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What is persistent pelvic pain?

Persistent (chronic) pelvic pain (PPP) is pain in your pelvis or lower abdomen – the area below your belly button and between your hips. Persistent pelvic pain is felt most days and lasts for more than six months. It affects about 15% to 25% of women. It may be even more common in young women.

Sometimes the pain is a symptom of other conditions, but it can also become a condition of its own.

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What does persistent pelvic pain feel like?

Persistent pelvic pain affects everyone differently, depending on what might be contributing to that person’s pain.

The area of pain and the type of pain you feel may change. It could be in one area, several areas or your whole pelvic area, including your lower back. The pain may be steady, or it might come and go. You may feel pain up into your abdomen or down into your legs.

You might feel:

  • dull, aching pain
  • sharp, stabbing pain
  • burning
  • cramping
  • pressure or heaviness deep in your pelvis
  • tingling
  • pins and needles
  • sensitivity in your lower abdomen.

When does pelvic pain happen?

You can feel pelvic pain at any time. You might also experience it at specific times. For example:

  • during sex
  • when using tampons
  • during your period
  • when going to the toilet
  • when sitting or standing for long periods of time
  • when you do certain movements or activities.

Why is some pain persistent?

Persistent pain can start as acute pain, which could be related to your period, an injury or a health condition. Over time, acute pain can cause changes in the muscles, nervous system or other tissues that may lead to persistent pain, even if the original cause is gone. Your pain and mood can influence each other. For example, being stressed at work or school can increase the pain you experience.

How can persistent pelvic pain affect you?

Living with persistent pelvic pain can affect your life in many ways. It can cause changes in different organs and muscles, which may lead to other physical problems. For example, changes in muscles can lead to issues that affect your bladder and bowel, or it may contribute to back and leg pain.

Persistent pelvic pain can also affect your quality of life. For example, it can impact your emotional and social life, or it can change the way you feel about your body. You may avoid certain activities or social situations that make your pain worse. Pain can affect your work, sleep, sex life and personal relationships. It may also cause anxiety, depression, frustration and grief.

Download our fact sheets or visit resources for more information.

This web page is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your health practitioner. The information above is based on current medical knowledge, evidence and practice as at May 2023.

This con­tent has been reviewed by a group of med­ical sub­ject mat­ter experts, in accor­dance with Jean Hailes pol­i­cy.

International Pelvic Pain Society, Chronic Pelvic Pain
Mathias SD, Kuppermann M, Liberman RF, Lipschutz RC, Steege JF Chronic pelvic pain: prevalence, health-related quality of life, and economic correlates. Obstet Gynecol 1996;87:321–27.
Grace VM, Zondervan KT. Chronic pelvic pain in New Zealand: prevalence, pain severity, diagnoses and use of the health services. Aust N Z J Public Health 2004;28:369–75.
Armour, M., Ferfolja, T., Curry, C., Hyman, M. S., Parry, K., Chalmers, K. J., ... & Holmes, K. (2020). The prevalence and educational impact of pelvic and menstrual pain in Australia: A national online survey of 4202 young women aged 13-25 years. Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology, 33(5), 511-518.
Van Niekerk, L., Johnstone, L., & Matthewson, M. (2022). Health-related quality of life in endometriosis: The influence of endometriosis-related symptom presence and distress. Journal of health psychology, 27(14), 3121-3135.
Van Niekerk, L., Steains, E., & Matthewson, M. (2022). Correlates of health-related quality of life: The influence of endometriosis, body image and psychological wellbeing. Journal of psychosomatic research,161, 110993.
Privitera, G., O’Brien, K., Misajon, R., & Lin, C. Y. (2023). Endometriosis Symptomatology, Dyspareunia, and Sexual Distress Are Related to Avoidance of Sex and Negative Impacts on the Sex Lives of Women with Endometriosis. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 20(4), 3362.
Last updated: 
07 December 2023
Last reviewed: 
08 May 2023

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