Abdominal Pain - Female  
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Anatomy - Gastrointestinal
Anatomy - Gastrointestinal

  • Pain or discomfort located between the bottom of the rib cage and the groin crease

General Information

  • There are multiple causes of abdominal pain. In women the range of diagnoses needs to be broadened to include problems related to pregnancy and the female organs.
  • The possibility of pregnancy must be considered in all women of childbearing age.
  • Abdominal pain in the elderly carries with it a higher risk of serious illness.

Top Causes of Abdominal Pain in Women Younger than 50 Years of Age

  • Appendicitis
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Endometriosis
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Nonspecific abdominal pain
  • Ovarian cyst
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
  • Peptic ulcer disease
  • Spontaneous abortion

Top Causes of Abdominal Pain in Women Older than 50 Years of Age

  • Appendicitis
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Diverticulitis
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Peptic ulcer disease

If not, see these topics

When to Call Your Doctor

Call 911 Now (you may need an ambulance) If
  • Passed out (fainted)
  • Very weak (can't stand)
Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
  • You feel weak or very sick
  • Severe pain
  • Constant abdominal pain for more than 2 hours
  • Vomiting blood or black (coffee-grounds)
  • Vomiting bile (bright yellow or green)
  • Vomiting and abdomen is more swollen than usual
  • Blood in bowel movements (black/tarry or red)
  • Recent injury to the abdomen
  • Fever of 103° F (39.4° C) or higher
  • Fever of 100.5° F (38.1° C) or higher and you:
    • Are over 60 years of age OR
    • Have diabetes mellitus or a weakened immune system (e.g., HIV positive, cancer chemotherapy, chronic steroid treatment, splenectomy) OR
    • Are bedridden (e.g., nursing home patient, stroke, chronic illness, recovering from surgery)
  • Whites of the eyes have turned yellow (jaundice)
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
  • You think you need to be seen
  • Moderate or mild pain comes and goes (cramps), but lasts greater than 24 hours
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge (e.g., bad odor; yellow, gray or green in color)
  • Age greater than 60 years
  • Pregnant or could be pregnant (e.g., missed last menstrual period)
  • Blood in urine
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
  • You have other questions or concerns
  • Abdominal pains are a recurrent problem
  • Pain with sexual intercourse
Self Care at Home If
  • Mild abdominal pain and you don't think you need to be seen

  1. Reassurance: A mild stomachache can be caused by indigestion, gas pains or overeating. Sometimes a stomachache signals the onset of a vomiting illness due to a viral gastroenteritis ("stomach flu").
  2. Rest: Lie down and rest until you feel better.
  3. Fluids: Sip clear fluids only (e.g., water, flat soft drinks or 1/2 strength fruit juice) until the pain has been gone for over 2 hours. Then slowly return to a regular diet.
  4. Diet:
    • Slowly advance diet from clear liquids to a bland diet
    • Avoid alcohol or caffeinated beverages
    • Avoid greasy or fatty foods.
  5. Pass A BM: Sit on the toilet and try to pass a bowel movement (BM). Do not strain. This may relieve the pain if it is due to constipation or impending diarrhea.
  6. Avoid Medicines: Any drug could irritate the stomach lining and make the pain worse, especially an anti-inflammatory medicine such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Do not take any pain medicines, fever medicines or laxatives for stomach cramps.
  7. Expected Course: With harmless causes, the pain is usually better or goes away within 2 hours. With viral gastroenteritis ("stomach flu"), belly cramps may precede each bout of vomiting or diarrhea and may last 2-3 days. With serious causes (such as appendicitis) the pain becomes constant and more severe.
  8. Pregnancy test, when in doubt:
    • If there is any possibility of pregnancy, obtain and use a urine pregnancy test from the local drug store.
    • Follow the instructions included in the package.
  9. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Abdominal pain is constant and present for more than 2 hours
    • Abdominal pains come and go, and are present for more than 24 hours
    • You are pregnant
    • You become worse

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Author and Senior Reviewer: David A. Thompson, M.D.

Last Reviewed: 9/15/2011

Last Revised: 1/9/2011

Content Set: Adult HouseCalls Symptom Checker

Copyright 2000-2012. Self Care Decisions LLC; LMS, Inc.