Skip Navigation

How is pelvic pain diagnosed?

Skip sharing on social media links

To find out the cause of a woman's pain, her health care provider will1:

  • Ask questions about the woman's pain and health history. How a woman describes her pain can help her health care provider figure out the pain type and what might be causing it.
  • Perform a physical exam. The health care provider will examine the abdomen and pelvis, and check the woman's organs, muscles, and tissues in the pelvic region for tenderness or abnormalities that suggest a pain disorder.

The information the doctor gathers from the questions and physical exam will help the doctor decide whether additional tests or procedures are needed to help diagnose the cause of the pelvic pain. These tests or procedures may include 1,2 :

  • Lab tests, such as blood work or a urine test
  • Pelvic ultrasound, a procedure that uses sound waves to look at organs and structures inside the pelvic region3
  • Pelvic laparoscopy, a minor surgery in which the doctor inserts a viewing instrument called a laparoscope through a small cut in the skin below the belly button to look inside the pelvis4
  • Pelvic MRI, (magnetic resonance imaging) scan, an imaging test that uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create pictures of the pelvis5
  • Cystoscopy, looking into the bladder by inserting a viewing instrument6
  • Colonoscopy, looking into the bowel by inserting a viewing instrument7

Finding the cause of pelvic pain can be challenging and can take time. Some women must check with more than one doctor or with a specialist to get help for their pain. Sometimes, the cause of the pain is not found. But failure to locate the cause does not mean that the pain a woman feels is not real or that it cannot be treated.1 Understanding what triggers the pain also can be helpful.

  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2004). ACOG practice bulletin no. 51. Chronic pelvic pain. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 103,589–605. [top]
  2. UCSF Medical Center. (2012). Pelvic pain. Retrieved April 19, 2012, from External Web Site Policy [top]
  3. Radiological Society of North America. (2011). Ultrasound imaging of the pelvis. Retrieved May 9, 2012, from External Web Site Policy [top]
  4. MedlinePlus. (2010). Pelvic laparoscopy. Retrieved May 9, 2012, from [top]
  5. MedlinePlus. (2012). Pelvic MRI. Retrieved August 21, 2012, from [top]
  6. MedlinePlus. (2012). Cytoscopy. Retrieved August 21, 2012, from [top]
  7. MedlinePlus. (2012). Colonoscopy. Retrieved August 21, 2012, from [top]

BOND National Institues of Health Home Home Division of Intramural Population Health Research