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Common Sources Of Abdominal Pain In Women

Published on 02/03/21

Lower abdominal pain in women is normally referring to discomfort, cramping, and pain below the belly button. There are a number of potential reasons for lower abdominal pain. Diagnosis could be anything from period cramps to ovarian cysts. The right treatment means receiving the correct diagnosis from your doctor. 

Let’s take a look at the possible causes of lower abdominal pain in women. With the right education, you’ll know when it’s time to reach for your heating pad or the phone to call your doctor. 

Pain below the belly button could come from anything from the organ systems or tissues in and around that area below the belly button. This can make things very confusing. 

Pain around the belly button

Pain around the belly button could be one of the following:

Appendicitis: this is the inflammation of the appendix. Which in its early stages, is felt around the belly button. It comes and goes gradually and gets more severe within 24 hours – with movement. This could also mean nausea, loose stools and a temperature. Normally surgery is required to remove the inflamed appendix. 

Stomach Ulcers: this is a condition of the stomach lining where inflammation like gastritis or ulcers can be felt in the center of the abdomen. This normally feels like burning. Indigestion, belching, nausea, and possible vomiting come common with ulcers. You may also find blood in the vomit or black tar-like stools. Seeing your doctor is required for ulcers.

Pain on one side

Sometimes low abdominal pain is felt on one side. This could possible be:

Endometriosis – this is when the tissue from the lining of the womb is found elsewhere in the abdomen and pelvis. This can cause pain when it bleeds during your period. This pain may be centralized, but often the pain is one-sided.

Ovulation Pain – a sharp pain when your ovary releases an egg in the middle of your period cycle. Normally felt two weeks prior to your period. Depending on which egg is being released, depends where the pain is felt. It’s not harmful, can be severe, and is normally short lived. 

Ectopic Pregnancy – this happens when a fertilized egg doesn’t make it to the womb and tries to grow in the fallopian tube. Surgery is normally required and pregnancy cannot continue. An ectopic pregnancy can pose a threat to the mother’s life as well as future fertility. 

Ovarian Cysts – Rarely painful. However, if it is, most go away on their own. Some do become enlarged, twist or rupture which might produce pain. These also cause bloating, pain during intercourse, or frequent urination. 

General Pain

Sometimes pain is general and can produce and all over pain-type-feeling. Those could be one of the following:

Constipation – a very common cause of abdominal pain. This normally comes with nausea, bloating and loss of appetite. This could be felt on the left hand side that normally radiates all over. Treatment is normally plenty of fluids, exercise, and a lot of fibrous foods. Some pharmacists may prescribe or suggest laxatives. 

Irritable Bowel Syndrome – this pain could be felt anywhere in your abdomen. Normally associated with bloating, diarrhea, and/or constipation. This can happen at random, or constant. It’s a long term condition that relies on treatments that spot triggering factors such as stress, diet, and lifestyle.

Gastroenteritis – this is an infection of the bowels. Viruses and food poisoning can cause a generalized abdominal pain. It could be a dull ache but can also crescendos and cramp prior to vomiting or diarrhea or both. Most of the time this can settle after a few days. Most treatments include fluids to avoid dehydration. If symptoms worsen and you feel dehydrated, call your doctor about treatment. 

When to see a doctor for abdominal pain

Rather than trying to diagnose your pain, make sure to see your doctor if you’re experiencing any of the following:

  • Severe pain
  • Pain that continues to get worse
  • A high temperature
  • Blood in your poo – either fresh or black and smelly
  • Pain when you are pregnant or think you could be
  • Inability to walk around due to the pain
  • Recurrent vomiting especially if there is blood in your vomit
  • A persistent change in your bowel habit

Describing Where the Pain Is.. Is Important

When discussing your abdominal pain with your doctor, the exact location of the abdominal pain is extremely important. They will want to know exactly where you’re feeling the pain. This is a huge indicator for diagnosis. 

They’ll also ask the severity of pain, how long you’ve had the pain, and if it’s colickly or consistent. They’ll also want to know how it feels altogether. If it’s dull, crampy, burning, etc. and if there are any associated symptoms such as diarrhea, urinary symptoms, and/or vomiting. 

This all helps your doctor distinguish the possible root cause of your abdominal pain. 

Location Varies and Is Very Important

Location of the pain is one of the many clues as to what the cause could be. 

For generalized location of pain could indicate:

For women, pain in and around the reproductive organs could be anything from:

Upper abdominal pain could be:

  • gallstones
  • heart attack
  • hepatitis (liver inflammation)
  • pneumonia

Pain in the center of the abdomen could be:

  • appendicitis
  • gastroenteritis
  • injury
  • uremia (buildup of waste products in your blood)

Pain that’s focused in the lower abdomen may indicate:

  • appendicitis
  • intestinal obstruction
  • ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy that occurs outside the womb)

Lower left abdominal pain could be:

  • Crohn’s disease
  • cancer
  • kidney infection
  • ovarian cysts
  • appendicitis

Upper left abdominal pain could be:

  • enlarged spleen
  • fecal impaction (hardened stool that can’t be eliminated)
  • injury
  • kidney infection
  • heart attack
  • cancer

Causes of lower right abdominal pain could be:

  • appendicitis
  • hernia (when an organ protrudes through a weak spot in the abdominal muscles)
  • kidney infection
  • cancer
  • flu

Upper right abdominal pain could be:

  • hepatitis
  • injury
  • pneumonia
  • Appendicitis

If you’re starting to experience pain above the pubic bone there are a couple of reasons why:

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease: this is indicated by an infection in your tubes, womb, or ovaries. This is occasional mild pain or more severe intense pain and fever. As well as discolored vaginal discharge, bleeding at random, and pain during intercourse. Normally a product of a secually transmitted disease. See your local GP for a full screening.

Bladder Pain: a low and central pain. Normally accompanied by cramping. If you’re feeling burning during or after passing urine, this could indicate an infection. With a urine infection, peeing often becomes common and blood in the urine. Sometimes feeling sick and tired. Bladder stone could also be the cause of this pain. This is indicated by a sharper and more severe pain with difficulty passing urine.

Period Pain: normally preceded by low, central crampy pain. Which could also be felt on the sides too. This could start days before and during the menstruation period but should ease up after a few days of blood loss. Over the counter meds, a heating pad, and gentle exercise is known to alleviate the pain. 

How Does The Doctor Diagnose The Pain?

Diagnosis can happen through a series of tests. After your doctor does a full physical examination, gently pressing on various areas of your abdomen to check for tenderness and swelling. The correlating tests will be ordered. 

With all gathered information about the location, types, and severity of the pain, your doctor can determine which tests to order for that specific abdominal pain. 

There are a multitude of imaging tests such as ultrasounds, MRI scans, and x-rays used to view everything in your abdomen in detail. Looking into organs, tissues, and other structures can help diagnose tumors, rupture, inflammation, and fractures.

Other tests include:

  • Colonoscopy – a look inside the colon and intestines
  • Endoscopy- used to detect inflammation and abnormalities in the esophagus and stomach
  • upper GI- a special X-ray test that uses contrast dye to check for the presence of growths, ulcers, inflammation, blockages, and other abnormalities in the stomach

Blood, urine, and stool samples may also be collected to look for evidence of bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections.

Call Rosh MFM If You’re Dealing With Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain accounts for up to 10% of the total visits to the emergency department, and as many as one-quarter of all women live with chronic pelvic pain.

The doctors at Rosh Maternal & Fetal Medicine are experts at determining the precise cause of your pain and initiating a customized treatment plan to alleviate the pain and correct the underlying cause. When you have sudden, severe pain, don’t wait to get medical help. Call their office in the Midtown East area of New York City, or go to your local emergency department.

Talk to our team by phone or book an appointment online to get started. Call one of our six convenient NYC locations or schedule a video consultation online today about IUD for birth control. They’ve helped thousands of women. Come visit your NYC OBGYN.