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Stomach pains you shouldn't ignore

HOUSTON – Cramping is a condition about 50% of women tolerate once a month, according to reproductive endocrinologist Dr. Amy Schutt with Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women. 

However, Schutt said, problems with the pelvic floor, bladder, intestines, ovaries or uterus may also show up with symptoms of cramping.

In fact, Schutt, says it could even signal a medical emergency.

“If you’re having cramping and you have fever and you have abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, an important urgent medical condition like an ectopic pregnancy or early miscarriage could be missed if it's attributed to only menstrual cramps,” she said.

Schutt said an evaluation may be necessary and would likely require an ultrasound, lab work, or both.

Cramping may also reveal ovarian cysts or other more chronic problems.

“Endometriosis can be associated with large ovarian cyst, and if those cysts rupture, or if they twist on their blood supply, that can be a medical emergency. So, if the menstrual cramps become very severe and the pain is not improving, then an immediate evaluation is important,” Schutt said.

Other medical ailments may feel like familiar cramps because of the proximity to other organs.

“Urinary tract infections, gastrointestinal causes,” Schutt elaborated. “Because the intestines are in the pelvis with the female organs, appendicitis, diverticulitis, other conditions that you know we think as chronic and ongoing with the GI tract can also cause pelvic cramping.”

If your doctor determines cramps are simply related to your cycle, Schutt said NSAIDs like Motrin or Advil, hormonal therapy like birth control pills, or simpler changes may help bring relief.

“Exercise, heating pads, and improved diet, some data says vegetarian diets can improve cramping and potentially taking vitamin D and B complex vitamins,” Schutt said.