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HealthInfo Canterbury

Sudden pelvic pain

Sudden, or acute, pelvic pain can be caused by many different things. Your pelvis contains your ovaries, uterus, bladder, bowel, muscles, bones, and nerves. Any one (or more) of these could be causing your pain.


If you know or think you are pregnant, and get sudden pelvic pain get urgent medical attention. You might have an ectopic pregnancy or you might be having a miscarriage.

If you have sudden, severe pelvic pain and feel unwell, even if you are not pregnant, get urgent medical attention.

What can cause sudden pelvic pain?

tummy painThere are many possible causes of sudden pelvic pain.

Urinary tract infection

If you have a burning feeling when you pee, and are peeing more often than normal, you may have a urinary tract infection (UTI). This is easily treated with antibiotics.

Pelvic inflammatory disease

Pelvic inflammatory disease is a sexually transmitted infection of your womb, fallopian tubes, or ovaries. It can also cause vaginal discharge and pain during sex. It needs to be treated as soon as possible with antibiotics. Pelvic inflammatory disease can be caused by chlamydia or gonorrhoea.

Ovarian cyst

An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac on one of your ovaries. It can cause pain if it bursts or twists.


The pain of appendicitis usually comes on gradually and slowly gets worse. It usually hurts on the right side of your pelvis. You may also get a fever, feel sick, and vomit.

Ovulation pain

Ovulation is when your ovaries release eggs. This happens once a month, in the middle of your cycle, and causes a sudden pain for some women. Usually this pain goes away after a few hours.


Endometriosis is when cells from the lining of your womb grow outside your womb. It can cause pain around the time of your period.

What tests do I need?

Your doctor may do several tests to find the cause of your pain. Most premenopausal women will have a pregnancy test. If it's possible that you have a sexually transmitted infection (STI) you may need to have some swabs to check for these.

Your doctor may also ask for a urine sample, to check if you have a urinary tract infection, and do an internal (vaginal) examination. You may also need an ultrasound scan of your pelvis. Treatment will depend on what the tests show.

Sometimes, despite all these tests, doctors will not be able to find out what has caused your pain. However, the tests will have ruled out any serious cause.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by clinical director Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Canterbury DHB. Page created November 2016.


See also:

Understanding your vaginal swab results

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