Female abdominal pain can be caused by various things, from minor infections to intestinal disorders. Discover the causes of female abdominal pain, broken down by region of the tummy.
Female abdominal pain is widespread and frequently manageable, and various factors can cause it. By 'lower abdomen,' we usually mean the area below the belly button (navel). That area of pain may also be referred to as pelvic pain or simply stomach ache.
While most lower abdominal pain is not indicative of a dangerous condition, it can occasionally be a sign of something more serious. If you're concerned about lower abdominal pain, it's probably nothing to worry about. However, paying close attention to the stomach area that hurts can help determine what's causing the pain and how to manage it.
Central lower abdominal pain
The bladder, uterus (womb), and a portion of the bowel are the primary organs located in the middle of a woman's lower abdomen. The following are some of the possible causes of pain in that region.
Period pain is typically described as a crampy, dull, or tight pain in the lower abdomen, occasionally radiating outwards or lower back. It can be quite uncomfortable, but many people find that a hot water bottle and ibuprofen help them cope.
UTIs (urinary tract infection, or), can cause lower abdominal pain in women and urinary symptoms such as burning when you pee or the need to urinate frequently or urgently.
Mild urinary tract infections, such as cystitis, often resolve independently with adequate fluid intake, but more persistent UTIs may require a brief course of antibiotics, which your doctor can prescribe. Severe UTIs can affect the kidneys and cause lower back pain on one or both sides and general malaise, sometimes accompanied by flu-like symptoms. Therefore, if your symptoms become more severe, it is critical to consult a doctor immediately. Likewise, if you have recurrent UTI symptoms, you should also consult a physician.
Pelvic inflammatory disease
Sexually transmitted infections can affect the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. Untreated infections of the reproductive tract can become very serious and result in long-term complications, and therefore must be treated by a physician. In addition, these infections are frequently caused by an underlying sexually transmitted infection, so if you are a sexually active woman, you must receive regular sexual health screenings.
Pain during sex, unexpected vaginal bleeding, or discoloured, smelly discharge are all possible symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease or reproductive system infection.
Pain in the lower left abdomen
While many of the causes mentioned above of one-sided abdominal pain can affect the left side, there are some reasons why the pain may be limited to the left – particularly because the bowel on the left is closer to the digestive system's end. In addition, wind trapped in the lungs and bloating may have a disproportionate effect on the left side.
Diverticular disease may also affect the lower left side or may manifest as more widespread pain. Polyps are small wart-like growths in the bowel, and diverticular disease is when the bowel develops tiny pockets. Diverticulitis occurs when those small pockets become inflamed, and it can be quite painful.
Diverticulitis and polyps can both cause diarrhoea and occasionally bleeding in the bowel, and it's critical to see a doctor immediately if you notice blood in your poo or if your poo looks black and tarry.
The right lower abdomen contains the junction of the small and large intestines. The appendix is a small section of the bowel located near that junction that can become inflamed, swollen, and infected. This is a case of appendicitis. Appendicitis is typically extremely painful and manifests as pain in the lower right abdomen – though the pain may also be felt in the central lower abdomen.
General lower abdominal pain
Muscular pain is a possible cause of lower abdominal pain in some cases. A strained muscle caused by exercise or an injury can be excruciatingly painful and can affect one or both sides of the entire lower abdomen. Occasionally, it is possible to determine why or when muscular pain began, and it is typically treatable with simple painkillers and rest.
Lower abdominal pain in pregnancy
Pregnancy alters the shape and location of numerous organs and muscles in the lower abdomen, causing discomfort and strain. Later in pregnancy, women frequently experience Braxton Hicks contractions, in which their muscles tense up in preparation for childbirth.
Remember that it is always acceptable to seek advice from your designated midwife or prenatal team if you have any concerns about your health during pregnancy. Lower abdominal pain can have serious consequences during pregnancy, and severe unexplained pain, or pain associated with unusual vaginal discharge or bleeding, should be treated as an emergency.
Problems with one ovary or fallopian tube can cause lower abdominal pain on one or both sides. Additionally, these conditions can cause general or central lower abdominal pain, which is typically quite severe. Ectopic pregnancies affect approximately 11,000 women in the United Kingdom each year.
When to see a doctor
Lower abdominal pain is not uncommon in women, and period pain is a particularly common cause. Certain types of pain can be managed at home with over-the-counter medications, hot water bottles, and rest or light exercise, depending on the cause.
Extremely severe or unmanageable pain that does not have an obvious cause or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms should be evaluated by a doctor immediately. While determining the cause is not always easy, it is beneficial to identify any urinary symptoms, bowel problems, or pain related to your period. A physician should also evaluate recurring pain.