- Pain or discomfort located between the bottom of the rib cage and the groin crease
- 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
- Ectopic pregnancy
- 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
- Bowel obstruction
- Gallbladder disease
- Peptic ulcer disease
See More Appropriate Topic (instead of this one) If
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
HOME CARE ADVICE FOR MILD ABDOMINAL PAIN
- 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").
- Rest: Lie down and rest until you feel better.
- 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.
- Slowly advance diet from clear liquids to a bland diet
- Avoid alcohol or caffeinated beverages
- Avoid greasy or fatty foods.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.