What Are Lower Abdominal Pain and Vaginal Discharge?

    Lower abdominal pain is pain that occurs at or below the belly button. It can radiate to the pelvic region. This pain can be cramp-like, achy, dull, or sharp.

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    Vaginal discharge is a normal occurrence. It is not usually a cause for concern. The vagina produces secretions as a way to clean itself and maintain its pH balance. However, infections can affect the vagina’s pH level, resulting in changes in vaginal discharge. Symptoms of abnormal vaginal discharge include a foul odor, cottage cheese-like consistency, and an unusual color, such as yellow or green.

    What Causes Lower Abdominal Pain and Vaginal Discharge?

    Common causes of vaginal discharge and lower abdominal pain are bacterial, fungal, and viral infections. For example, a white, cottage cheese-like vaginal discharge combined with lower abdominal pain and vaginal burning may indicate a yeast infection.

    Conditions associated with vaginal pain and discharge can range from mild to severe. They include:

    • bacterial vaginosis due to an overgrowth of bacteria
    • human papillomavirus or cervical cancer, which can produce a bloody, brown, and/or watery discharge accompanied by a foul odor
    • menstrual cramping, which causes fluctuations in vaginal pH and changes in vaginal discharge
    • pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) due to infection from organisms that travel to the upper reproductive organs and abdominal structures (this condition is most commonly due to a sexually transmitted infection, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea)
    • trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted infection caused by a protozoan organism
    • yeast infection

    When to Seek Medical Help

    Seek immediate medical help if your lower abdominal pain is sharp and/or severe and you are experiencing a fever, uncontrolled vomiting, or chest pain.

    Make an appointment with your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:

    • bloody vaginal discharge unrelated to your menstrual cycle
    • burning sensation when urinating
    • lower abdominal pain that lasts longer than 24 hours
    • pain during sexual intercourse
    • unexplained weight loss

    (This information is a summary. Seek medical attention if you suspect you need urgent care.)

    How Are Lower Abdominal Pain And Vaginal Discharge Treated?

    Treatment for these symptoms depends on the underlying condition. Infections such as PID or sexually transmitted infections are often treated with antibiotics.

    A yeast infection may be treated with topical or oral antifungal medications.

    Treatments for human papillomavirus or cervical cancer are based on the condition’s severity. In some instances a doctor may recommend surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy.

    Home Care

    Eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water can help to reduce adverse effects from vaginal infections. Wearing clean cotton underwear and keeping the vagina clean can also help. You may also wish to avoid sexual intercourse until you are free from your adverse symptoms. Avoiding perfumed products around the vagina, such as deodorant body washes, can also help.

    Take all medications prescribed to you for their duration. You may also wish to take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen, to relieve lower abdominal pain.

    How Can I Prevent Lower Abdominal Pain and Vaginal Discharge?

    Practicing good hygiene and sexual habits can help to prevent these symptoms. Examples include:

    • always having a partner wear a condom during sexual intercourse
    • keeping stress levels low
    • keeping the vagina clean and dry
    • refraining from douching, which can irritate the vaginal tissues
    • wiping from front to back after going to the bathroom

    Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, such as eating small meals, drinking plenty of water, and exercising regularly can also help prevent these symptoms.