Find out when women should worry about abdominal pain.

If you're a woman, you are probably no stranger to abdominal pain. There are a number of causes for abdominal pain and many times women can determine the cause for their pain and treat it accordingly. However, it is important that women don't take for granted certain types of pain and know when to seek treatment. Here are some common causes for abdominal pain in women, some of which should be taken very seriously.

Ectopic Pregnancy
Any sexually active woman should know the signs of an ectopic pregnancy. These typically include a sharp abdominal pain on one side that occurs 6 weeks into a pregnancy, followed by vaginal bleeding. The pain worsens with movement or straining and, over time, signs of shock occur resulting from internal bleeding. If you suspect an ectopic pregnancy, seek medical attention immediately.

Heart Attack
Women are at a higher risk of dying from a heart attack because their symptoms vary from men, and women are more likely to ignore their symptoms. Abdominal pain can be a sign of a heart attack including chest pressure or squeezing, shortness of breath, dizziness, sweating, nausea and pain in the arm, neck, chest or back. Never ignore these symptoms and call 911 if you suspect you may be having a heart attack. 

A urinary tract infection (UTI) can make urinating uncomfortable, but it can also cause your belly or back to feel tender or it may make your abdomen feel heavy. It is important to have a UTI treated so that the infection does not spread or affect your kidneys.

Severe abdominal pain or nausea may be a sign of norovirus. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, chills and stomach pain. It is very easily transmitted, especially for those living in close quarters. It can be particularly dangerous for small children or older adults.

Pain from appendicitis can start around the belly button and then worsen to a sharp pain localized to the right side of the abdomen. The severity of pain usually increases over a 6-12 hour period and can include symptoms like nausea, abdominal swelling, tenderness, pain during movement, fever and diarrhea. It is critical that those with appendicitis seek immediate medical treatment.

Digestion Complications
A number of conditions related to digestion can cause abdominal pain for women. GERD (or heartburn) can cause severe discomfort in the upper abdomen and chest. IBS is a common condition and may result in digestion issues including cramping, diarrhea or nausea. During a woman's period, she may experience diarrhea or abdominal bloating in addition to menstrual cramping. Gallstones, pancreatitis and Crohn's Disease are also more serious digestive conditions that result in abdominal pain.

When to Seek Medical Attention
Abdominal pain is common in women, but its cause or source can vary dramatically. If abdominal pain continues without relief and is paired with other unusual symptoms, it is important to seek treatment since the reason may not always be apparent. Are you experiencing unexpected or unusual abdominal pain? Call North Hills Hospital at 1-855-5NHILLS to request a physician referral. If your symptoms are severe, call 911 or seek immediate medical attention.

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