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Ovarian pain causes

Ovarian pain, affecting the area around the ovaries, may be caused by several different conditions affecting the lower abdomen below the tummy button.

Pain in the ovaries can either be acute or chronic. Acute ovarian pain comes on quickly (over a few minutes or days) and goes away in a short period of time. Chronic ovarian pain usually starts more gradually and lasts for several months.

Ovarian pain may be continuous. Or it may come and go. It may get worse with certain activities, such as exercise or urination. It can be so mild that you don't notice it. Or pain in the ovaries can be so severe that it interferes with your daily life.

Causes or ovarian pain include:

Ovarian cysts

Cysts are fluid-filled sacs that can form on the ovaries. They are very common in women, especially during the childbearing years.

Ovarian tumours

Tumours can form in the ovaries, just as they form in other parts of the body. They can be either non- cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant).


In some women, cells of the lining of the uterus can occur elsewhere in the body, including on and around the ovaries. This tissue swells and bleeds each month. However, because it has nowhere to shed, it forms scar tissue and can be very painful.

Pelvic inflammatory disease

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection in the ovaries, uterus, or fallopian tubes. It is most often caused by sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhoea or chlamydia. It is one of the most common causes of pelvic pain in women.

Ovarian remnant syndrome

Surgery to remove the uterus and ovaries is known as hysterectomy/oophorectomy. In rare cases a small piece of the ovary may accidentally be left behind. The remnant can grow and develop painful cysts.


Mittelschmerz is a common type of pain that occurs during ovulation - the midpoint between menstrual periods, about 2 weeks before a period may begin. Most of the time, it is a mild annoyance. In rare instances, it can be unbearable.

Do I need to see a doctor?

If you have concerns about ovarian pain, book an appointment to seek medical advice.

How is ovarian pain diagnosed?

The methods your GP uses to diagnose ovarian pain will vary, depending on the suspected cause. Your GP will take your medical history, ask you questions about the pain, and carry out a physical examination. Questions might include:

  • Where do you feel the pain?
  • When did it start?
  • How often do you feel pain?
  • How does it feel - mild, burning, aching, sharp?
  • Does anything make the pain worse - for example, sexual intercourse - or better?
  • How does the pain affect your day-to-day life?

What tests are used for ovarian pain?

As well as a physical examination, and checking the reported symptoms, diagnostic tests, such as ultrasound and other types of imaging, can help to identify the cause of the pain.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on October 28, 2013

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