ or tissue pushes through a weak spot in the muscles of your abdomen, chest, or thigh. This can create a painful or achy bulge. You should be able to push the bulge back in, or it will disappear when you lie down.

Hernia pain gets worse when you cough, laugh, bend over, or lift something.

Other symptoms include:

  • a heavy feeling in the area of the bulge
  • weakness or pressure in the hernia area
  • pain and swelling around the testicles

4. Appendicitis

The appendix is a thin tube that’s attached to your large intestine. In appendicitis, the appendix becomes inflamed.

This condition affects 5 to 9 percent of people at some point in their lives. Appendicitis is more common in teens and people in their early 20s, but it can happen to people of all ages, including older adults.

Appendicitis pain starts suddenly and can be severe. It’s usually centered in the lower right part of your abdomen. Or, the pain can start around your belly button and migrate to your lower right abdomen. The pain often gets worse when you breathe deeply, cough, or sneeze.

Other symptoms of appendicitis can include:

5. Kidney stones or infection

Kidney stones form when minerals like calcium or uric acid clump together in your urine and make hard rocks. Kidney stones are usually more common in people with a male reproductive system.

Most kidney stones don’t cause symptoms until they are a certain size that do not easily pass thru the ureters (the small tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder). Because the tubes are small and inflexible, they can’t stretch to move the stone through, and this causes pain.

Pain can also be caused by the ureter reacting to the stone by clamping down on it to try and squeeze the stone out. This can cause a painful spasm.

If the stone blocks the flow of urine, it can back up into the kidney, causing pressure and pain. This pain can be severe.

The pain usually starts in your side and back, but it can radiate to your lower belly and groin. You can also have pain when you urinate. Kidney stone pain comes in waves that get more intense and then fade.

A kidney infection may develop if bacteria get into your kidneys. This can also cause pain in your back, side, lower abdomen, and groin. Sometimes people with kidney stones also have a kidney infection.

Other symptoms of a kidney stone or infection include:

  • blood in your urine, which may be pink, red, or brown
  • cloudy or foul-smelling urine
  • a need to urinate more often than usual
  • an urgent need to urinate
  • burning or pain when you urinate
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fever
  • chills

6. Cystitis

Cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder that’s usually caused by an infection of the urinary tract. It causes pain or pressure in your pelvis and lower belly.

Other symptoms include:

  • a strong urge to urinate
  • burning or pain when you urinate
  • urinating small amounts at a time
  • blood in the urine
  • cloudy or strong-smelling urine
  • low grade fever

7. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

IBS is a condition that causes intestinal symptoms like cramps. It’s not the same as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which causes long-term inflammation of the digestive tract.

About 12 percent of U.S. adults have been diagnosed with IBS. IBS affects about twice as many women as men, and it usually starts before age 50.

The abdominal pain and cramps of IBS usually improve when you have a bowel movement.

Other IBS symptoms can include:

  • bloating
  • gas
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • mucus in the stool

8. Pudendal nerve entrapment

The pudendal nerve supplies feeling to your genitals, anus, and urethra. An injury, surgery, or growth can put pressure on this nerve in the area where it enters or leaves the pelvis.

Pudendal nerve entrapment causes nerve pain. This feels like an electric shock or deep aching pain in the genitals, the area between the genitals and rectum (perineum), and around the rectum.

The pain tends to get worse when you sit and improves when you stand up or lie down.

Other symptoms often include:

  • trouble starting the flow of urine
  • frequent or urgent need to urinate
  • constipation
  • painful bowel movements
  • numbness of the penis and scrotum or vulva
  • trouble getting an erection

9. Adhesions

Adhesions are bands of scar-like tissue that make organs and tissues in your abdomen stick together. You can get adhesions after you have abdominal surgery. About 90 percent of people who have abdominal surgery develop adhesions afterward.

Adhesions don’t always cause symptoms. When they do, belly pain is most common. Sharp pulling sensations and pain are often reported.

While adhesions usually don’t cause a problem, if your intestines become stuck together and get blocked, you can have severe abdominal pain or symptoms such as:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • swollen belly
  • constipation
  • loud sounds in your bowels

See your doctor right away if you have these symptoms.

Some causes of pelvic pain may be due to conditions that are specific to the female reproductive system.

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Illustration by Sophia Smith

10. Ovary pain (mittelschmerz)

It’s not unusual for some people to experience ovary pain during regular ovulation each month. Also known as mittelschmerz (German words for “middle” and “pain”), this pain is felt in the lower belly and pelvis region.

It happens during ovulation when an egg is released from the fallopian tube. It usually occurs about halfway through your menstrual cycle — hence the word “middle.”

The pain you feel from ovulation typically:

  • is on the side of your abdomen where the egg is released
  • feels sharp, or cramp-like and dull
  • lasts for a few minutes to a few hours

You may also have unexpected vaginal bleeding or discharge around the same time you feel the pain.

Pain from ovulation isn’t usually serious, but let your doctor know if the pain doesn’t go away, or if you have a fever or nausea with it.

11. Interstitial cystitis

Interstitial cystitis is a chronic inflammation of the muscle layers of the bladder. The causes of interstitial cystitis are not fully known, and it is treated with a combination of medication, surgery, or lifestyle changes, depending on what your doctor finds most helpful. At this time, there is no cure.

Symptoms of interstitial cystitis include:

  • chronic or intermittent pain in the pelvis
  • pelvic pressure or discomfort
  • urinary urgency (feeling that you need to urinate)
  • frequent urination day and night
  • pain during sexual intercourse

12. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menstrual cramps

Many people get cramps in their lower abdomen just before or during their menstrual period. The discomfort comes from hormone changes, and from the uterus contracting as it pushes out the uterine lining.

Usually cramps are mild, but sometimes they can be painful. Painful periods are called dysmenorrhea. About 10 percent of people who have periods have pain severe enough to disrupt their daily life.

Along with cramps, you might have other symptoms before or during your period, such as:

13. Ectopic pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg grows outside of the uterus — usually in the fallopian tubes. As the egg grows, it can cause the fallopian tube to burst, which can be life threatening. Between 1 and 2 percent of all pregnancies in the United States are ectopic pregnancies.

Pain from an ectopic pregnancy comes on quickly and can feel sharp or stabbing. It may only be on one side of your pelvis. The pain can come in waves.

Other symptoms include:

Call your OB-GYN if you have these symptoms. An ectopic pregnancy is a medical emergency.

14. Miscarriage

A miscarriage refers to the loss of a baby before the 20th week of pregnancy. About 10 to 15 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. Even more people probably miscarry before they realize they’re pregnant.

Severe cramps or pain in your belly is one sign of a miscarriage. Other symptoms of a miscarriage include:

If you’re pregnant and have moderate to severe cramps or abdominal pain, consider following up with your doctor to get checked out.

15. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection in the female reproductive system. It starts when bacteria get into the vagina and travel to the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or other reproductive organs.

PID is usually caused by an STI like gonorrhea or chlamydia. About 4.4 percent of women in the United States get PID at some point.

The pain from PID is centered in the lower belly. It can feel tender or achy. Other symptoms include:

  • vaginal discharge
  • unusual vaginal bleeding
  • fever
  • pain during sex
  • painful urination
  • frequent need to urinate

See a doctor if you have these symptoms. If left untreated, PID can lead to infertility.

16. Ovarian cyst rupture or torsion

Cysts are fluid-filled sacs that can form in your ovaries. Most women get cysts, but they usually don’t cause any problems or symptoms.

However, if a cyst twists or breaks open (ruptures), it can cause pain in your lower belly on the same side as the cyst. The pain can be sharp or dull, and it may come and go.

Other symptoms of a cyst may include:

  • a feeling of fullness in your abdomen
  • an ache in your lower back
  • pain during sex
  • unexplained weight gain
  • pain during your period
  • unusual vaginal bleeding
  • the need to urinate more often than usual
  • bloating
  • fever
  • vomiting

See a doctor right away if the pain in your pelvis is severe, or if you also have a fever together with the pain.

17. Uterine fibroids

Uterine fibroids are growths in the wall of the uterus. They’re common during your reproductive years, and they usually aren’t cancerous.

Fibroids can range in size from tiny seeds to large lumps that make your belly grow. Often, fibroids don’t cause any symptoms. Larger fibroids, though, may cause pressure or pain in the pelvis.

Other symptoms of uterine fibroids may include:

18. Endometriosis

With endometriosis, tissue that normally lines your uterus grows in other parts of your pelvis. Each month, that tissue thickens and attempts to shed, like it would inside the uterus. But tissue outside of your uterus has nowhere to go. This can cause pain and other symptoms.

Endometriosis affects more than 11 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the United States. It’s most common during the 30s and 40s.

Endometriosis causes pelvic pain before and during your period. The pain can be severe. You may also have pain when you urinate or have sex.

Other symptoms may include:

  • heavy menstrual bleeding
  • fatigue
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • nausea

19. Pelvic congestion syndrome (PCS)

With pelvic congestion syndrome (PCS), varicose veins develop around your ovaries. These thick, ropy veins are similar to varicose veins that can form in the legs. The valves that normally keep blood flowing in the right direction through the veins no longer work. This can cause blood to back up in your veins, which swell up.

Men can also develop varicose veins in their pelvis, but this condition is much more common in women.

Pelvic pain is the main symptom of PCS. The pain can feel dull or achy. It will often get worse during the day, especially if you’ve been sitting or standing a lot. You can also have pain with sex and around the time of your period.

Other symptoms may include:

  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • varicose veins in your thighs
  • trouble controlling urination

20. Pelvic organ prolapse

The female pelvic organs stay in place thanks to a hammock of muscles and other tissues that support them. Due to childbirth and age, these muscles can weaken and allow the bladder, uterus, and rectum to fall down into the vagina.

Pelvic organ prolapse can affect women of any age, but it’s most common in older women.

This condition can cause a feeling of pressure or heaviness in your pelvis. You might also feel a lump protruding from your vagina.

Some conditions that cause pelvic pain may be due to conditions specific to the male reproductive system.

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Illustration by Sophia Smith

21. Bacterial prostatitis

Prostatitis refers to inflammation and swelling of the prostate gland. Bacterial prostatitis is an infection of the gland caused by bacteria. Up to 16 percent of men get prostatitis at some point in their lives, but less than 10 percent of them will have bacterial prostatitis.

Along with pelvic pain, symptoms can include:

22. Chronic pelvic pain syndrome

If you have long-term pelvic pain with no infection or other obvious cause, you will likely receive a diagnosis of chronic pelvic pain syndrome. To qualify for this diagnosis, you need to have had pelvic pain for at least 3 months.

Anywhere from 2 to 16 percent of men develop chronic pelvic pain syndrome during their lifetime. It’s the most common urinary system condition in men under age 50.

People with this condition have pain in the penis, testicles, the area between the testicles and rectum (perineum), and lower belly.

Other symptoms include:

  • pain during urination and ejaculation
  • a weak urine stream
  • an increased need to urinate
  • muscle or joint pain
  • fatigue

23. Urethral stricture

The urethra is the tube that urine passes through from the bladder out of the body. Urethral stricture refers to a narrowing or blockage in the urethra caused by swelling, injury, or infection. The blockage slows the flow of urine out of the penis.

Urethral stricture affects less than 1 percent of men as they age. In rare cases women can get strictures too, but the problem is much more common in men.

Symptoms of urethral stricture include pain in the abdomen and:

24. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) refers to a noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland. This gland, which adds fluid to semen, normally starts out about the size and shape of a walnut. The prostate continues to grow as you age.

When the prostate grows, it squeezes down on your urethra. The bladder muscle has to work harder to push out urine. Over time, the bladder muscle can weaken, and you can develop urinary symptoms.

BPH is very common in older men. About half of men ages 51 to 60 have this condition. By age 80, up to 90 percent of men will have BPH.

In addition to a feeling of fullness in your pelvis, symptoms can include:

  • an urgent need to urinate
  • weak or dribbling urine flow
  • trouble starting to urinate
  • pushing or straining to urinate

25. Post-vasectomy pain syndrome

A vasectomy is a form of male birth control. The surgery cuts a tube called the vas deferens, so that sperm can no longer get into the semen and impregnate an egg.

About 1 to 2 percent of people who have a vasectomy develop pain in their testicles for more than 3 months after the procedure. This is called post-vasectomy pain syndrome. It can be caused by damage to structures in the testicle, or pressure on nerves in the area, among other factors.

The pain can be constant, or come and go. Some people also have pain when they get an erection, have sex, or ejaculate. For some, the pain is sharp and stabbing. Others have more of a throbbing pain.

Temporary and mild pelvic pain is probably nothing to worry about. If the pain is severe or continues for more than several days, make an appointment with a doctor.

Also get medical attention if you experience pelvic pain and:

  • blood in your urine
  • foul-smelling urine
  • trouble urinating
  • inability to have a bowel movement
  • bleeding between periods
  • fever
  • nausea or vomiting
  • chills

Pain in the pelvis can have many causes. Some causes are harmless, while others can be more serious.

The key with pelvic pain, as with most other types of pain, is to pay attention to accompanying symptoms. If you have pain as well as fever, chills, unusual bleeding, or urine that looks or smells different, or have trouble urinating, it’s important to get medical care as soon as you can.

Additionally, if your pelvic pain is severe, keeps getting worse, or doesn’t go away after several days, it’s best to get checked out by a healthcare professional to make sure the pain isn’t cause for concern.