20 causes of sudden stabbing pain in your Pelvic area as a woman

doctor-discussing-pelvic-pain-issues-with-female-patient
Medically reviewed by Dr. Ola Tarabzuni

Key Takeaways

  • PID, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, musculoskeletal troubles, gastrointestinal diseases, and other conditions can all produce sudden stabbing pain in the pelvic area in females.
  • Pelvic discomfort can range in severity and be accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, abnormal vaginal discharge, vaginal stabbing pain, sharp stabbing pain in the uterus, or changes in bowel or urine patterns.
  • Prompt medical attention is crucial for conditions like PID, ovarian torsion, or gynecologic cancers, as they may require immediate intervention.
  • Diagnosis of the underlying cause of pelvic pain often involves a combination of medical history assessment, physical examination, and diagnostic tests such as imaging studies or laboratory tests.
  • Treatment options for pelvic pain depend on the specific cause and may include medication, lifestyle changes, physical therapy, or surgical intervention.
  • Communicating concerns or symptom changes to a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and management is essential.
  • Early diagnosis and intervention can help alleviate chronic symptoms, reduce complications, and improve overall well-being for individuals experiencing pelvic pain.
  • Maintaining regular check-ups and practicing safe sexual behaviours can help prevent and detect sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that can cause pelvic pain.
  • Awareness of the potential causes of pelvic pain can empower individuals to seek timely medical attention and facilitate informed discussions with healthcare providers.

Overview

The human body is an intricate masterpiece, and the pelvis is crucial in providing structural support, protecting vital organs, and facilitating movement. However, when sudden stabbing pain strikes the pelvic area in females, it can be a distressing and enigmatic experience.

You may feel sharp pains in the vagina, sharp pain in the private area, or stabbing pains in the uterus. Understanding the potential causes of this discomfort is essential for seeking appropriate medical attention and relief. You may need to seek medical advice for your relevant medical condition.

What is pelvic pain?

Any discomfort in the lower abdomen, particularly in the region below the belly button and between the hip bones, is called pelvic pain.

Pelvic pain can range from dull and achy to severe and stabbing in intensity, duration, and other features. It may be frequent or sporadic, mild to severe, Sudden or chronic, and it can severely affect someone’s daily activities, quality of life, and mental well-being.

Pelvic discomfort can have various origins, including different organs and pelvic tissues.

CausePain Type
1. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)Sudden
2. Kidney StonesSudden
3. AppendicitisSudden
4. Pelvic Inflammatory DiseaseSudden / Chronic
5. Ovarian Cysts RuptureSudden 
6. EndometriosisChronic
7. Ischemic Uterine FibroidsSudden
8. Ectopic PregnancySudden
9. Musculoskeletal IssuesSudden / Chronic
10. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)Chronic
11. DiverticulitisSudden / Chronic
12. Pelvic AbscessSudden / Chronic
13. Ovarian TorsionSudden
14. MenstruationSudden / Chronic
15. Gynecological CancersChronic
16. OvulationSudden
17. Pelvic Pain in PregnancyChronic
18. Interstitial Cystitis Flare Up Sudden / Chronic
19. Pelvic Congestion SyndromeChronic
20. Pelvic Floor DysfunctionChronic
21. Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)Sudden /Chronic
22. AdhesionsSudden / Chronic
23. Bladder DisordersChronic
24. Gastrointestinal DisordersSudden / Chronic
25. Nerve EntrapmentChronic
26. Psychological FactorsChronic

Please note that the pain type indicated in the table (C for constant/chronic and S for sudden) is a generalization and can vary depending on individual circumstances. It’s essential to consult a healthcare provider for your condition.

You may need professional support if you are experiencing sharp stabbing pain in the pelvis. It would be best if you got an online consultation from a professional.

Causes of sudden stabbing pain in the pelvis

Both acute and persistent pelvic discomfort or pain have numerous underlying causes. Acute pelvic discomfort is described as new or unexpected pain. A long-lasting ailment, which may be constant or cyclical, is called chronic pain. Sudden stabbing pain in the pelvic area female on the left side can be because of Ovarian cyst rupture, Ectopic pregnancy, Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), Endometriosis, Ovarian torsion, or Urinary tract infection (UTI).

In contrast, sudden stabbing pain in the pelvic area of the female right side could be all of the above and needs to be differentiated from appendicitis.

Urinary tract infection and sharp pain in the pelvic area of female

Females with urinary tract infections (UTIs) may have sudden, acute pelvic discomfort. Hence, when bacteria colonize the urinary tract and grow there, an infection known as a UTI results. Sharp or stabbing pain in the lower region of the pelvis is one of the symptoms that might appear when the infection affects the lower urinary system, which includes the bladder and urethra. The urge to urinate frequently accompanies this sudden, acute discomfort.

Other signs and symptoms that females with UTIs may have include pain or a burning feeling when urinating, cloudy or bloody urine, and discomfort in the rectum.

Interstitial Cystitis Flare-Up Leading to Sudden Sharp Pain in Pelvis

Interstitial cystitis (IC)  is usually chronic but can cause sudden stabbing pain in the pelvis in females. The pain associated with IC typically causes a sudden sharp lower pelvic region pain and can vary in intensity from dull cramps to sharp, stabbing pains.

During flare-ups, the pain can be particularly intense and sudden. Females with IC may experience pressure, discomfort in the pelvic area, and stabbing pain. Pain during intercourse and changes in urination habits, such as increased frequency or urgency, can also be associated with IC.

Appendicitis

It is true that appendicitis, characterized by appendix inflammation, can cause sharp, sudden pelvic pain. An obstruction or infection can cause the appendix, a tiny organ near the end of the colon, to swell and become inflamed. This condition is known as appendicitis.

The pain caused by appendicitis may initially feel like minor cramps, but as the illness worsens, it turns into a stabbing pain in the lower right corner of the abdomen that might extend to the pelvic area. People with appendicitis could also have symptoms including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal bloating, low-grade temperature, and sharp pelvic pain.

Prompt medical care is required when appendicitis is suspected since the condition could worsen. When appendicitis is suspected, immediate medical care is necessary since, if untreated, the condition can get worse and result in potentially serious complications.

Kidney Stones

An intense, stabbing pain in the pelvis may be brought on by kidney stones. Due to the narrow passages, kidney stones can cause excruciating pain that can radiate to the pelvic region as they pass through the urinary tract. Typically, the ache is felt in the groin lower back on either side or lower abdomen.

Depending on the size and location of the kidney stone, the discomfort may vary in intensity. Kidney stones may also be accompanied by additional symptoms such as fever, nausea, vomiting, bloody or foul-smelling urine, trouble urinating, and severe pain.

If you suspect kidney stones, it’s critical to consult a doctor because accurate diagnosis and therapy are required to manage the problem and relieve symptoms.

Pelvic abscess causing sharp pain in the pelvis 

What you may think to be a pain in the uterus may be a pain in the pelvic region. One of the causes includes pelvic abscess. Pelvic abscesses can bring on sharp, abrupt pain in the pelvis. Those who have underlying gastrointestinal disorders are more likely to acquire these abscesses.

A large enough pelvic abscess may put pressure on the delicate nerves in the pelvic area, resulting in stabbing agony or pain in the pelvic region. Along with discomfort, pelvic abscesses frequently cause other symptoms like fever, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and overall malaise.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

The female reproductive organs’ inflammation and infection are symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease. It is commonly caused by untreated sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia or gonorrhea. Initially, women may not experience any noticeable symptoms. However, if left untreated, PID can lead to chronic and severe pelvic or abdominal pain.

Additional symptoms may include bleeding during intercourse, fever, heavy vaginal discharge accompanied by an unpleasant odour, and pain or difficulty during urination. Immediate medical intervention is essential to avoid other issues such as ectopic pregnancies, scarring of the reproductive organs, abscesses, and infertility.

Sharp stabbing pain in the pelvic area may indicate something serious like PID. Try getting professional help as soon as you notice pelvic pain.

Menstruation

Pelvic pain commonly occurs before and during menstruation and is often described as cramps in the pelvis or lower abdomen. The severity of the pain may vary from month to month.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) refers to the pain experienced before menstruation. When the pain becomes so severe that it significantly hinders normal daily activities, it is known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Alongside pelvic pain, PMS and PMDD are often accompanied by symptoms such as bloating, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, tender breasts, mood swings, headaches, and joint pain. These symptoms typically diminish once menstruation begins.

During menstruation, the pain is referred to as dysmenorrhea. It can manifest as abdominal cramps or a nagging pain in the thighs and lower back. Nausea, headaches, lightheadedness, and vomiting may also accompany the pain. If menstrual pain is severe, it is advisable to consult a doctor for pain management options. Over-the-counter medications or acupuncture may be helpful.

Ovarian (adnexal) Torsion

The sudden twisting of an ovary on its spindle causes immediate and intense pain. Nausea and vomiting may accompany this pain. Ovarian torsion is a medical emergency that often requires immediate surgery. If you experience symptoms resembling ovarian torsion, seeking primary medical care is essential. 

Ovarian cyst rupture

Usually, ovarian cysts do not manifest any symptoms. You can feel a dull or intense ache on one side of your pelvis or abdomen if they become huge. It might also cause bloating or a feeling of weight in your lower belly. You will feel sudden, severe pain if a cyst ruptures. Although ovarian cysts frequently go away independently, seeking treatment is advised in these situations. A doctor could occasionally recommend removing a sizable cyst to stop it from rupturing.

Sharp stabbing pain in the pelvic area can indicate something serious, such as an ovarian cyst rupture. Seeking professional help as soon as you notice it is better.

Ischemic uterine fibroids (myomas) leading to sudden pelvic pain

Noncancerous uterine growths are known as uterine fibroids. The symptoms can vary depending on size and location; many women may have no symptoms. Large fibroids can cause pressure or dull, aching pain in the pelvis or lower abdomen. Other symptoms may include bleeding during intercourse, heavy periods, difficulties with urination, leg pain, constipation, and back pain.

Fibroids can also interfere with conception. In rare cases, fibroids may lead to severe and sharp stabbing pain in the uterus if they outgrow their blood supply and begin to die. Immediate medical attention is necessary if you experience chronic pelvic pain, acute pelvic pain, heavy vaginal bleeding between periods, or difficulties with urination.

Gynecologic Cancers

These can develop in various pelvic areas, including the uterus, endometrium, cervix, and ovaries. Symptoms can vary but often include dull, aching pain in the pelvis and abdomen and during intercourse. The pain is usually not sudden unless a complication of the cancer results.  Unusual vaginal discharge is another common symptom. Regular checkups and gynecological exams are essential for the early detection of gynecologic cancers when they are more treatable.

Gynecologic cancer is rare, but it may be the reason for sharp stabbing pain. Try getting medical help as soon as you notice.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a persistent disorder in which tissue resembling the uterus’ lining develops outside it. The uterine lining thickening and shedding during the menstrual cycle are examples of hormonal changes that cause this unusual tissue growth. From minor discomfort to severe and incapacitating agony, endometriosis pain can vary in intensity. Although it can happen during sexual activity, bowel or bladder motions, and menstruation, the discomfort is frequently most intense at those times.

However, it might expand into the abdomen. It commonly starts in the pelvic area. Heavy periods, nausea, and bloating are possible additional endometriosis symptoms.

In some cases, endometriosis can affect rare sites such as the lungs and diaphragm. The condition can also lead to subfertility or infertility. Treatment options for endometriosis include over-the-counter pain medications or surgical procedures like laparoscopy. Also, effective treatments, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), are available for managing endometriosis-related infertility. Early diagnosis is crucial in reducing chronic symptoms and addressing pain and infertility issues.

Ovulation

During the menstrual cycle, some women may experience a temporary sharp pain known as mittelschmerz when an egg is released (Ovulation) from the ovary. This pain is typically short-lived, lasting only a few hours. Over-the-counter pain medication can often provide relief.

Pelvic Pain in Pregnancy

Pregnancy-related pelvic pain is a frequent phenomenon that some circumstances can cause. Noteworthy changes to a woman’s body during pregnancy include

  • Hormonal changes.
  • A rise in weight.
  • Adjustments to the pelvic region to make room for the developing fetus.

These modifications may be a factor in pelvic discomfort and intermittent sharp pain. 

Round Ligament Pain

During pregnancy, round ligament pain is frequently to blame for acute, stabbing pain in the pelvic region. The round ligaments support the uterus and stretch as the baby grows. Sudden movements or changes in position can strain these ligaments, leading to sharp, stabbing pains on one or both sides of the lower abdomen or groin area. This pain is often brief and typically subsides with rest or a change in position.

Symphysis pubis Dysfunction

Symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) is another condition that can cause pelvic pain during pregnancy. It occurs when the joints connecting the pubic bones in the pelvis become overly relaxed and unstable due to hormonal changes. This can result in sharp, stabbing pain in the pubic area, groin, hips, or lower back. The pain may worsen with walking, climbing stairs, or shifting positions.

Pelvic floor muscle spasm

Spasms or tension in the pelvic floor muscles can also cause sharp pain. During pregnancy, the pelvic floor muscles, or the uterus muscles, may contract or spasm. This may cause discomfort or terrible suffering in the pelvic region. Exercises for the pelvic floor, relaxation techniques, or medical care can all help to lessen this pain.

Growing uterus

Additionally, as the uterus grows, it may pressure other organs, including blood vessels and nerves, which can occasionally cause pelvic pain. Temporary stabbing feelings in the pelvic region can also be brought on by gas and bloating.

While occasional sudden stabbing pain is often normal during pregnancy, it is crucial to differentiate it from more concerning symptoms such as severe or persistent pain, vaginal bleeding, fever, or changes in fetal movements. 

Ectopic Pregnancy

It is a severe disorder in which a fertilized egg implants and further grows outside of the uterus, most commonly in the fallopian tube. This illness is considered a medical emergency since it can produce sharp, stabbing pain in the pelvic area.

The most common symptom of an ectopic pregnancy is sharp, intense pelvic pain on one side. The pain can be intermittent or persistent and may radiate to the shoulder or neck. Other symptoms may include vaginal bleeding, sharp vaginal pain, dizziness, lightheadedness, and shoulder pain. However, some women may not experience any noticeable symptoms initially.

Ectopic pregnancies are not viable and cannot proceed to a healthy pregnancy. If left untreated, they can result in life-threatening complications such as fallopian tube rupture and severe internal bleeding.

Musculoskeletal Issues

Musculoskeletal issues can contribute to sudden stabbing pain in the pelvic area in females. These issues involve problems with the pelvic region’s muscles, bones, ligaments, or joints. While they may not directly affect the reproductive organs, they can cause significant discomfort and pain.

Pelvic floor dysfunction is a common musculoskeletal condition that can cause pelvic pain. The pelvic floor muscles support the pelvic organs and aid bladder and bowel control. If these muscles become weak, tight, or unbalanced, it can cause pelvic pain and discomfort. Lifting heavy objects, sitting for lengthy periods, or participating in high-impact exercises might aggravate the disease.

Another possible cause of musculoskeletal-related pelvic pain is sacroiliac joint dysfunction. The sacroiliac joints connect the sacrum (lower part of the spine) to the pelvis. If these joints become inflamed or misaligned, it can result in sharp, stabbing pain in the pelvic region. Pain may worsen with movements such as walking, bending, or standing for long periods.

Additionally, conditions such as muscle strains, ligament sprains, or myofascial pain syndrome can contribute to sudden stabbing pain in the pelvic area. These issues can arise from trauma, overuse, poor posture, or muscle imbalances. The pain may be localized or radiated to other sites, and specific movements or activities can exacerbate it.

Diverticulitis

It is characterized by the inflammation or infection of small pouches, called diverticula, that form in the colon’s lining. While it primarily affects the colon, it can cause sudden stabbing pain in the pelvic area for both males and females.

In diverticulitis, the diverticula becomes inflamed or infected, leading to various symptoms, including severe lower abdominal or pelvic pain. This pain can be sudden and sharp, often localized to the left side of the lower abdomen, but it can also occur on the right side or be felt across the entire pelvic region. Other symptoms may include fever, nausea, vomiting, changes in bowel habits, bloating, and tenderness in the abdomen.

The exact cause of diverticulitis is not fully understood. Still, it is thought to involve a combination of factors, including age, a diet low in fiber, and increased pressure in the colon. When the diverticula becomes blocked with fecal matter, bacteria can multiply, leading to infection and inflammation.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are infections transmitted through sexual contact, and they can cause sudden stabbing pain in the pelvic area for females. Additionally, bacteria, viruses, or parasites cause STIs, leading to various symptoms and complications.

STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) are common culprits of pelvic pain. These infections primarily affect the reproductive organs and can lead to inflammation, scarring, and damage to the pelvic structures.

When left untreated, STIs can cause chronic pelvic pain with sharp or stabbing sensations. Other symptoms may include abnormal vaginal discharge, pain during intercourse, fever, and pain or difficulty during urination.

Adhesions

Adhesions are bands of scar tissue between organs or tissues in the body. They can be caused by surgery, infection, inflammation, or trauma. Adhesions in the pelvic area can cause abrupt stabbing discomfort in women.

Adhesions can cause organs or tissues to become stuck together, leading to restricted movement and tension. This can result in sharp, stabbing pain in the pelvic area. The pain may worsen with exercise or specific activities and may be accompanied by other symptoms such as bloating, discomfort during bowel movements, or changes in urinary patterns.

Gastrointestinal Disorders

Gastrointestinal disorders refer to conditions affecting the digestive system, and they can cause sudden stabbing pain in the pelvic area for females. These disorders include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and gastrointestinal infections.

When the gastrointestinal tract is harmed, abdominal discomfort can spread to the pelvic area. The pain can be acute and intense and may be accompanied by other symptoms such as bloating, bowel abnormalities, nausea, or vomiting.

Sharp stabbing pain in the pelvic area can be due to gastrointestinal disorders. Try getting professional help as soon as you notice it.

Consult a Doctor

You should consult your doctor if you have persistent or worsening pelvic pain. Seek medical assistance if you are experiencing severe pain, a sudden onset of pain, pain accompanied by fever or vomiting, abnormal vaginal bleeding, or if the pain specifically hampers your everyday activities or quality of life. Your healthcare practitioner can evaluate your symptoms, conduct necessary examinations, order diagnostic tests, and treat or refer you to a specialist. Avoiding caution and speaking with a healthcare expert is always advisable to guarantee the correct diagnosis and management of pelvic pain.

FAQs

What are the red flags for pelvic pain?

Red flags for pelvic pain include severe and persistent pain, sudden onset of excruciating pain, high fever, vomiting, heavy vaginal bleeding, inability to pass urine or stool, and signs of infection such as pelvic tenderness or abnormal discharge. These symptoms may indicate severe conditions requiring immediate medical attention.

What is the difference between sharp and stabbing pain?

The terms “sharp” and “stabbing” pain are sometimes used interchangeably, yet subtle differences exist between them. A sudden, powerful, swift, and acute sensation characterizes sharp pain. It is a precise, localized pain that responds to specific motions or actions. Stabbing pain, on the other hand, is a sudden, piercing sensation that feels like you’ve been stabbed with a sharp object. It is frequently defined as a fleeting, intense sensation that might occur spontaneously or as a result of a specific stimulus.

What can be mistaken for ovarian cyst pain?

Ovarian cyst pain can be mistaken for other conditions, such as menstrual cramps, gastrointestinal issues, urinary tract infections, or appendicitis. The similarity in symptoms can make it challenging to differentiate ovarian cyst pain from other sources of pelvic discomfort. Diagnostic tests, including imaging studies and medical evaluations, are necessary to identify the pain’s cause accurately.

What does ovarian cyst pain feel like?

Ovarian cyst pain feels like a mild throbbing or intense discomfort occurring in the region beneath your navel or vagina, directed towards one particular side. It can also give the feeling of fullness with the sharp ovary pain.

When should you not ignore pelvic pain?

Sharp and stabbing pain in the pelvic region for one or two days might not originate from a serious problem but persistent pain will definitely need medical attention for the diagnosis and treatment. Generally, if it lasts more than a month or two, seek medical attention from your healthcare provider.

When should I go to the ER for left pelvic pain?

Suppose the pain in your vaginal, pelvic region, or uterus is stabbing and following a specific pattern of coming in waves with different frequencies. In that case, it’s good to get yourself checked for a medical emergency, as something serious might be underlying.

How do you know if an ovarian cyst has burst?

Ovarian burns will be felt in the form of sharp, sudden onset in the lower belly will vaginal bleeding or spotting. Get yourself checked by your healthcare provider as soon as possible, regardless of whether you are pregnant or not.

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