Pelvic pain can occur anywhere within the lower portion of the trunk, between the belly button and the thighs. While stabbing pain in the pelvic region is common in conditions that affect the female reproductive tract, there are other reasons why you may have sharp, stabbing pelvic pain.

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Pelvic pain is pain that occurs anywhere within the lower portion of the trunk, between the bellybutton and the thighs. The pain can be felt in the front or back portion of the pelvis, can be acute or chronic, and can feel different depending on the cause.

While stabbing pain in the pelvic region is common in conditions that affect the female reproductive tract, there are a handful of other reasons why you may have sharp, stabbing pelvic pain.

In this article, we’ll explore 17 possible causes of stabbing pain in the pelvic area, including treatment options and when to see a doctor.

Female-only reproductive tract conditionsAll gender conditions
ovulationpelvic abscess
ovarian cystsurinary tract infection (UTI)
pregnancyinterstitial cystitis
endometriosiskidney stone
pelvic inflammatory diseaseconstipation
pelvic floor dysfunctionirritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
pudendal neuralgia

Ovulation is the point in the menstrual cycle in which a mature egg is released from the fallopian tubes. During ovulation, the follicle that houses the growing egg increases in size, which may cause ovulation pain (also called mittelschmerz).

Ovulation pain often feels like a sharp, stabbing pain on one side of the pelvis that lasts for minutes, hours, or sometimes even days. Ovulation pain may also be accompanied by a burning or cramping in the pelvis, as well as bloating around the lower abdomen.

Treatment and when to seek help

Ovulation pain is generally not dangerous, and can be treated with over-the-counter pain medications. However, if the pain is severe and is accompanied by other symptoms such as vaginal bleeding, see your doctor as this could indicate a ruptured ovarian cyst.

Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that can develop on either of the follicles of the ovaries. Follicular ovarian cysts can develop before the follicle releases an egg, while corpus luteum cysts can develop after an egg is released. Ovarian cysts are relatively common and can appear at any age.

Ovarian cysts can cause a variety of symptoms, including sharp pains in the lower portion of the abdomen. Other symptoms of an ovarian cyst may include bloating, nausea, vomiting, and pain during bowel movements or intercourse.

Treatment and when to seek help

As an ovarian cyst grows larger, it can rupture and cause serious complications. If you are experiencing sudden pelvic pain on one side, accompanied by fever, lightheadedness, or difficulty breathing, seek immediate medical attention.

Pregnancy causes a wide range of physical and emotional symptoms. From the moment of conception, the uterus begins to stretch and the organs begin to shift, both of which can cause mild pain and discomfort.

Cramping that occurs during early pregnancy generally feels like mild period cramps in the lower abdomen. However, round ligament pain that can occur during the second trimester feels more like intermittent stabbing pains in the lower pelvic region.

Treatment and when to seek help

Cramping during pregnancy is not always a sign that something is wrong. However, if the pain is severe, doesn’t go away, or is accompanied by vaginal bleeding, see a doctor immediately as it could indicate preeclampsia, an infection, or even ectopic pregnancy.

Endometriosis is a condition in which endometrial-like tissue, which is normally found lining the uterus, grows outside of the uterine cavity. With endometriosis, this tissue can grow anywhere within the pelvic region, including the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and nearby organs. Factors such as abnormal menstrual cycles can increase endometriosis risk.

Endometriosis pain can range from a mild abdominal ache to stabbing pains in the pelvis, back, and legs. Pain that accompanies endometriosis is often severe enough that it cannot be relieved even with over-the-counter medications.

Treatment and when to seek help

Treatment for endometriosis is important to help prevent further complications, such as infertility. If you’ve been experiencing heavy bleeding and pelvic pain during menstruation, sex, or bowel movements, see your doctor.

Abscesses are painful, pus-filled pockets of inflamed tissue. An abdominal abscess can form anywhere within the abdominal cavity, including on the organs. When an abdominal abscess is located within the pelvic region, it’s known as a pelvic abscess. Pelvic abscesses are more likely to develop in people with underlying gastrointestinal conditions.

Pelvic abscesses can cause stabbing pain within the pelvic region if they grow large enough to press against the sensitive nerves in this area. Other symptoms of a pelvic abscess may include fever, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and general malaise.

Treatment and when to seek help

An abscess can become dangerous if it ruptures, so it’s important to get treatment as early as possible. Generally, treatment involves surgery to drain the abscess, followed up with antibiotics to prevent the spread of infection.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the female reproductive system that can affect the cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries. PID can be caused by any kind of infection but is commonly caused by bacteria from untreated sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Any activities that increase the risk of STIs can increase PID risk.

PID often causes pain, which can range from mild to severe, in the lower region of the abdomen. In addition to pelvic pain, other symptoms of PID may include upper abdominal pain, fever, fatigue, vaginal discharge, irregular bleeding, or painful sex or urination.

Treatment and when to seek help

Antibiotics are the first line of treatment for PID, and early treatment is important to prevent the infection from spreading to other areas of the body. If left untreated, PID can potentially cause a life-threatening condition called sepsis, which requires immediate medical attention.

Pelvic floor dysfunction is a condition in which a person is unable to control their pelvic floor muscles, which are the muscles that help control bowel movements and urination. Pelvic floor dysfunction can lead to constipation, urinary incontinence, or even pain during intercourse. Childbirth, increased age, and other underlying conditions can increase the risk of developing this condition.

Pelvic pain is common with pelvic floor dysfunction and can range from a mild cramping sensation to bouts of sharp, stabbing pains in the pelvis. Symptoms may also include issues with urination, constipation, and overall pain, discomfort, and even muscle spasms in the pelvis.

Treatment and when to seek help

Pelvic floor dysfunction is not necessarily a life-threatening condition; however, it can cause long-term complications if left untreated. Treatment options include medication, pelvic floor muscle exercises, and in some cases, surgery to treat any underlying causes.

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a common infection that affects the urinary tract, which includes the urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys. UTIs are commonly caused by bacteria, but can also sometimes be caused by fungi and viruses. Increased sexual activity can greatly increase the risk of developing a UTI.

UTIs can cause a wide range of symptoms, including sharp, stabbing, or cramping pains in the lower region of the pelvis. Other common symptoms include burning or urgency with urination; cloudy, bloody, dark, or foul-smelling urine; and pain in the rectum.

Treatment and when to seek help

Antibiotics are often used to treat UTIs; however, other treatment options may be necessary if the infection is not caused by bacteria. If left untreated, UTIs can spread to the kidneys and into the blood, causing a life-threatening condition called urosepsis.

Interstitial cystitis (IC) is a chronic condition characterized by pain, pressure, and discomfort in the bladder. IC is caused by a variety of underlying conditions, including frequent bladder infections, pelvic floor dysfunction, or even autoimmune disorders. People with female anatomy are more likely to develop IC.

IC pain often affects the lower pelvic region and flare-ups can range from dull cramps to sharp, stabbing pains. In addition to chronic or intermittent pain, IC can also cause pressure, discomfort, pain during intercourse, or changes in urination habits.

Treatment and when to seek help

Unfortunately, there’s no current cure for IC, but medication can be used to help reduce bladder pain. Certain procedures, such as bladder distention or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), can also help reduce chronic symptoms.

Kidney stones are crystallized masses of salt and mineral that form in the kidneys, or along the urinary tract. Kidney stones can be composed of calcium, uric acid, struvite, or cystine, depending on the accumulating mineral. Certain underlying conditions, such as diabetes, can increase the risk of developing kidney stones.

Kidney stones can be incredibly painful and can cause sharp, stabbing pains on either side of the lower back, in the lower abdomen, or in the groin area. Other symptoms of kidney stones may include bloody or foul-smelling urine, difficulty urinating, fever, nausea, or vomiting.

Treatment and when to seek help

Treatment for kidney stones depends on the type, size, and number of stones — larger kidney stones are more difficult to pass naturally. Procedures such as lithotripsy, ureteroscopy, and tunnel surgery may be used to help larger kidney stones pass, along with pain medications.

Constipation occurs when the stool becomes hard, dry, and difficult to pass, leading to an increased difficulty in passing bowel movements. Constipation is generally caused by a poor diet, although there may be other underlying causes, such as certain medications.

Constipation frequently causes an increase in gas within the digestive tract, which can lead to sharp cramps or stabbing pains in the lower abdomen. Constipation can also lead to fewer bowel movements, straining during defecation, and difficulty fully emptying the bowels.

Treatment and when to seek help

Although constipation is rarely dangerous, sometimes the stool can become impacted. Fecal impaction can become dangerous if not treated, so if you notice symptoms like severe pain, anal leakage, fever, nausea, vomiting, or confusion, seek medical attention right away.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition that’s characterized by frequent gastrointestinal symptoms leading to chronic abdominal pain and discomfort. IBS is generally characterized as diarrhea predominant (IBS-D), constipation predominant (IBS-C), or mixed (IBS-M).

IBS frequently causes either constipation or diarrhea, both of which can cause sharp pains in the lower pelvic region. In addition, people with IBS frequently experience bloating and gas, both of which can cause cramping or sharp pelvic pain and discomfort.

Treatment and when to seek help

While there’s no current treatment for IBS, reducing the frequency and severity of flare-ups can help decrease symptoms and improve overall quality of life. Avoiding triggers, reducing stress, and making dietary changes can all help in the long-term management of IBS.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an umbrella term for a group of conditions that are characterized by inflammation of the digestive tract. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are the two main types of IBD, and each differs in location, severity, and clinical progression. Family history, genetics, and lifestyle choices can all greatly influence IBD risk.

IBD can cause severe abdominal pain, including both cramp-like pain as well as sharp, stabbing pain. Unlike IBS, IBD is often accompanied by more severe symptoms, such as fatigue, joint pain, blood in the stool, malnutrition, and weight loss.

Treatment and when to seek help

IBD is not necessarily fatal, but without treatment it can lead to serious health complications, such as malnutrition, severe blood loss, bowel perforations or obstructions, or even colorectal cancer. Early treatment can help reduce the long-term complications of IBD.

Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix, the small finger-shaped organ located on the distant portion of the colon. Appendicitis often occurs due to a blockage or infection within the appendix that causes it to become inflamed, swollen, and filled with pus. Appendicitis is most likely to develop between the ages of 15 to 30.

Appendicitis pain may initially feel like mild cramps but as the pain becomes more severe, it can cause a stabbing pain in the lower right portion of the abdomen. Severe appendix pain tends to be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal bloating, and a low-grade fever.

Treatment and when to seek help

A swollen and infected appendix can sometimes rupture and become life-threatening, so surgery is often necessary to remove it as quickly as possible. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, seek immediate medical attention.

A hernia occurs when part of an organ or tissue breaks through the muscles of the abdominal wall. Hernias can be found in the upper or lower portion of the abdomen, the bellybutton, or even the groin area. In some cases, they may also develop from a previous abdominal scar.

Hernias can potentially cause sharp pains in the pelvic region if the organ has been cut off from the blood supply, or if a nerve within the hernia is being pinched. Generally, hernias tend to become more painful as the hernia grows larger, due to increased pressure or exertion.

Treatment and when to seek help

Unfortunately, a hernia does not go away without treatment — and if left untreated, can lead to life-threatening complications. A hernia that’s accompanied by sudden and severe pain, nausea, vomiting, or fever should be treated immediately to prevent further complications.

Peritonitis is an inflammation of the peritoneum, which is the thin layer of tissue on the inner wall of the abdomen that supports the abdominal organs. Peritonitis is often caused by an infection from another organ, such as a burst appendix, although there are other underlying causes. Any contamination of the peritoneum can increase the risk of peritonitis.

Peritonitis almost always causes severe pain and tenderness within the abdominal cavity, including the pelvis. Other symptoms of peritonitis may include abdominal distention, constipation or diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, and fatigue.

Treatment and when to seek help

It’s important to seek treatment for peritonitis right away, as the infection can quickly spread to other areas of the body. Antibiotics and pain medications are the most common treatments for peritonitis; however, surgery may sometimes be necessary to remove other infected tissues.

Pudendal neuralgia is the term used to describe a stabbing or burning pain caused by damage to the pudendal nerve within the pelvis. Neuralgia can have multiple underlying causes, including older age, injury, infection, or another underlying health condition.

Pudendal neuralgia can cause sharp, stabbing, or burning pain within the pelvis — depending on the severity, this pain can sometimes extend down to the genitals. Neuralgia can also cause general discomfort, and even numbness, in the area surrounding the nerve.

Treatment and when to seek help

Treatment for pudendal neuralgia may include different types of medications, physical therapy, lifestyle changes, and in some cases, surgery. Although this condition is rarely life threatening, early treatment can greatly improve overall quality of life.

Stabbing pain in the pelvic area can be caused by a variety of underlying conditions, most of which are not serious but may require medical treatment.

In some cases, sharp, stabbing pains in the pelvis can indicate a more serious condition that requires immediate medical attention.

If you’re experiencing severe pelvic pain accompanied by other concerning symptoms, such as bleeding, nausea, vomiting, or fever, seek medical attention right away.