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What’s Causing My Lower Abdominal Pain and Vaginal Discharge?

Overview

Lower abdominal pain is pain that occurs at or below the belly button. This pain can be:

  • cramp-like
  • achy
  • dull
  • sharp

Vaginal discharge is normal. 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. Abnormal vaginal discharge may have:

  • a foul odor
  • a cottage cheese-like consistency
  • an unusual color, such as yellow or green

Here are 11 possible causes of lower abdominal pain and vaginal discharge.

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Bacterial vaginosis (BV)

Bacterial vaginosis (BV)

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an infection in the vagina caused by bacteria. Read more about bacterial vaginosis.

Human papillomavirus infection (HPV) | Human papillomavirus infection (HPV)

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a viral infection that is passed between people through skin-to-skin contact. Read more about HPV risks.

Cervical cancer

Cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cervix. Read more about cervical cancer and yearly screenings.

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Menstrual cramping

Menstrual cramping

Menstruation occurs when the uterus sheds it’s lining once a month. Some pain, cramping, and discomfort during menstrual periods is normal. Read more about painful menstruation.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the reproductive organs in women. Read more about seeking treatment for PID.

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Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis (“trich”) is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is very common. Read more about trichomoniasis and how it’s treated.

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Yeast infection

Yeast infection

Vaginal yeast infections, also known as candidiasis, are a common female condition.

Symptoms include intense itching, swelling, and irritation. Read more about preventing yeast infections.

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Ectopic pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancy

In the case of an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg does not attach to the uterus. Instead, it may attach to the fallopian tube, abdominal cavity, or cervix. Read more about ectopic pregnancies.

Urethritis

Urethritis

Urethritis is a condition in which the urethra, or the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body, becomes inflamed and irritated. Read more about urethritis.

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Dysfunctional uterine bleeding

Dysfunctional uterine bleeding (DUB)

Dysfunctional uterine bleeding (DUB) is a condition that affects nearly every woman at some point in her life. DUB is a condition that causes vaginal bleeding to occur outside of the regular menstrual cycle. Read more about DUB and treatment options.

Urinary incontinence

Urinary incontinence

Urinary incontinence happens when you lose control of your bladder. Read more on the three types of urinary incontinence.

See your doctor

When to seek medical help

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

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

  • a bloody vaginal discharge unrelated to your menstrual cycle
  • a 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 think you need urgent care.

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Treatment

How are lower abdominal pain and vaginal discharge treated?

The way your doctor treats these symptoms differently depends on what’s causing them. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics for infections such as PID or STIs. They may prescribe topical or oral antifungal medications for a yeast infection.

Your doctor will decide how to treat HPV or cervical cancer based on the severity of the condition. In some instances, your doctor may recommend surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy.

Home care

You can do the following at home to help treat your symptoms:

  • Eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of water to help to reduce adverse effects from vaginal infections.
  • Wear clean cotton underwear, and keep your vagina clean.
  • Avoid using perfumed products around your vagina, such as deodorant body washes.
  • You may wish to avoid sexual intercourse until you don’t have any symptoms.
  • Take all medications as prescribed.
  • You may also wish to take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen, to relieve lower abdominal pain.

Prevention

How can you prevent lower abdominal pain and vaginal discharge?

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

  • always using a condom during sexual intercourse
  • keeping your 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

Maintain a healthy lifestyle as well. Eat small meals, drink plenty of water, and exercise regularly.

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