Abdominal pain is any pain or discomfort in the tissues or organs of the abdomen. Read below to know more about abdominal pain in detail.
Abdominal pain is pain or discomfort in the anatomical area below the lower margin of the diaphragm and above the pelvic bone. As a woman, it is common to experience some discomfort or pain in the abdomen from time to time. This can be due to poor sleeping habits or issues with the digestive tract. But many times, the root cause might be a gynecological problem that may manifest as abdominal pain. The discomfort is experienced as pressure, fullness, or heaviness in the lower abdomen. The pain varies according to its cause. It can be localized or spread to the adjacent area. It can be acute, chronic, intermittent (on and off), continuous, dull, sharp, colicky, cramping, etc.
Cramp-like pain can be due to miscarriage, menstruation, or other problems in the female reproductive organ.
A localized pain limited to one area is often caused by problems in a particular organ.
Colicky pain is usually a sign of kidney stones or stones in the gallbladder. The pain feels like a severe muscle spasm and occurs suddenly.
The symptoms of abdominal pain may worsen during urination, bowel movements, intercourse, or long periods of sitting or standing. The intensity and duration of the pain are different in each woman. A progressive abdominal pain worsens over time, a sign of something serious.
Possible causes of pain in the abdomen, in general, include;
Infections like shingles (herpes zoster infection).
Inflammatory conditions like appendicitis, gastroenteritis, hepatitis, etc.
Obstruction (blockage) caused by gallstones, kidney stones.
GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).
Uremia (build-up of waste products in the blood).
Hernia (internal organ pushes out through a weak spot in the muscle).
Urinary tract infection.
Abdominal pain in females mainly can be due to:
1. Ectopic Pregnancy - It occurs when the fetus grows outside the uterus. It is characterized by mild cramps, followed by sharp stabbing pain. The pain radiates up toward the shoulder, lower back, or neck. This type of pregnancy can result in internal bleeding and cause a life-threatening complication to the mother.
2. Menstrual Pain - The pain experienced during menstruation is termed dysmenorrhea. Pain before menstruation is referred to as a premenstrual syndrome. They are accompanied by other symptoms such as irritability, bloating, anxiety, insomnia, joint pain, headache, mood swings, etc. This may feel like badgering pain in the thighs and lower back or cramps in the abdomen.
3. Ovulation - Ovulation is when a mature egg is released from the ovary along with some fluid. It takes place about 10 to 14 days before your menstrual period. The discharged fluid can spread within the pelvic area and cause pain and irritation in that area. It is temporary and may switch sides.
4. Ovarian Cysts - They are sacs of fluid that form in the ovaries. Most of them present with little or no symptoms and disappear on their own. However, an enlarged cyst can burst, causing sudden sharp pain in the abdomen. Spotting may also be seen.
5. Miscarriage - Miscarriage is the spontaneous loss of pregnancy before the 20th week. Symptoms like fluid, blood, or tissue passing through the vagina and pain in the stomach or lower back are seen.
6. Uterine Fibroids - Fibroids are benign tumors in the uterus. They are seen in 70 % of the women in their reproductive years. Most of the women do not show any symptoms at all. Large fibroids may show symptoms like dull-aching pain or a feeling of pressure in the lower abdomen or the pelvis. Heavy bleeding, bleeding during intercourse, leg pain, back pain, constipation, or trouble during urination can also be seen. They can cause infertility. When fibroids are devoid of the blood supply, they begin to die, resulting in sharp, severe abdominal pain.
7. Endometriosis- In this condition, the tissue that lines the uterus called the endometrium grows outside the uterus. But, it behaves as if it is in the uterus by responding to hormonal changes like thickening and shedding. It is the cause of prolonged abdominal pain in most women.
8. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease - It occurs when the infection or inflammation from the vagina or cervix spreads to other reproductive organs. This sexually transmitted disease may cause heavy vaginal discharge, foul odor, pain or bleeding during intercourse, nausea, vomiting, fever, or painful urination. Scarring of the reproductive organs cannot be treated, but complications such as ectopic pregnancy, infertility, and abscess can be treated if diagnosed early.
9. Pelvic Floor Muscle Dysfunction - They are a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to have a bowel movement. It causes severe muscle spasms and severe cramps in the legs.
10. Ovarian Cancer- Abdominal pain or discomfort caused by ovarian cancer is often misdiagnosed and confused with other benign conditions. They are not detected until it spreads to the pelvis in many instances.
11. Pregnancy Pain - Abdominal or pelvic pain during pregnancy to some extent is expected as the body tends to stretch and allow the fetus to adjust and grow. When it is associated with symptoms like vaginal bleeding or lasts for a more extended period, it is a matter of concern and should be discussed with a gynecologist.
Life-threatening causes of lower abdominal pain include -
Bowel obstruction or perforation.
Twisting of the colon (colonic volvulus).
Occlusion of the blood vessels supplying the organs of the abdomen.
Twisting of the ovary.
The possible causes of abdominal pain are many, and a thorough physical examination and a series of tests are required. The physical examination includes checking for swelling and pain in different abdomen areas. Depending on the symptoms and duration of abdominal pain, the doctor may suggest other tests, which include:
Vaginal swabs or cervical smears.
An ultrasound of the abdomen.
Blood and urine tests should be taken to look for signs of infection.
Treatment of abdominal pain includes-
Hormonal medications or birth control pills.
Laparoscopic surgery in needed cases.
Mild abdominal pain does not need any treatment. Persistent abdominal pain should never be overlooked as it could signify a severe underlying gynecological problem. It is difficult to know whether the discomfort is caused by something simple or more serious. We believe that early intervention is essential for diagnosing most underlying health conditions. It helps us make the proper diagnosis and develop an effective treatment plan.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is characterized by the infection of the female reproductive organs, and it can be sexually transmitted and presents with lower abdominal pain with vaginal discharge.
Abdominal pain that does not resolve in 24 hours, diarrhea that lasts for more than five days, and unresolved bloating should be brought to a doctor’s notice as soon as possible.
From simple constipation to serious conditions like cancer, many different conditions can give you abdominal pain, just like your period cramping. If you experience abdominal pain similar to period cramps on your days without menstrual bleeding for a long time, you must consider talking to your doctor about it.
There are four types of abdominal pain:
- Upper abdominal pain.
- Lower abdominal pain.
- Right-sided abdominal pain.
- Left-sided abdominal pain.
Each of these abdominal pains has its own kind of symptoms and causes.
Following are some of the steps to follow if you do not want to have abdominal pain:
- Eat in small portions by splitting it into several meals.
- Chew your food properly.
- Eat mindfully and slowly, focusing on the flavors and consistency of the food.
- Drink beverages that are at room temperature.
- Manage stress levels.
- Sit straight after completing your meal.
- Avoid going to bed directly after eating.
- Reduce the intake of caffeine and alcohol.
In some women, sperms can act as an irritant to the uterus, which might result in uterine contractions, leading to abdominal cramping.
It can feel like a baby kicking in your stomach when you are not pregnant if you have gas trapped in your tummy, muscle contractions, or digestive movements in the intestines.
Lower left abdominal pain can have one of the following causes:
- Menstrual pain.
- Kidney stones.
- Abdominal infections.
- Rarely, some left abdominal pain could be a sign of a heart attack.
Some of the common conditions that cause bloating and abdominal pain in women are,
- Eating foods that causes intolerance like lactose and gluten.
- Eating excessive high-fat foods.
- Swallowing excessive air while eating.
- Stress can also cause bloating and abdominal discomfort.
Anxiety, excessive alcohol intake, and caffeinated drinks can cause abdominal pain and frequent urination.
Abdominal pain and lower back pain are widespread among females before or during menstruation. However, prolonged severe back pain and abdominal pain can be caused due to other conditions like endometriosis.
Below are some of the common causes of abdominal pain on both sides,
- Kidney stones.
- Kidney infections.
- Kidney abscess.
- Infection of the urinary bladder.
- Spinal arthritis.
Abdominal pain while pooping can be caused due to conditions like hemorrhoids, anal fissures, colon cancer, ulcerative colitis, or irritable bowel syndrome.
Hernia can cause symptoms like lower abdominal pain while coughing, crying, or laughing. Other common signs of hernia are indigestion and regurgitation.
One of the signature symptoms of preeclampsia is epigastric pain in the upper right quadrant of the stomach. This pain often feels like indigestion, and some women have reported this pain to be more like ‘stabbing.’
Lower abdominal pain while walking or pooping can be caused due to a condition called pelvic adhesion. This condition is when the organs inside the pelvis, uterus, fallopian tubes, and urinary bladder stick together, held by a band of scar tissue.
Streptococcus infection of the throat can accompany abdominal pain in children more than in adults.
Abdominal pain during your menstruation period is widespread due to uterus contractions. However, if you specifically feel pain while inserting tampons, you are probably using it the wrong way.
Last reviewed at:
06 Oct 2022 - 5 min read
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