Hesperian Health Guides

Hesperian Health Guides

How to Examine the Abdomen

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HealthWiki > Where Women Have No Doctor > Health Care Skills > How to Examine the Abdomen


If a woman has pain in the lower abdomen, first read the chapter on “Pain in the Lower Abdomen” and ask the woman the questions at the end of that chapter.

Then examine her abdomen:


  1. Ask her to undress so that you can see her abdomen from just below her breasts down to the hair between her legs.

  2. Ask her to lie flat on her back on a firm bed, a table, or a clean floor, with her knees bent and her feet close to her buttocks. Ask her to relax her abdominal muscles as much as she can. This may be difficult for someone who is in pain.

  3. Listen for bubbling and gurgling noises by putting your ear on her abdomen. If you do not hear anything for 2 minutes, this is a danger sign.

  4. Ask her to point to where it hurts most. Then begin pressing gently on the other side. Keep pressing gently as you move around her abdomen to see where it hurts most.

  5. As you press her abdomen, feel for lumps. Also, see if her abdomen is soft or hard, and if she can relax it under your hand.

  6. To make sure she does not have another problem like appendicitis, an infection in her gut, or a pelvic infection (PID), slowly but firmly press on her abdomen on the left side, just above where the leg joins the body (the groin). Press until it hurts a little. Then quickly remove the hand. If a very sharp pain (rebound pain) happens when the hand is removed, she may have a serious infection. Take her immediately to a health center or hospital to see if she needs surgery. If she does not have rebound pain, continue to examine her by looking at the outside of her genitals for sores, discharge, bleeding, or other signs of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).


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