Abdominal bloating gives you a sense of fullness in your stomach and can cause your abdomen to appear larger. Lower abdominal pain, or pelvic pain, refers to discomfort that occurs at or below your bellybutton. Organs in the pelvis, such as the bladder and reproductive organs, are often where pelvic pain occurs.
Causes of abdominal bloating and lower abdominal pain
Swallowing excess air, eating high-fat foods that delay stomach emptying, and even stress can contribute to abdominal bloating and lower abdominal pain.
Intestinal and stomach-related conditions that cause these symptoms include:
- an intolerance to certain ingredients, such as lactose or gluten
- gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- intestinal obstruction
- ileus, which is a slowing of normal small and large bowel function
- gastroparesis, which is usually a complication of diabetes mellitus
- Crohn’s disease
- irritable bowel syndrome
Conditions related to reproductive organs that may cause these symptoms include:
- ectopic pregnancy
- menstrual pain
- PMS (premenstrual syndrome)
- ovarian cancer
- ovarian cysts
- pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
Other possible causes of these symptoms include:
- intra-abdominal cancers
- drug allergy
- food allergies
When to seek medical help
Seek immediate medical help if an inability to pass gas and uncontrolled vomiting accompany your symptoms. These symptoms could indicate that a serious condition is causing your symptoms. You should also seek emergency treatment if you have any of the following symptoms associated with abdominal bloating or pelvic pain:
- a fever
- vomiting blood
- passing dark maroon, or bloody stool
- abnormal vaginal discharge
- a sudden worsening of pain, especially if it improves by lying completely still
If you have milder symptoms, make an appointment to see your doctor if they don’t resolve within one to two days or are affecting your daily life.
This information is a summary. Always seek medical attention if you’re concerned that you may be experiencing a medical emergency.
Treating abdominal bloating and lower abdominal pain
Your doctor will first try to determine the reason for your symptoms by asking questions. They may want to know when you noticed the pain, what makes it worse, and whether you have experienced it before. A complete list of treatment options for the conditions that may cause abdominal bloating and pelvic pain are beyond the scope of this article, but some examples of treatments for certain conditions include the following:
- Your doctor may be able to treat an intestinal blockage with intravenous fluids, bowel rest, and a nasogastric tube, but sometimes surgery is necessary.
- A ruptured appendix requires surgery as treatment.
- Your doctor can give you antibiotics to treat bacterial gastroenteritis, colitis, or PID.
- At-home and over-the-counter (OTC) medications can reduce these symptoms if they’re due to painful menstruation.
Bloating and lower abdominal pain due to digestion issues or menstruation will typically resolve with time. You can do some things at home that may help relieve bloating and lower abdominal pain due to certain causes:
- Exercising can release air and gas that’s built up in the stomach.
- Increasing your fluid intake can reduce constipation.
- Taking OTC acid-reducing medications can treat heartburn or acid reflux.
- Taking mild OTC pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, may lessen abdominal pain.
Preventing abdominal bloating and lower abdominal pain
Certain foods and drinks can contribute to abdominal bloating and lower abdominal pain. Avoiding one or more of these may help prevent these symptoms.
- Brussels sprouts
- carbonated beverages
- chewing gum
- dairy products if you’re lactose intolerant
- hard candy
- high-fat foods
Smoking can also increase symptoms. If you quit, you’ll not only reduce these symptoms but also help your overall health. Increasing your fiber intake by eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains may help prevent constipation.