pelvisawareness_adminPelvic Health

How Do I Know If I Have Pelvic Congestion Syndrome?

Pelvic pain can be a sign of several conditions, and is one of the main signals of pelvic congestion syndrome.

If you have ongoing pain in your pelvis, you may ask: How do I know if I have pelvic congestion syndrome? What are the other side effects caused by pelvic congestion syndrome? 

What is Pelvic Congestion Syndrome?

Pelvic congestion syndrome is marked mainly by chronic pain in your pelvis that is not related to your period or pregnancy. “Chronic” means that the pain lasts longer than 6 months.1

This pain often starts during or after a pregnancy, and may worsen after a later pregnancy. It may be a heavy or aching feeling, or it may be sharp pain. Often it’s only felt on one side of your body—usually your left side—but other times you may feel pain on both sides. The pain is often worse at the end of the day.2

You may also find that other factors make the pain worse:2

  • changing your posture
  • during and/or after having sex
  • standing for a long time
  • walking

Sometimes women also suffer from pain before or during their periods, and have enlarged and distorted veins on the buttocks, external genitals, or thighs.2 It can also create the feeling of a sudden need to urinate,2 or increased frequency of urination, as well as stress urinary incontinence.3    

The condition is associated with blood flow problems in your pelvic veins. The pain associated with PCS often involves faulty veins in your ovaries and pelvis. These veins dilate or widen and may become twisted and overfilled with blood. The blood pooling in your pelvis is what causes the pain.1

Who is at Risk of Pelvic Congestion Syndrome?

While weakened pelvic floor muscles cause a number of other pelvic health conditions, there are different risk factors for women to develop congestion syndrome:1

  • are between ages 20 to 45 and have given birth more than once
  • have varicose veins
  • have a family history of varicose veins
  • have polycystic ovarian syndrome 

On the other hand, it’s rare for women who have been through menopause to have pelvic congestion syndrome.1

How Do I Know If I Have Pelvic Congestion Syndrome?

It’s estimated that about 40% of gynecological visits involve chronic pelvic pain complaints, and of these, about 30% are likely related to pelvic congestion syndrome.1

Pelvic pain can be caused by other conditions, such as pelvic organ prolapse, fibroids, and endometriosis. Even anxiety about your health can make pelvic pain seem worse. So how do you know if you have pelvic congestion syndrome?

The main signs that your pelvic pain is because of pelvic congestion syndrome is how long the pressure lasts, pain during and after sex, and a high degree of discomfort during menstruation.3

These types of symptoms could lead to additional diagnostic studies, such as an ultrasound. Your doctor will be looking for any visible veins in your lower abdominal or pelvic region that appear to be dilated, that pool blood, or that aren’t properly draining blood.3

An MRI or CT scan shows more detail than an ultrasound, like twisted veins and vein dilation in your ovaries and pelvis. They can also show irregular growths in your pelvis that may indicate other causes of chronic pain, like endometriosis.1

Another option is a pelvic venography, which is more invasive but the best way to provide a sure diagnosis. Pelvic venography can also be used to prepare for a procedure to operate on your veins. This procedure involves inserting a small tube called a catheter into a vein in either your neck or your groin. An X-ray and dye is used to examine your ovarian veins on the right and left sides of your body.1

A treatment plan can then be developed, starting with compression pantyhose or shorts, up to options like embolization of the veins—which is a procedure to stop blood flow. The goal is to relieve chronic pelvic pain, relieve pain during sex and menstrual cycles, and reduce prominent varicose veins in the vaginal and genital region.3

Talk To Your Doctor 

If you’re suffering from chronic pelvic pain that isn’t related to pregnancy or your period, it’s time to see a healthcare provider. Use our Physician Finder to find a doctor near you with expertise in women’s health. You can also ask about the benefits to all women of strengthening pelvic floor muscles, using a tool like the INNOVO Urinary Incontinence Kit, which helps you perform 180 perfect Kegels in 30 minutes. Subscribe to the INNOVO newsletter to receive a $20 discount code for your purchase.