Menopause and hot flashes—they go together kinda like peanut butter and jelly, only not in a delicious way. But menopause and abdominal pain? Although it’s not the first symptom of menopause that typically comes to mind, tummy discomforts are among those many women experience. In fact, this symptom may initially appear during perimenopause and linger until post-menopause—ouch!
So what’s the story about abdominal pain and this stage of life? During perimenopause, hormone levels begin to fluctuate, and progesterone is one of the hormones that begins to decline. Drops in progesterone are associated with heavier than usual menstruation and/or irregular menstruation, and as a consequence, abdominal pain and cramping can develop.
You may continue to experience abdominal pain throughout menopause up until post-menopause, but this varies widely among women and can depend on several factors. In fact, the authors of a 2019 study of abdominal pain among women during menopause transition and early post-menopause evaluated how changes in abdominal pain severity changed over time when considering a variety of factors.
The researchers discovered that age, anxiety, and levels of estrone glucuronide (a metabolite of a form of estrogen) were significantly associated with the severity of abdominal pain. However, stress perception, testosterone levels, and tension were not.
How to manage and treat abdominal pain
Perhaps the most bothersome thing about abdominal pain is how it can put a real crimp in your daily activities and your sex life. In many cases, some easy lifestyle adjustments can make a big difference.
- For direct relief, you can use a hot water bottle, heating pad, or heat pack over the affected area.
- Gentle yoga poses, such as child’s pose, bridge pose, and cat-cow pose, may ease some of the pain and discomfort.
- Walking also can be helpful—do it with a friend!
- If constipation is a factor with your abdominal pain, then gradually add more fiber to your diet in the form of fresh fruits and veggies. At the same time, also increase your water intake to help keep things moving. Carry an environmentally friendly water bottle with you throughout the day and night so you’ll remember to stay well hydrated.
- The mineral magnesium also can come to the rescue. A daily dose of 320 mg is suggested. Magnesium acts as a muscle relaxant, and it also reduces levels of prostaglandins, which are compounds that cause pain.
- At the dinner table, avoid fatty and processed foods. Focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein (including plant protein in the form of beans, legumes, amaranth, quinoa, nuts, and seeds), low-fat dairy, and whole grains. Clean, fresh foods are better for digestion and thus less likely to cause any sort of abdominal discomfort.
- You might also consider taking herbs that have anti-inflammatory properties to ease cramping and associated pain. Ginger is one option that is available as a supplement, candied, and a tea. Chamomile tea may help your muscles relax and relieve discomfort.
when to see a health provider
Cramping and abdominal pain may continue after menopause in some women, even when menstruation has stopped completely (postmenopause). In such cases, the pain may be associated with an underlying condition, such as constipation, uterine fibroids, ovarian or uterine cancers, or endometriosis.
If you are experiencing abdominal pain that seemingly has no explanation or if you have any other questions about abdominal pain, make an appointment to see your healthcare provider. If your abdominal pain is accompanied by other symptoms, especially vaginal bleeding, be sure to see your physician as soon as possible.
Abdominal pain and discomfort are experienced by many women during menopause, but they may begin during perimenopause and continue after menstruation is just a memory. While your hormones are still fluctuating, the pain is often related to this stage of activity, but abdominal pain that persists postmenopause should be discussed with your physician.