Stomach (abdominal) pains or cramps are common in pregnancy. Though the symptoms are usually normal, they can be a sign of something more serious that needs to be checked.
What is normal?
It’s probably nothing to worry about if the pain is mild and goes away when you change position, have a rest, do a poo or pass wind.
Harmless stomach pains, which can be dull or sharp, may be caused by:
- Ligament pain: as the ligaments stretch to support your growing bump – this can feel like a sharp cramp on one side of your lower tummy
- Trapped wind
What are the symptoms that need to be checked immediately?
You should call your doctor or go to the hospital immediately if you have abdominal pain along with:
- Bleeding or spotting
- Regular cramping or tightenings
- Vaginal discharge that’s unusual for you
- Lower back pain
- Pain or burning when you pee
- The pain is severe or doesn’t go away after you’ve rested for 30 to 60 minutes
Conditions that can cause abdominal pain and need to be checked urgently include:
- Ectopic pregnancy: This is when a fertilized egg implants outside the womb. Symptoms include tummy pain, pain in the tip of your shoulder, and discomfort when pooping or peeing. It typically appears between 4 and 12 weeks of pregnancy.
- Miscarriage: Cramping pains and bleeding before 24 weeks of pregnancy can be a sign of miscarriage.
- Preeclampsia: Pain just under the ribs is common in later pregnancy due to the growing baby and uterus pushing up under the ribs. But if the pain is persistent, particularly on the right side, it can be a sign of preeclampsia (high blood pressure in pregnancy) and you’ll need to be monitored in the hospital. Symptoms can include severe headache, vision problems, and swollen feet, hands, and face.
- Premature labor: If you’re less than 37 weeks pregnant and are having regular abdominal cramps, consult with your doctor. It could be a sign of premature labor.
- Placental abruption: This is when the placenta starts to come away from the wall of the womb, usually causing bleeding and constant severe pain that doesn’t come and go like a contraction pain. It’s sometimes an emergency because it means the placenta may not be able to support the baby properly.
- UTI (urinary tract infection): UTIs are common in pregnant women and can usually be easily treated. They can cause tummy pain and sometimes pain when you pee.
- Stomach Pain in Pregnancy, NHS, (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/stomach-pain-abdominal-cramp-pregnant/ )
- Stomach Pain in Pregnancy, American Pregnancy Association, (https://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-complications/abdominal-pain-during-pregnancy/ )
- Pelvic Pain, Johns Hopkins University, (https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/pelvic-pain )