Lower Abdominal Pain in Women: Causes, and Effective Home Treatments

Lower Abdominal Pain in Women: Causes and Treatments
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Lower abdominal pain is more common among women than men. Very often, cramping feelings below the belly button, pain in the pelvic area, or lower back pain are caused by a woman’s menstrual cycle. Women are also more prone to developing infections in the bladder, urinary tract and kidneys, and inflammation in these organs can be another source of female lower abdominal pain.

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Diagnosing the exact cause of lower abdominal pain in women can be a challenge. The abdominal area in women has most of the reproductive organs and these can become irritated during your monthly cycle. Sometimes, the pain can occur directly in the lower abdominal area and can range in intensity from a mild ache to sharp, stabbing pains. However, very often pain radiating from the lower back, having kidney stones, or even having a heart attack can cause a painful lower abdomen and pelvic cramping.

In most cases, a heat pack can help to ease the pressure in the lower abdomen and help get rid of the pain that female lower abdominal pain causes. Even in cases of abdominal pain that need medical attention, warmth can help to reduce irritation and relieve painful symptoms of pelvic and abdominal cramping.

In this article, you will find out the many causes of lower abdominal pain and lower back pain affecting women. You will also find practical ways to treat pain in your lower abdomen at home.

Symptoms of Lower Abdominal Pain in Women

To help find out what could be the source of your lower abdominal pain, it’s important to know what other symptoms can accompany pelvic cramping.

Very often, lower abdominal aches and pains that are associated with your menstrual cycle may follow a regular pattern. For example, in the middle of your cycle during ovulation, you may have light abdominal cramping just below your belly button. This could be associated with light spotting before your period.  Also, the pain in the area between your genitals and belly button can intensify just before your period and you may have other premenstrual symptoms at the same time.

Female pain in the lower abdomen along with a flank pain, a burning sensation when you pee, urine that has a cloudy color and smells bad, and a frequent urge to use the bathroom, could be symptomatic of an infection in your urinary system.

Sometimes the abdominal pain can be accompanied with pain in other body parts, for example: kidney stones can cause abdominal or groin pain and can also cause intense flank pain.

Female Lower Abdominal Pain: Causes Affecting Women Only

Let’s look at the many causes of lower abdominal pain that only affect women and what you can do to treat the pain.

Painful ovulation

Lower left abdominal pain or lower right abdominal pain could be caused by painful ovulation. Many women experience mid-cycle abdominal cramping when their body releases an egg. Painful ovulation is also called Mittelschmerz and it happens because blood irritates the abdominal cavity causing mild to severe pelvic pain in women.

According to Dr. Frederick B Gaupp on eMedicineNet, painful ovulation will cause cramping between periods. You may experience this every month and the lower abdominal pain can last from a few hours to 3 days. Dr. Gaupp says that the pain in the abdomen can even be as severe as appendicitis. If your pain lasts for longer than 3 days, you should visit your doctor.1

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You can help treat lower abdominal pain that ovulation causes by holding a hot water bottle to your painful abdominal area for up to 20 minutes.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

One symptom of premenstrual syndrome is cramping in the lower stomach area and lower back. PMS can also cause food cravings, headaches, mood swings, and bloating along with the abdominal cramping.

Dr. Sarah Marshall on WebMD says that the intensity of menstrual cramps can vary from month to month and stress can cause the pain in your belly to get worse. You may find that the pain in your lower abdomen starts just after ovulation and the abdominal cramping comes and goes until the start of your period. Dr. Marshall recommends keeping a menstrual diary to observe what is normal with your menstrual cycle.2

There are many natural remedies to treat PMS symptoms. For example, you might find that taking evening primrose oil helps to reduce symptoms of PMS. Also, enjoying a healthy diet, having moderate exercise, and getting enough sleep can help your body cope better with hormonal fluctuations.

Menstrual cramping and lower abdominal pain

Mild to severe lower abdominal cramping can also happen during your period. This may result in feeling sharp aches and pains in your abdomen during the night and can interfere with sleep patterns.

Dr. Traci Johnson on WebMD says that the abdominal aching women feel during their period can be very severe that it feels like something pressing on their belly. Along with the soreness in your abdomen, menstruation can cause pain in your hips, inner thighs, and lower back. If the belly pain is very severe, you may also have vomiting and loose stools.3

Placing a heat pack on your lower back or lower abdomen is a great natural way to help reduce irritation in your uterus and get rid of the pain in your lower stomach naturally. A warm bath with some essential oils is also a great way to relax and help ease menstrual cramping.

Twisted ovary

Sudden sharp lower left abdominal pain or right abdominal pain could be caused by a twisted ovary. A twisted ovary can happen as a result of pregnancy, ovarian cysts, or hormone treatment.

According to Dr. Gene McNeeley, Clinical Professor at the Center for Advanced Gynecology and Pelvic Health, a twisted ovary will usually cause severe pain on just one side of your abdomen. The pain can be so intense that you vomit as well. According to Dr. McNeeley, a twisted ovary can also cause infection in the abdominal cavity, which is another cause of female lower abdominal pain.4

Usually, surgery is required to treat a twisted ovary and get rid of the pain.

Ovarian cysts

Lower abdominal pain in either your right side or left side of your pelvis could be caused by cysts on your ovaries. Ovarian cysts are considered a normal part of your menstrual cycle and they usually disappear on their own. However, if they continue to fill with fluid and rupture, you will have ovary pain on the side of your abdomen where the cysts are.

According to the journal The Practitioner, ovarian cysts can cause a feeling of pressure and discomfort in your abdomen during the menstrual cycle. This can also cause pelvic pain, and the pain may radiate to your upper thigh or lower back. As well as abdominal pain, many women experience nausea and vomiting as well as bloating.5

Other signs of ovarian cysts are vaginal bleeding when you don’t expect your period, painful bowel movements, breast tenderness, and cramping during your menstrual cycle.

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Uterine Fibroids

Uterine fibroids are lumps that grow on the uterus and are very common in women in their 30s and 40s. Fibroids are generally benign and can develop inside, outside or in the wall of the uterus.

According to doctors from WebMD, depending on the size and location of the fibroids, you could experience various symptoms including pelvic discomfort or pain, heavy menstrual bleeding, spotting before or after periods, pain in the leg or back, as well as pain in the abdomen, bloating and feelings of abdominal pressure.21

Endometriosis

Endometriosis can be a reason for chronic cramping pain in your lower abdomen. Endometriosis occurs when endometrial tissue grows on other organs in a woman’s reproductive system. The abnormal tissue growth can start to cause pain around your lower abdomen that spreads to your lower back.

According to Dr. William Blahd on WebMD, endometriosis is a cause of severe and disabling abdominal pain in women. This can be a reason for cramping pain during bowel movements or during sex. In many cases, female lower abdominal aching caused by endometriosis can cause constant pain. The mild to intense discomfort will usually be felt in the pelvic area and lower back.6

Dr. Blahd advises that if you have abdominal cramping that lasts for more than 2 days and interferes with your daily activities, you should see a doctor.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

Another cause of lower abdominal pain that only affects women is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). There are many bacterial infections that can cause inflammation in a woman’s reproductive organs which will cause pain in your lower abdomen.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that PID will also cause discolored vaginal discharge with a foul odor (fishy vaginal odor) and a burning sensation when you pee. You may also notice some spotting between periods. It’s important to get prompt treatment from a doctor for pelvic inflammatory disease as it can leave you with serious complications and affect your fertility.7

Ectopic pregnancy

Lower abdominal and groin pain in women could be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy happens when the fetus grows in the fallopian tube. Depending on the development of the fetus you might only have mild abdominal pain if the pregnancy ends early.

According to Dr. Mary Harding on Patient.info, symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy usually occur between 4 and 10 weeks after conception. This can cause sharp sudden pains in the lower abdomen that gradually get worse. You may have some vaginal bleeding which you may mistake for a late period. The pain from the ectopic pregnancy can also cause pain to radiate to your shoulder blade.8

If you experience sharp severe pains on one side of your lower abdominal area, feel dizzy, and have some vaginal bleeding, you should contact your doctor immediately. Ectopic pregnancies can be life-threatening and require prompt medical attention.

Infections that Cause Female Lower Abdominal Pain

Women can also experience lower abdominal pain because of infections that affect their kidneys, urinary tract, or bladder. According to many doctors, these infections generally affect women more than men.

Kidney infection

A kidney infection can cause lower abdominal pain in many women that can also cause flank pain and pain under the ribs. Kidney infections are often caused by bacteria that makes its way via the urinary tract to the kidneys.

According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, kidney infection will result in abdominal pain that may also be felt in your back, flank, or groin. Along with the pain from the kidney inflammation, your urine will probably be cloudy and be painful when it’s passed. Because of pressure and inflammation in your kidneys and urinary tract, you may have a need to pass urine frequently.9

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Drinking plenty of water is one way to keep your kidneys healthy, flush out any toxins from your urinary system and reduce discomfort from a kidney infection. At the same time, you should avoid habits that have a detrimental effect on your kidneys.

Kidney stones

Although not an infection, kidney stones can cause severe lower abdominal pain when a woman passes them. Kidney stones are buildups of mineral deposits in your kidneys. The pain caused by a kidney stone can be a dull ache or it could be an agonizing pain that has a debilitating effect. Kidney stones also increase your risk of developing a kidney infection.

Dr. Minesh Khatri on WebMD says that kidney stones usually only cause pain when they start to move. The aching pains will be felt in your abdomen or groin and can also cause intense flank pain or pain below your left or right ribs. You may also find that the pain moves around – sometimes the kidney stones cause pain in your lower belly, and the pain can also be felt in your groin.10

One way to stop the abdominal pain is to drink apple cider vinegar to get rid of kidney stones. The acidic level of apple cider vinegar helps to dissolve the kidney stones. If you have problems with kidney stones, then please read my article about getting rid of kidney stones naturally.

Bladder inflammation

Bladder inflammation is a common cause of female lower abdominal pain. One such type of bladder inflammation that affects some women is interstitial cystitis.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that interstitial cystitis will cause mild to severe abdominal discomfort depending on the severity of inflammation. Other symptoms may include frequent urination, often of small amounts, throughout the day and night and pain during sexual intercourse .11

Urinary tract infection (UTI)

An infection in your urinary tract will usually cause some kind of pain that is felt in the area below your belly button. UTIs affect more women than men and can cause abdominal discomfort because of infection. However, lower abdominal pain isn’t the only symptom of a urinary tract infection.

According to Dr. Traci Johnson on WebMD, women get more UTIs than men because they have a shorter urethra, and bacteria can easily get from the anus to the vagina. The infection can cause a feeling of pressure in your abdomen and pain in your lower back. You will usually pass cloudy urine that has a bad smell and hurts when peeing. If the infection gets to your kidneys, you might also have a fever.12

To help reduce your chance of getting a UTI or a recurring UTI, you should drink plenty of water and always wipe your bottom from front to back. Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that water helps to dilute your urine and get rid of the bacteria naturally by making you pee more.13

Applying a heating pad to your lower abdomen or lower back is a great natural way to relieve the pain of a urinary tract infection. There are other natural remedies that help treat UTIs. For example, drinking baking soda water is a cheap and easy way to ease mild symptoms of a UTI.

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Gastrointestinal Conditions Causing Lower Abdominal Pain in Women

Some conditions that affect your gastrointestinal system can also cause lower abdominal pain in both women and men.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Lower abdominal pain is one of the distressing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that irritation in the intestinal lining can cause abdominal spasms, cramping, gas, and chronic intestinal pain. It’s not known exactly what causes IBS, but abnormalities in nerves in your digestive system or abnormal muscle contractions in your intestines can be to blame.14 Some other symptoms of IBS are passing greasy stools, nausea after eating, and other digestive complications.

If you are bothered by IBS, then my article on natural remedies for irritable bowel syndrome has some helpful advice.

Diverticulitis

Diverticulitis is inflammation or infection in small pockets of the colon that can cause very painful symptoms in your lower abdomen.

Dr. Adam Husney on WebMD says that diverticulitis can cause lower left abdominal pain that is worse when you move. You may have other signs of a digestive upset like bloating, pain in the lower stomach, diarrhea or constipation.15

You can get more information about diverticulitis in my article about the best home remedies for diverticulitis.

Serious Causes of Female Lower Abdominal Pain

Lower abdominal pain in women and men can also be a sign of some life-threatening medical conditions.

Heart attack

According to cardiologist Dr. Nieca Goldberg, abdominal pain in women can be one sign of a heart attack.16 The heart attack pain will feel like there is enormous pressure on your stomach area. Of course, you should never ignore squeezing chest pains on your left side, especially if they spread to your arm, neck, back, or jaw. You should also be aware of 10 heart attack signs never to ignore.

Appendicitis

Severe lower right abdominal pain that spreads from your belly button could be a sign of appendicitis. Your appendix is on the right side of your abdomen and, according to the World Journal of Gastroenterology, appendicitis causes inflammation and tenderness in the right groin and right-sided abdominal pain.17

Muscular and Joint Issues Causing Lower Abdominal Pain in Women

As well as causing mild to severe pain in your groin, some muscular and joint conditions can also make your abdominal region painful.

Injury or pulled muscles

Strained, pulled, or injured abdominal muscles can result in varying degrees of pain in your lower abdomen or middle abdomen that can hurt when you walk or move. According to a sports injury website, abdominal strains are common among sports people, athletes, and can also happen when lifting heavy objects.18

Sacroiliac joint dysfunction

Your sacroiliac joint (SI joint) connects the base of your spine to your pelvic bone. Dysfunction of the SI joint is a cause of lower abdominal pain among women as this affects more women than men. The Journal of Nippon Medical School reports that sacroiliac joint dysfunction is a common cause of abdominal pain and groin pain.19

You can read more about the sacroiliac joint in my article about sacrum pain or sacroiliac joint pain: causes, symptoms, and treatments.

Sciatica

Sciatica is a nerve condition when your sciatic nerve becomes pressed or pinched. Usually, sciatica causes shooting pains from your lower back and down your legs. However, according to a chiropractic clinic, sciatica can cause lower abdominal and stomach discomfort. If the sciatic nerve becomes very compressed, the lower stomach pain can be crippling.20

Lower Abdominal Pain in Women – When to See a Doctor

Because abdominal pain in women has many causes, you shouldn’t ignore pelvic cramping or lower stomach discomfort that doesn’t go away. Pains in your lower abdomen could be something as simple as mild digestive discomfort or as serious as a kidney infection or appendicitis.

Dr. Jerry Balentine on eMedicineNet advises women to see a doctor for abdominal pain in the following circumstances:

  1. The lower abdominal pain comes on suddenly or gradually gets worse with no letup.
  2. You get pains in your abdomen after eating.
  3. You have severe abdominal pains with or without vaginal bleeding and you are pregnant.
  4. The abdominal pains cause vomiting or affect your digestive system (i.e. diarrhea or constipation).
  5. You sustain severe abdominal pains after an injury or blow to your stomach.
  6. Pains are constant and last for more than 3 days.
  7. Along with the lower abdominal pains, you also have aching pains in your chest.

Read my other related articles:

Article Sources

  1. eMedicineNet. Mittelschmerz.
  2. WebMD. Premenstrual syndrome symptoms.
  3. WebMD. What are menstrual cramps?
  4. MSDManuals. Adnexal torsion.
  5. 2014 Mar;258(1769):15-9, 2.
  6. WebMD. Endometriosis.
  7. CDC. Pelvic inflammatory disease.
  8. PatientInfo. Ectopic pregnancy.
  9. MayoClinic. Kidney infection.
  10. WebMD. What does a kidney stone feel like?
  11. MayoClinic. Interstitial cystitis.
  12. WebMD. A guide to urinary tract infections.
  13. MayoClinic. Urinary tract infection.
  14. MayoClinic. Irritable bowel syndrome.
  15. WebMD. Diverticulitis.
  16. WebMD. Women’s heart attack symptoms.
  17. World J Gastroenterol. 2007 Jul 14; 13(26): 3631–3633.
  18. SportsInjuryClinic. Abdominal muscle strain.
  19. J Nippon Med Sch.2011;78(4):257-60.
  20. ChoiceChiropractic. Can sciatica cause digestive problems?
  21. WebMD. Uterine Fibroids.
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