Abdominal Pain, Women

Abdominal (stomach, pelvic, or belly) pain can be caused by many things. It is important to tell your doctor:

  • The location of the pain.

  • Does it come and go or is it present all the time?

  • Are there things that start the pain (eating certain foods, exercise)?

  • Are there other symptoms associated with the pain (fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea)?

All of this is helpful to know when trying to find the cause of the pain.

CAUSES

  • Stomach: virus or bacteria infection, or ulcer.

  • Intestine: appendicitis (inflamed appendix), regional ileitis (Crohn's disease), ulcerative colitis (inflamed colon), irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis (inflamed diverticulum of the colon), or cancer of the stomach or intestine.

  • Gallbladder disease or stones in the gallbladder.

  • Kidney disease, kidney stones, or infection.

  • Pancreas infection or cancer.

  • Fibromyalgia (pain disorder).

  • Diseases of the female organs:

  • Uterus: fibroid (non-cancerous) tumors or infection.

  • Fallopian tubes: infection or tubal pregnancy.

  • Ovary: cysts or tumors.

  • Pelvic adhesions (scar tissue).

  • Endometriosis (uterus lining tissue growing in the pelvis and on the pelvic organs).

  • Pelvic congestion syndrome (female organs filling up with blood just before the menstrual period).

  • Pain with the menstrual period.

  • Pain with ovulation (producing an egg).

  • Pain with an IUD (intrauterine device, birth control) in the uterus.

  • Cancer of the female organs.

  • Functional pain (pain not caused by a disease, may improve without treatment).

  • Psychological pain.

  • Depression.

DIAGNOSIS

Your doctor will decide the seriousness of your pain by doing an examination.

  • Blood tests.

  • X-rays.

  • Ultrasound.

  • CT scan (computed tomography, special type of X-ray).

  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).

  • Cultures, for infection.

  • Barium enema (dye inserted in the large intestine, to better view it with X-rays).

  • Colonoscopy (looking in intestine with a lighted tube).

  • Laparoscopy (minor surgery, looking in abdomen with a lighted tube).

  • Major abdominal exploratory surgery (looking in abdomen with a large incision).

TREATMENT

The treatment will depend on the cause of the pain.

  • Many cases can be observed and treated at home.

  • Over-the-counter medicines recommended by your caregiver.

  • Prescription medicine.

  • Antibiotics, for infection.

  • Birth control pills, for painful periods or for ovulation pain.

  • Hormone treatment, for endometriosis.

  • Nerve blocking injections.

  • Physical therapy.

  • Antidepressants.

  • Counseling with a psychologist or psychiatrist.

  • Minor or major surgery.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Do not take laxatives, unless directed by your caregiver.

  • Take over-the-counter pain medicine only if ordered by your caregiver. Do not take aspirin because it can cause an upset stomach or bleeding.

  • Try a clear liquid diet (broth or water) as ordered by your caregiver. Slowly move to a bland diet, as tolerated, if the pain is related to the stomach or intestine.

  • Have a thermometer and take your temperature several times a day, and record it.

  • Bed rest and sleep, if it helps the pain.

  • Avoid sexual intercourse, if it causes pain.

  • Avoid stressful situations.

  • Keep your follow-up appointments and tests, as your caregiver orders.

  • If the pain does not go away with medicine or surgery, you may try:

  • Acupuncture.

  • Relaxation exercises (yoga, meditation).

  • Group therapy.

  • Counseling.

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You notice certain foods cause stomach pain.

  • Your home care treatment is not helping your pain.

  • You need stronger pain medicine.

  • You want your IUD removed.

  • You feel faint or lightheaded.

  • You develop nausea and vomiting.

  • You develop a rash.

  • You are having side effects or an allergy to your medicine.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • Your pain does not go away or gets worse.

  • You have a fever.

  • Your pain is felt only in portions of the abdomen. The right side could possibly be appendicitis. The left lower portion of the abdomen could be colitis or diverticulitis.

  • You are passing blood in your stools (bright red or black tarry stools, with or without vomiting).

  • You have blood in your urine.

  • You develop chills, with or without a fever.

  • You pass out.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.